Cruise-in offers look back in time

You will have a chance to step back in time in downtown Springfield on Aug. 24.

The Clark County Heritage Center is hosting a “Vintage Cruise-In” that day in conjunction with the 7th Annual Hot Rods, Harleys and Heritage Event produced by Mid-Ohio Harley Davidson.

Bill Schwartz calls the cruise-in “a sort of resurrection,” referring to the past gatherings of steam engines in Springfield.

It’s the first time it’s been at the Heritage Center, but Schwartz indicates they hope to make it an annual event.

The cruise-in will include “quite a collection of antique cars,” Schwartz said, antique fire engines and steam engines from around Ohio, and with the Heritage Center’s vehicles and equipment significant to Clark County history, including a 1928 Westcott Car made in Springfield.

A 1928 Lagonda car owned by Bob McConnell of Urbana will also be featured. None of the Lagondas were made locally, they were manufactured in England. But the company’s Founder, William Gunn, was a Springfield native and named the car after the area of town where he grew up.

There will also be a local history trivia contest.

Schwartz stressed they’re still welcoming vehicles made in 1955 and earlier, original restorations only.

Another highlight will be a special appearance by Ford Motor Company founder Henry Ford, portrayed by professional actor Hank Fincken, and sponsored by White’s Ford in Urbana. Fincken told me he’ll be re-enacting a March, 1932 Ford Dealers Meeting.

“Union and management confrontations are on the rise, unemployment is rampant and fascism seems like a viable alternative. Henry Ford, the man who put the world on wheels, thinks he has found a solution—his new automobile, the Ford V-8,” Fincken said.

In three separate presentations, Fincken (as Ford) will also discuss the early beginnings of the Ford Motor Company, “the most important car of the century—the Ford Model “T”, which was “such a liberating invention” and will also answer questions.

“If America is a country of contradictions, Henry Ford is the perfect American,” Fincken said. “He was shy, but had a lot of self-confidence. He avoided confrontation at all costs, but was also ruthless and very creative.”

He points out Ford had connections to the local area and Ohio. The brother of Ford’s wife lived in Xenia and Ford visited there.

Ford had a private train car that ran through this part of the state on the Detroit, Toldeo and Ironton Railroad. And Ford’s best friend was Thomas Edison and visited him in Edison’s hometown of Milan, Ohio.

The 66-year old Fincken has been in this area on previous occasions, portraying Johnny Appleseed at the Springfield Summer Arts Festival, in schools and around the Urbana area. He also portrays other famous people, including Thomas Edison and Christopher Columbus.

“I prefer to portray people as they were—not role models,” Fincken told me. “I like virtue mixed with flaws, it makes people more interesting.”

That interesting mixture — along with a good dose of local and national history — will be on display at the Clark County Heritage Center’s Vintage Cruise-In Aug. 24, from 2 p.m. until 7 p.m. The event also includes food, drink, entertainment and vendor exhibits.

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