ASHLAND – The Father’s Day Car Show last weekend at Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum was a huge hit with fathers, sons, daughters, mothers and just about everyone.
It was the highest attended event the museum has ever held, according to Aly Rasmussen, the museum’s sales and marketing director.
“Our attendance was 4,650 over the weekend,” said Rasmussen.
Car show organizer Bradley Pfeiffer of Ashland said Sunday was the biggest day for attendance, with people lined up outside of the museum to get in.
“It was an incredible weekend for SAC Museum, for sure,” he added.
Over the past few years, the museum has held a large show in July, on the same weekend as Ashland’s Stir-Up Car Show. This year they switched it to Father’s Day, and plan to do it again because the event exceeded all expectations, Rasmussen said.
“We’ll have another one in 2020,” she said.
Pfeiffer said 181 vehicles registered for the indoor car show, where vintage, antique and modern automobiles were parked under vintage and antique aircraft.
Pfeiffer, who has organized car shows in Ashland and Gretna for the last six years, said they set a goal for 200 cars for this show, but about 20 who preregistered called to cancel because of a slight threat of severe weather for the area.
That didn’t stop others from showing up at the show last minute, though.
“However, somebody drove in from Colorado,” he added.
Pfeiffer said many of the vehicle owners raved about the museum and the show, saying it was better than the World of Wheels car show at the CHI Health Center in Omaha.
“They thought this was a better venue and atmosphere,” he said.
The pairing of vehicles with aircraft was something very special for at least one car show entry. Mike Krass of Elmwood brought his 1969 Hurst Oldsmobile to the show and requested it be placed under the B-25, the same plane his father, Hank Krass, worked on in the Air Force with the 445th Bombardment Squadron.
The vehicle also connected Krass to his father.
“He helped me buy my first Hurst Olds,” said Krass on Saturday.
Krass, who finished restoring the vehicle the day before the show, was able to spend Saturday with his son, Adam, and Adam’s wife, Daisy, along with their two children, Taylor and Aiden.
Another story linking fathers and their cars took place at the car show on Saturday. Brandon Zaruba presented his father, Charlie, with the restored 1969 Chevy Malibu Sport Coupe SS that the elder Zaruba bought almost 50 years ago to the day.
Charlie Zaruba bought the car as an 18-year-old in Albion. He has been the only owner. But the car has spent most of its years in storage, waiting a restoration.
In 1997, Brandon Zaruba rebuilt the motor as a senior in high school and tore the car apart. A frame-off restoration began. But the project was not completed.
Charlie Zaruba and his wife, Gwen, moved to Grand Island in 2004 and the car was put back in storage at the family farm in Fullerton until 2015, when Brandon Zaruba took it, with his mother’s permission, of course.
“I decided to steal the car and finish it for him,” said Brandon Zaruba.
Charlie and Gwen Zaruba were walking around Hangar B on Saturday when he spotted a white Chevy that looked familiar.
“I first saw it when I came around the corner and I said, ‘I had one just like that,’” Charlie Zaruba said with a laugh.
He didn’t realize the car was his until he read the sign posted beside the Malibu.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said.
With his eyes still glued to the car, he also didn’t notice the crowd of people around the car included his loved ones.
“I didn’t recognize my family standing there,” he said.
The family posed for pictures with the Chevy as Charlie Zaruba marveled at the work his son and Bombers Garage in Lincoln did on the restoration.
“It really meant a lot,” Charlie Zaruba said. “I didn’t think I’d ever get it done.”
Along with Zaruba’s Malibu and Krass’ Hurst Olds, there were many other spectacular cars on display at the museum, including specialty cars brought in specifically for the show. There was a DeLorean complete with “Back to the Future” memorabilia and one of Burt Reynolds’ personal 1977 Firebird Trans Ams he had fitted to look exactly like the one he drove in the movie “Smokey and the Bandit.”
Other specialty cars included Dylan Gocher’s 1968 Chevrolet Nova he calls the “Kingpin.” Gocher, his wife and his parents traveled from Kansas to the show and said they would return next year, Pfeiffer said.
Sixty-two regular trophies and 11 specialty trophies were handed out to the winners on Sunday afternoon to conclude the show.
It took more than 70 volunteers to help put the show on, Pfeiffer said. It was a team effort that Pfeiffer was glad to be a part of, even if it meant being away from home on Father’s Day.
“I don’t know how to describe it,” he said. “I was just absolutely incredible, the whole weekend.”