Lead East's 29th Annual Car Show Bids Farewell 'Til Next Year
The weekend's 50's party at Parsippany Hilton uncovered the heart and soul behind Lead East.
The Lead East car show and 1950s party was sold out before participants left last year. And with over 1,800 cars and their owners along with a solid crowd of spectators, the lots buzzed with activity during the 29th annual edition last Wednesday through Sunday.
Lead East, the brain child of Terry Cook, began on a hot 100-degree weekend at Flemington Fairgrounds in 1983. This year's version lasted five days at the Parsippany Hilton, the site to which it moved nearly 28 years ago.
Founder Cook said the event was moved to provide participants and spectators with a "first-class, clean, paved facility with good lighting and indoor restrooms in an air-conditioned hotel."
Cook said the event continues to offer "family fun entertainment" thanks to the tremendous support of over 140 volunteers, and a community of both '50s lovers and vintage-car enthusiasts.
Joe and Anne Vettorino of New Rochelle, N.Y. have made the trip to Parsippany for Lead East the last 27 years. They come in their 1951 Ford, and Joe Vettorino said he keeps coming back because the event offers all the thing he likes: cars, music and good friends.
This year's show was the sixth for Joseph Katarba of Washington, N.J. He initially was invited to Lead East by a friend, has kept returning and is now a part of the volunteer staff. As a security volunteer on the graveyard shift, he helps keep the participants at ease, making sure their cars and belongings remain safe. Katarba also gets a chance to show off his classic 1957 Ford pickup truck.
The 2011 event ran around the clock starting last Thursday and ending midnight Sunday. Even locals such as '50s loving disc jockey Gup Gascoigne, a.k.a. The Golden Gup, who lives in Denville, stays at the hotel. 'The Gup,' as he is known for short, started attending as a spectator in 1986, discovered that this was an event he wanted to be a part of, not just attend. Now, he drives his custom 'jukebug' around the lots each year, as he did this past weekend, and spins '50s tunes for participants at Lead East's late-night parties.
Besides the participants, volunteers, and entertainers, there are also unsung heroes who attend each year. As in past years, the Make-a-Wish foundation set up a booth at Lead East 2011. The charity, which serves seriously ill children, held a 50/50 raffle and offered crafts for the kids. Last year the winner received $14,230.00; this year's winnings are still being tallied.
Also in attendance this year was 'the Metal of Honor' car. This Army-themed 1932 Ford Roadster was built to honor U.S. war heroes. The vehicle is being toured through the nation and, in January 2012, will be auctioned off at the famous Barret-Jackson auction in Scottsdale, Ariz. The proceeds go to supply scholarships to the children of slain and disabled U.S. soldiers.
Next year, Lead East celebrates its 30th anniversary. According to Jim Trocchia, a member of the Lead East staff, big things are planned. There is a call by organizing firm Appleton Productions for anyone who has attended every show. These people are asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org and mention they have participated every year since 1983.
Past years have proven anything is possible at Lead East, including guest appearances by Pee Wee Herman (Paul Reubens) and, this year's special guest, actor Butch Patrick, who portrayed Eddie Munster in the classic 1960s sitcom "The Munsters." We can only assume the 30th year will be no different.