Thunder in the Square attracts crowd in downtown Hagerstown
Betty Kelly waves to friends from a seat on the 1947 Brill transit bus owned by her and her husband Gene. The bus was the last transit bus operated by the Potomac Edison Company in Hagerstown. It was last used in the early 1970s. (By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer / September 28, 2012)
Featuring 300 to 350 show vehicles, including cars, trucks, motorcycles and even tractors, the event was expected to draw more than a thousand people downtown by night’s end, according to organizers and city officials.
“It’s the second time around and we’ve grown this year,” said Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II, who was charged with picking a Mayor’s Choice Award winner in the show.
“We’ve got more entries,” he said. “With more entries come more people. If you can put 1,500 (to) 2,000 people in downtown for an event, that creates an atmosphere that makes business want to be here. That’s what it’s all about — putting feet on the street.”
All proceeds from the event go to the Alsatia Club of Hagerstown, and the winners of the eight show classes — Best Original, Best Custom, Best Resto Mod, Best Import, Best Rat Rod, Best Motorcycle Antique, Best Motorcycle Custom and the Mayor’s Choice — will be invited to ride in the 87th annual Alsatia Mummers Parade on Oct. 27.
Last year’s Thunder in the Square winners also will be invited to participate since last year’s parade was canceled due to inclement weather, said Alsatia Club President Doug Snyder, who also chaired the Thunder in the Square event.
“It’s a very festive atmosphere,” Snyder said. “Everybody’s having a grand time. Hagerstown’s alive. ... There’s good food, good entertainment, beautiful cars and motorcycles. It’s really just turned out to be a wonderful evening.”
Lining Potomac and Washington streets for blocks, just about every vehicle in the show has a story, including a bright pink 1990 Cadillac that was parked near Public Square.
Bud Kline of Kline’s Auto Body in Hagerstown said the car, which sat in a junkyard about two weeks ago before it was donated by Hammond’s Auto Exchange in Williamsport, was redone in only a few days to get it ready for the show.
All the exterior work on the car was donated by local auto groups and businesses, from the paint to the decals to the man-hours to spray the car, Kline said, all to raise awareness of breast cancer. It will be appearing at a car show in Williamsport next week, and cancer survivors are invited to sign the car, he said.
“It is for a good cause because nobody really knows what cancer does to a family until it’s hit them themselves,” Kline said, pointing out a signature on the car’s hood belonging to his wife, a 16-year cancer survivor.
Another car, a 1970 Ford Mustang 428 Cobra Jet owned by Barbara Cushwa of Hagerstown, had a more singular story, although just as important to the owner.
“My car’s 42 years old and has 29,000 original miles on it,” she said. “One owner — me. I ordered it. I didn’t drive it off the lot.”
The iconic green Mustang has its original paint and motor from the day it rolled off the factory floor, Cushwa said, adding that she’s wanted to enter the car in the Mummers Parade for years.
Her eyes lit up when she was told that winners in the show classes are invited to participate in the largest nighttime parade on the East Coast, which runs one mile through downtown Hagerstown.
“It’s real nice downtown and I’ve enjoyed it a lot. We got here probably around 4:30 and there was a lot of cars then,” she said. “I hope they have it every year.”
Along with the Alsatia Club, the Thunder in the Square event was sponsored by the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau and the City of Hagerstown, which will be hosting its 250th birthday celebration Saturday in City Center.