Just weeks after the motorcycle rally took over downtown Hollister, the streets yet again were the stage for a parade of impressive machinery. On Saturday, the 31st annual Street Festival and Car Show flooded the district with more than two hundred show cars and trucks.
“We thought it was amazing. It was the most cars we’ve registered, as hot as it was outside, we had 235 cars,” said Jeana Arnold, Development Director at the Hollister Downtown Association, which puts on the volunteer-driven event. “We have about 125 volunteers, and organizing starts in January.” Due to the wildfires currently raging in California, the chili cook-off portion of the event, usually officiated by Firefighters Local Union 3395, was cancelled.
“Strike teams from other departments were called out,” said chili cook-off organizer, Bill Olguin. “No one from Hollister Fire has been called up yet.”
Along San Benito and connecting streets, the event spread out with rows of immaculate cars, food booths, two stages of live entertainment, a kids zone with bounce houses on the vacant 400 block and in the center of it all, an event tradition, a booth where volunteers distributed free, sliced watermelon.
“We have about three bins of watermelons – all donated by local growers,” said Gary Cameron, as he broke away from the watermelon assembly line and steady flow of smiling patrons.
While the watermelon kept families refreshed as the sun beat down through clear blue skies, it was the cars, glowing in a rainbow of colors that were the pride of the show.
Muscles, moderns, antiques, custom-modifieds, low-riders, mustangs, corvettes – cars that for their owners were the realization of a dream, an investment or the result of a long-held passion.
“I had a ‘69 Mustang when I was young – a really special one – and it was stolen from me, so ten years ago when I decided to get back into cars I wanted to do another Mustang,” began Morgan Hill resident, Les Stuart, whose mean 1967 Ford Mustang GT500 won the competition’s Best Mustang (John Marfia, Jr. Memorial) and People’s Choice categories.
It took Stuart nearly fourteen months just to find the shell of a car he would rebuild from the ground up. Everything on his fully modified Ford Mustang – except the paint – Stuart did himself in his Morgan Hill garage.
“In almost six years of work I completed what you see here,” he said, glancing down at the gleaming, black Mustang with a lady’s name made famous by the Nicholas Cage – fronted 2000 remake of the classic car caper film, Gone in 60 seconds.
“It’s a GT500-E, and the ‘E’ is for ‘Eleanor’ – but, it’s not really an Eleanor – having seen the movie, I wanted to do something better. Really make it street drive-able. Everything about it, from the suspension, breaking, steering, electronics, engine –all have been modified for track driving – autocross.”
While Stuart didn’t aim to show the car, two years ago he walked away with Best in Show at Hot August Nights in Reno, which he followed up by a spectacular showing at Ponies at the Pike in Long Beach, the largest Mustang competition in California.
“I won my class, then I won Best in Show,” said Stuart. “It’s a little bit overwhelming.”
Overall, Stuart said, the car that someone once offered him $300,000 to take home has earned top in its class at 16 out of 17 appearances.
South on San Benito Street, Hollister resident, Hal Himenes, 57, wowed spectators with his 2017 Chevy Camaro COPO, a bright orange delight that would later win the competition’s Best Modern class. One of only sixty-nine manufactured this year, the luck of a lottery garnered Himenes the sixth-sixth.
“The first time it has been out in the sun is today,” he said.
Built by the Chevrolet Performance Division in Oxford, Michigan, the COPO is geared for the racetrack.
“It’s a Chevrolet race car. It has a naturally aspirated 427-cubic inch motor in it. It’s a low nine-second car with a 3-speed racing transmission,” said Himenes. “But for us it’s a show car, an investment car – we may run it now and then.”
The Hollister Downtown Association announced the winners in a press release dated July 15.
The Best of Show winner is a black and red 1956 Chevy Bel Air owned by Carl Gillihan of Escalon, CA. This vehicle will be featured on next year’s shirt, poster and flyers.
Best Antique: 1928 Ford Roadster owned by John Lipori of Marina.
Best Pick Up: 1953 Chevy Pick Up owned by Santiago Esparza of Soledad.
Best Vintage: 1957 Chevy Bel Air owned by Dean Hudson of Gilroy.
Best Custom-Modified: 1937 Chevy Woody owned by Richard Harris of San Jose.
Best Classic: 1961 Chevy Impala Flat Top owned by Fred & Suzanne Hall of Monterey.
Best Modern: 2017 Chevy Camaro COPO owned by Hal Himenes of Hollister.
Best Muscle: 1970 Oldsmobile 442 owned by Mike Neal of Gilroy.
Best Corvette (Mike Cunningham Memorial): 1965 Corvette owned by Tony Torres of Salinas.
Best Low Rider: 1958 Chevy Impala owned by Gabino Varga of Hollister.
Best Mustang (John Marfia, Jr. Memorial): 1967 Ford Mustang GT500 owned by Les Stuart of Morgan Hill.
Best Paint: 1957 Chevrolet Cameo Pick Up owned David Grimsley of Tres Pinos.
Longest Distance Traveled: 1931 Ford Slant Window owned by William Rice of Peyton, CO.
Car Club with the most participation is Central Coast Muscle Car Classic of Hollister.
People’s Choice: 1967 Ford Mustang GT500 owned by Les Stuart of Morgan Hill.
Chili Cook Off winners: Due to the wildfires in California, the Firefighters Local Union 3395 had to cancel the chili cook off this year.
The 31st annual Street Festival Best of Show winner is a 1956 Chevy Bel Air owned by Carl Gilihan of Escalon. The vehicle will be featured on the event shirt, poster and flyer next year. A 1965 Corvette owned by Tony Torres of Salinas won the Best Corvette (Mike Cunningham Memorial) category.