Photos by John Baeke, MD

By John Baeke

Contributing Writer

Over the years I have had the honor (and frustration) of being meet chairman for car shows, large and small. This would include everything from local shopping mall Shine ’n’ Show events to the historic Auburn Cord Duesenberg Reunion in Auburn, Ind.

Candy apple 1957 Chevy Bel Air of Norman George (Sierra Madre)

One thing all these shows have in common is the challenge of getting enough commitments from car owners to assure a healthy field of spectacular cars. (Read: a lot of last-minute begging.)

As the 2019 edition of the Wheels ’n’ Windmills car show in Solvang was nearing, it was suggested I bring something out of my garage. Registration would open June 1.

A pair of ’67 Camaros owned by Ron and Olga Morrison, left, and Chuck and Brenda Immormino (both of Apple Valley)

Not sensing any rush, I did happen to go online that evening. To my absolute amazement, all 300 spots had already been reserved. Seriously, barely 12 hours after registration opened, I was relegated to standby status!

Absolutely stunning 1961 Chevy “Bubbletop” Impala of Jerry Montgomery (Tustin)

I was determined to understand what caused such frenzy. Truly, the organizers of this event have hit upon a winning formula.

I visited with car owners from as far as Canada and Colorado, and tourists from China. Everyone gave me a different answer, often with strange accents. Here is what I learned.

Old cars come in so many different flavors, that unlike flower shows or petting zoos, no two are alike. Each one has a fun story to share. Not being a single-marque show (for example, only VWs) dramatically increases public enthusiasm.

1934 Morris Eight Woodie of Jeffrey Brown (Grover Beach)

If your intent is merely to stroll down memory lane, you are welcome. If you want to introduce the kids to a little 20th century history, learning will become fun. If you are a tourist traveling to experience a bit of Americana, start here. If you are looking to make new friends with others who share the same passion, you will not leave disappointed.

But the common thread binding all those attending this glorious event one sunny day each August is that no one walking the streets of Solvang is arguing about politics, religion or foreign wars. That may be what makes the annual Wheels ’n’ Windmills Car Show so popular.

Young and old enjoyed the1950 English Ford Thames of Glenn and Tammi Walton (Porterville) and the duplicate pedal car.

The picturesque Danish setting is idyllic; the free show is open to all, and the community is so genuinely welcoming. All I saw were folks young and old, smiling and laughing as they strolled along charming Copenhagen Drive, lined with a dazzling array of vintage cars.

To those who keep Solvang beautiful; to those who organize this annual grand affair; and to those who shared their shiny old pride ’n’ joy; thank you, but don’t change a thing.

From left to right, 1931 Ford Coupe of Jim Steele (La Habra); 1931 Ford Coupe of Phil Mauro (Long Beach); 1928 Ford Sedan Delivery of Roy Francis (La Habra Heights)