MEEKER | There were 94 cars and drivers who battled the rain from Steamboat Springs on Thursday to reach the protection of the Rio Blanco County Fairgrounds for what one official called the “best indoor car show we have ever had in the 27 years of our tour.”
Eddie O’Brien, the communications liaison for Colorado Grand, said the group had the best show it has ever had inside. The cars and their teams, which were supposed to meet downtown and have lunch on the Rio Blanco County Courthouse lawn, were forced by rain into the large exhibit hall at the fairgrounds. More than 90 percent of the cars were parked there while the drivers, their passengers and their support teams, numbering more than 250 total, were fed by the Meeker Lions Club.
“Meeker always takes very good care of us,” said O’Brien, who has been with Colorado Grand for all 27 years of the run.
The Lions fed the entire group in the 4-H Building at the fairgrounds, and the menu of Indian fry bread and all the fixings brought great reviews, many of the participants stating that the Meeker meal was the best along the entire tour.
In addition to making the tour, the group donates to non-project organizations in the small rural towns of Northwest Colorado and has done so for a total of $4.5 million over the history of the tour.
In Meeker this year, the tour presented a check for $7,500 to the Meeker Lions Club for lunch and whatever projects the Lions want to use the excess funds for, and the group promised a check for $8,000 for a scholarship to go to one Class of 2016 Meeker High School graduate for use at any Colorado college, university or trade school.
Last year, the tour provided a $10,000 pledge to Pioneers Medical Center/Pioneers Health Foundation for a new helicopter pad at the new hospital east of Meeker.
“I cannot stress enough how wonderful a time we had in Meeker, and I want to single out Sheriff Anthony Mazzola for making it possible,” O’Brien said. “The day had all the making for a disaster with rain all morning, but it was Mazzola, with not much notice, who told us that he would take care of moving everything to the fairgrounds, and he did it.
“It was quite startling that when we got to Meeker, the weather broke and the lunch hour was bright, sunny and warm, but Mazzola and the Lions and all of their helpers just jumped in line and made our visit tremendous,” he said.
The tour attracts entrants from around the world and always includes several 1920s and 1930s cars.
Typical makes include Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari, Porsche, Bugatti, Alfa Romeo, Bentley, Aston Martin, Jaguar, Maserati, Allard and such exotic—but less familiar—names as Amilcar, Cisitalia, Squire, Delahaye, and Talbot-Lago.
The drivers/crews were directed from the courthouse downtown by members of the Meeker Lions Club and other volunteers into the exhibition hall at the fairgrounds, where they were lined up in several rows so roughly 85 of the cars made it out of the rain before it stopped falling.
The few remaining cars were parked outside the exhibition hall, but most were able to cover up or had hard tops to prevent any rain from entering the vehicles.
The group began its tour at The Cascade Club in Vail on Tuesday, spending Tuesday and Wednesday nights in Steamboat Springs after driving back and forth for a couple of days between Hayden and Campbell Ranch and a couple other locations in the area where donations were made.
The entourage left Steamboat Springs on Thursday and arrived at Meeker a little later than was expected due to the inclement weather, which included rain and wind. After the lunch in Meeker, the group drove on through Rangely and made its way to Grand Junction for Thursday night, returning to The Cascade Club in Vail on Friday.
“These people are always tremendous to the residents of Meeker, and we like to take good care of them,” said Dick Welle, one of the Lions who organized the tour. “It is a good chance to expose Meeker to these drivers and they, in turn, pass on the word about how beautiful and friendly Meeker is.
“This is a win/win situation for Meeker and those on the tour,” he said. “We really like having them come through and they seem to like Meeker as a place to pass through as well.”
The tour usually comes through the area every two years, but this is the second year in a row that the group has stopped in Meeker.
“Our fondest memories of this year’s tour certainly include Meeker,” O’Brien said. “Meeker never disappoints us, an this year it was an exceptional welcome we received when it might easily have been otherwise because of the bad weather.”
O’Brien said it is likely that more money will be distributed to Meeker before the end of the year, but that it is unknown how much more as there are a lot of expenses from the Colorado Grand tour that still need to be figured in.