Beautiful weather, old-world Danish hospitality and cars — hundreds of them.
It all added up to a perfect day Saturday at the 15th annual Wheels ‘n Windmills Car Show in downtown Solvang.
“We have right around 300 classic cars on display throughout downtown Solvang,” said event Chairman Bob Stokes. “This year we have 15 motorcycles, many with sidecars, on display in Solvang Park. It’s an exciting new addition.”
The small downtown was packed with people who roamed the streets eagerly eyeing vintage classics from America’s automotive heyday.
The crowd started with about 10,000 people and grew to nearly 15,000.
“Sometimes you can’t see the cars for all the people,” said Stokes.
But it’s the cars that are the stars of the day.
They lined Copenhagen Drive, Park Way and First and Second streets.
Classics — none newer then 1980. Some were brought in by local Santa Ynez Valley residents. Others came from places like Simi Valley, Yorba Linda, San Dimas, Lakewood, Anaheim, La Habra and beyond.
There were hot rods, classic Corvettes, Thunderbirds and an entire row of bright, shining woodies.
The best of the best win awards in a number of divisions ranging from antiques and prewar vehicles to classic Mustangs, Corvettes, Firebirds, T-Birds, woodies and original, unrestored motorcycles.
Wheels ‘n Windmills uses the show to raise money to help several local charities.
“That’s the reason we do this — to give back to the community,” said Stokes. “Most of my committee is cars guys. We saw an opportunity to put on a car show and support our community, and now we’ve been doing it for 21 years.
“We started over on the Avenue of Flags in Buellton in 1998 and called it the Avenue of Flags Car Show. Then we moved to Solvang in 2005 and changed the name, so it’s our 21st show and our 15th year as Wheels ‘n Windmills.”
The show has raised nearly $350,000 since it moved to Solvang, money which goes right back to the community.
Spectator admission is free, but money is raised through entry fees, sponsorships, a silent auction and souvenir sales, with the proceeds donated to four main charities plus the Santa Ynez Valley Union High School and Santa Maria High School automotive programs.
“Happy Endings Animal Sanctuary will get the largest share of our donations [this year],” said Stokes. “We also support Hacienda O'Holland Animal Rescue, which is like Happy Endings but for farm animals.
"Then there’s NatureTrack, which takes people to lots of different nature sites," he continued. "We’ll cover the expenses of two excursions this year.
“And finally, our only national organization, the Progeria Research Foundation. They study the problem of rapid aging in children," Stokes said. "We’ve supported them for the last 15 years, and 100 percent of the money we donate goes directly to their research program to help find a cure.”
There’s also an annual raffle of a new V8 engine with a custom-built automatic transmission.
“The raffle money goes to Santa Ynez and Santa Maria high schools’ auto shop programs, and every dime that’s raised goes directly to those schools,” said Stokes.
Vendors also lined the city’s streets selling such items as food, handbags and jewelry.
“One of our special vendors runs a program that sends care packages to our troops,” said Stokes. “People just need to pay for the postage so Si Tenenberg can send care packages overseas.”
Tenenberg understands how much the troops need the packages he sends.
“This is my eighth year here, but I started in 2006,” said Tenenberg, a retired Marine veteran of the Korean conflict. “We’ve been able to send 22,000 boxes to our guys and girls.
"They email me and I send them whatever they ask for," he explained. "I send them all kinds of things — snacks, coffee, hot plates, pillows and socks, always microbiological socks in every box.
"I have a box going out to Honduras right here. Our soldiers there need mosquito repellent. I send packages all over the world but most of the boxes go to Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan.”
Anyone can help by going on the Internet to troopcarepackages.org.
“Coming here really helps me get the word out,” said Tenenberg.
Stokes has a committee of 20 people who help organize the annual car show and another 20 volunteers come out to help things run smoothly.
“We’ve even got some of the kids from the high school automotive programs here helping out,” said Stokes.
For more information about the show and a look at last year’s winning entries as well as photos from previous shows, visit http://www.wheelsnwindmills.com/.