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June 21, 2021

Market off to slow start, lowriders sizzle at Bolado Park

The Drive-Thru Taco and Chavela Festival and Car Expo was supposed to be an extravagant event to help kick off a new weekly farmers market at Bolado Park.

However, event coordinator Joel Mijares said the scorching sun didn’t help attract a crowd like he hoped for as temperatures reached to 97 degrees on Sept. 6  just before noon. He also mentioned that the state’s Covid-19 guidelines had a big effect on this year’s attendance.

“It was a combination of everything,” he said. 

The market featured some stands with farm produce from throughout the state, while others set up a flea market to sell plants, paintings and other various knick knacks. A variety of food trucks were also stationed, offering to-go fare such as tacos, chavelas, hot dogs, hamburgers and more.

Mijares said three farmers and six retailers backed out as late as Sept. 4, noting that the heat played a big factor in their decision. He mentioned that they sold 15 parking spaces in advance and only four of them were occupied on the day of the show. 

Mijares added that the air quality still wasn’t the best and having the event pushed back to Labor Day Weekend didn’t work out as planned.

“It’s just something I wanted to keep doing even if it was at 25 percent [capacity],” he said. “We didn’t want to break tradition.” 

Salvador Leal said he enjoyed the car exhibit but he was expecting a bigger crowd to show up, similar to the 2,200 people that attended last year’s show.

“It’s alright, we were waiting for more cars but I guess it’s because of all the Covid-19,” he said. “It’s not just that but it’s Labor Day weekend, people make plans for somewhere else.”

But the poor turnout didn’t deter lowrider enthusiasts such as Leal from participating in a competition for trophies. 

The 40-year-old Watsonville native has been into lowrider cars since he was a teenager, either working on them or just admiring someone else’s craftsmanship. 

Leal said he invested $40k into his 1985 Buick Regal, which is a dark burgundy color that resembles an exquisite glass of red wine. He bought a 1986 Regal as is for $10k. 

Leal said in order for a car to hop in the air it needs to have the frame reinforced, three pumps, new springs, wheels and a lot of batteries.

“The more batteries you get, the better,” he said.

Spectators had a chance to watch Leal hop his ‘86 Buick Regal a little more than 50 inches off the ground, which is about the average mark for jumping a car. “The goal is to hit 90 inches or more,” he said. 

He’s never hit the ultimate goal because he said it takes someone to do a “radical” body transformation if they want to reach that point. He said that means customizing the lower frame so the car can go farther back.

A pair of spectators check out a 1985 Buick Regal on display at the Drive-Thru Taco and Chavela Festival and Car Expo event at Bolado Park in Tres Pinos on Sept. 6, 2020. (Juan Reyes)

Leal and his 17-year-old son, Isaiah are part of the Watsonville Riders Car Club. Isaiah said he likes being part of the lowrider culture, which means having a certain feeling when cruising around the streets or “hitting the switches” similar to his dad’s cars. He said he’s been going to car shows since he was a child.

“It’s about representing your car club in certain areas, it’s like family,” Isaiah said. “Hitting switches and hydraulics, it’s all fun.”  

Tony Alvarado of Salinas was hopping around inside his 1964 Chevy Impala, which is one of the more popular models in the lowrider scene. His love for cars also came at a young age. 

“I grew up into this, I’ve been doing it since,” he said.

Alvarado said he’s attracted to the lifestyle, which means putting time and effort into rebuilding classic cars. He spends some of this time, even during the week, fixing and adjusting his Impala. 

“It is a different lifestyle compared to what some other people might do,” he said.  

It took him about a year and a half to build a car to his liking from the wheels to the hydraulics. Alvarado mentioned he likes to keep the interior as original as possible but admitted that there are some small pieces that aren’t from the 60s. So far, he’s invested $25,000 into his car.

He said cars nowadays all look alike and whenever somebody drives a decked out classic car, people will stare.

“It’s just a whole different feeling,” said Alvarado when it comes to driving a lowrider. “Especially when you have a type of music to play, you just stick out from everybody else.”

Mijares said the new market at Bolado Park at 9000 Airline Highway in Tres Pinos will continue for the next three Sundays from 9am to 1pm, weather permitting. He’s also planning another car exhibit along with a drive-in theater or concert setup targeted for mid-October.

“This is the new norm, I think, for at least the next eighth to 12 months,” he said. 

Parking is $5. To exhibit a vehicle in the car expo, participants will be charged $20.

For information, call 831.722.1122.

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