Pulling up to park on the Street of the Amber Lantern in his T-Bucket hot rod, Don Yegan of the Just Having Fun group gives onlookers a glimpse of what’s to come at the Dana Point Classic Car Show this weekend.
Yegan’s hot rod will be among the more than 300 classic cars, made in 1989 or earlier, on display along Del Prado Avenue from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 27. The free community event will also feature music, food trucks, a beer garden and more.
The City of Dana Point launched the Classic Car Show nearly a decade ago; however, the Chamber of Commerce took over hosting duties back in 2017, Chamber of Commerce President Vickie McMurchie said.
“The hope obviously back then was Del Prado was still a growing street to bring people to and attract people to and get people back walking that street after the two-way changeover from PCH, so a lot of time and energy was spent on driving people to Del Prado,” McMurchie said.
“At this point now, we’ve been able to extend the event. We have more cars than ever, and obviously, Del Prado is a thriving street with lots of great shops and restaurants on that block,” McMurchie continued. “We’re kind of seeing the renaissance of that area, being known as a destination for events, whether it’s car show, REDO, art fests, etc.”
Yegan will display his T-Bucket on Sunday, along with others from his car group, Just Having Fun. Since Yegan launched the group in 2017, it has grown from 20 members to about 150.
“What I like about our group is that we’re anything from 1920s to early 1970s, so we can have Mustangs and Chevelles and Camaros and all of those kinds of cars as well,” Yegan said. “What we offer as part of Just Having Fun is a tremendous variety of cars.”
Yegan added that the group mainly hosts events for assisted living centers, veterans and birthdays.
“We don’t typically do a whole lot of car shows, but we do like this show,” Yegan said. “Del Prado, Dana Point, everything about it is this beach town that’s kind of modernized itself, as it needed to. It can’t stay like it was. But that street, Del Prado, just gives you that old town character feel.”
What makes the Dana Point Classic Car Show unique, Yegan noted, is the community support it receives.
“The community comes out and supports it, and that’s what draws us,” Yegan said. “We don’t need to talk to other people that own cars, we do that all the time, anyway.”
“We want to talk to somebody that has a question about the car, or they tell us the story, ‘My dad had one,’ ‘My cousin had a car like this.’ Those kinds of things,” Yegan continued. “That’s the draw to being part of a car show.”
Seeing the classic cars all parked down Del Prado is reminiscent of what a parking lot may have looked like in the ’50s and ’60s, Yegan added.
“You didn’t have major shopping centers; you had these small towns with a lot of character, and that’s what Del Prado brings,” Yegan said.
McMurchie added that the event is “a delightful day, and we love to see a flourishing street.”
“It’s been a really interesting transformation for that street,” McMurchie said. “It’s going to be one of the first years that we’re able to do this event that we’re not kind of looking at this green construction fencing, and we’re really excited that Del Prado is kind of ready for its debut. It’s ready for a spotlight, so I just think it’s going to get better and better.”
McMurchie added that events in the Lantern District are running out of room, “because we’re just bringing in so many people, not just the local community, but a lot of our visitors from the local neighboring towns are looking at Dana Point as really the premier destination for events in South Orange County.”
This year, the Car Show is extending past Ruby Lantern, all the way to the Lantern Village archway.
“We will have more than 300 cars participating,” McMurchie said. “We’ve got a great vintage fire truck. We’ve got a Rolls Royce that was owned by Muhammad Ali. We’ve got a great VW photo bus coming down.”
Participating vehicles can also win several awards from Best in Show, Mayor’s Cup, People’s Choice, Best Interior, Best Engine and more.
“We have a really great head judge who goes through our entire registration list and really caters the award list to what we actually have entered,” McMurchie said. “So, we really tailor it to the crowd that we have to ensure that it’s well-represented for the actual demographic of cars that are coming to the show.”
“People can come down and cast their vote for People’s Choice and help us decide who’s going to be the big winners,” McMurchie continued. “The great thing is, the car that wins Best in Show will be featured on next year’s event shirt.”
Last year’s Best in Show winner, Clint Stark’s 1940 Ford Woodie, will be featured on this year’s event T-shirts.
Proceeds from the event go back to the Chamber of Commerce’s mission of supporting local small businesses and nonprofits.
“We rely on a lot of volunteers to run this event, upwards of about 75, so what we do is invite nonprofit partners to join in the event,” McMurchie said. “If they can host a drink ticket booth and provide us with a certain number of volunteers, we make a donation back to their organization.”
“Funds for this event come in through car registrations; we sell some vendor booths, and then, of course, the drink ticket sales on the street,” McMurchie continued. “So, the more that people enjoy themselves, maybe the more money we raise for nonprofits.”
Dana Point Fifth Marine Regiment Support Group is the Chamber’s nonprofit partner for the Car Show this year.
McMurchie added that having the Chamber of Commerce run the event ensures consistency. Through its partnership with the City of Dana Point, McMurchie added that the Chamber can keep the event free and “guarantee that these events are around for a lot longer.”
“We’re very spoiled by the fact that Dana Point puts on so many great free community events,” McMurchie said. “This is a wonderful chance to take in not only the beauty of Del Prado and the city as a whole.”
“There are lots of fun people to meet, and it’s a great chance to interact with their community, take advantage of using the free trolley,” McMurchie continued. “Feels like summer’s slowly ending, and this is kind of that last chance to get out of the house and enjoy yourself with family before schedules get too crazy.”