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Past and Present of Auto Industry Meet at Bellefonte Cruise

by on June 15, 2014 9:45 AM

Parked cars from across the Pennsylvania and tri-state area lined practically every inch of Bellefonte’s side streets this weekend, but no one paid them any attention.

The real focus were the cars along the Bellefonte Borough’s main streets, which ranged from classic to classy and everything in between.

This weekend was the 26th annual Bellefonte Cruise, a car show and community celebration that brings as many as 10,000 people to downtown Bellefonte each year, cruise chairman Pat McCool says.

Bellefonte resident Bob Wagner says he remembers Bellefonte in late 60s and early 70s, when youths – himself included – would cruise around the downtown in muscle cars. Though Wagner speaks fondly of those times, he says it was ultimately “a policing issue” that Bellefonte was forced to address.

Rather than pursue ordinances to punish the cruisers, Bellefonte adopted the practice, turning what some considered a nuisance into one of the county seat’s biggest events. 

According to Wagner many of the residents who were part of the initial cruising scene were car people then and remain so to this day. Though they no longer cruise around the block, many still bring out their cars to admire and be admired.

Joe Kensinger of Indiana, Pa. works with the company that prints the event’s informational publication. After leafing through it and seeing the cars on display, Kensinger was convinced to make the drive to Bellefonte for Father’s Day weekend. 

Kensinger says one his favorite parts of the cruise has been talking to the owners of the many vintage cars on display. He says the way they chose to approach their restoration, modifications and upkeep reveals their personality. Watching people discuss the way they approached their cars has given Kensinger new ideas he wants to try on his own 1998 Mitsubishi Spyder.

“With some of these older guys it’s really cool to hear their stories, like they’re keeping a legacy alive through an oral history,” Kensinger says. “I hope that’s me with my car when I’m older.”

Though the cars attracted most of the attention, a large collection of motorcycles was also on display. Bob Moore, sitting in the shade of a tree behind his 1999 Honda Shadow, says that the vehicles on display at the cruise reflect not just the personalities of their owners, but also the past and present of the entire motor vehicle industry.

Pete Cohan, of Huntingdon, spent the past year cleaning, waxing and detailing his 1965 Ford Mustang to make it show-ready for this weekend. For Cohan, showing off this dark blue, racing-striped sculpture of metal and motor is the culmination of a decades-long dream.

“I wanted to buy this car back when I was in college, but there was no way I could afford it,” Cohan says. “After weddings and college tuition, now [my wife and I] could finally do what we wanted to do.”

For children and attendees with a more limited interest in cars, the cruise also offered face painting, balloon animals, live music and shopping.

Carol Walker, owner of the Victorian Rose gift shop, says the cruise always brings extra business to her shop. While their husbands discuss the ins and outs of auto upkeep, many of the wives visit Walker at her store. She’s also built a base of customers that stop in once a year when they visit from out of town for the cruise.

Ron and Barbara Marjeroni, an elderly couple from Syndertown, came out to the cruise for the first time this weekend.  Both say that walking along the street and looking at these antique cars makes them feel nostalgic. Many of these cars were released over the course of their lives.

“It’s not strange to see these cars now,” Ron Marjeroni says. “We watched them wear and rust, and now to see them restored feels really good.”

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Michael Martin Garrett is StateCollege.com's general assignment reporter, an alumni of Penn State and the bassist for local indie rock band Sun Whales. Follow him on Twitter at @MichaelMGarrett.
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For Many, Fathers Taught Life Lessons by Setting an Example
June 15, 2014 7:45 AM
by Michael Martin Garrett
For Many, Fathers Taught Life Lessons by Setting an Example
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