By David Hoadley, Correspondent
There’s just something about a summer evening that turns people’s minds nostalgic. Daylight hangs around later through the summertime, “it’s a school night” disappears for a couple months, the scents of cut grass and chlorine pools fill the air. It can’t help but take us back to childhood, however many or few years it’s been.
It’s in that spirit that the Little Falls Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (LFCVB) is offering local residents three Wednesday nights of nostalgia this summer in the form of a Vintage Car Rendezvous. The first Rendezvous is Wednesday, June 18, in the parking lot shared by Dairy Queen and Charlie’s Pizza on Haven Road. Others are planed at different locations around the town in July and August.
The gatherings are the result of some cooperative brainstorming. Kris VonBerge, executive director of LFCVB, and Wayne Hansmann, president of the Lone Eagle Auto Club in Little Falls for 15 years, came together on an idea first suggested in 2013.
“A young gal came in last summer,” VonBerge explained, “she moved to town, her name was Katie Boser. And she said, ‘This is what we did in our small town and it was successful.’ And one of them that seemed attainable was car club gatherings.
“Wayne and Karen walked in,” she continued, “and I said, ‘Let’s do it.’ And I just mentioned it and he said, ‘I’d like to call the car clubs and get this thing going.’” The LFCVB is the official sponsor of the events, with Hansmann and the auto club “unofficial” consultants.
Hansmann and his wife Karen sent information to 13 car clubs in the region. While there’s no way to gauge how many car owners will bring their prized possessions, both the Hansmanns and VonBerge are hopeful for a good turnout. The main idea is to bring Little Falls residents together and encourage visitors to check out the town, but VonBerge said the gatherings are a winning situation for all involved.
“This is a good way for the community to come out and see the cars,” she said, “plus the people to show off their cars. And if it’s successful, maybe the businesses make a couple dollars … so everyone in the end that’s local gets something back.
“I think it might be an incentive to, if the businesses want to have that gathering close to their location, have them do something really great.” she said. “(To) say, ‘I’m a business owner and I’m pretty creative, I’m going to market my business.’
“The July and August events are being advertised at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds and their ‘Back to the 50s” VonBerge said. “So hopefully we can pull people who attend that up to Little Falls for July and August.”
VonBerge recognizes that family schedules can get full during the summer so she purposely avoided weekends and wanted the gatherings as convenient as possible.
“We chose Wednesday because it works for people who go out of town for the weekends in the summer and it was not conflicting with too much,” she explained. “What a fun thing for a family to go take a walk, go check it out and say, ‘Oh, isn’t this cool?’ And you don’t have to go to a fairgrounds, or drive out of town. That’s why we tried to bring it to Little Falls.”
The gatherings are planned for different sites each month in order to show off various parts of the city.
“The July concept is to pull them downtown Little Falls, west side, east side, wherever they want to go,” VonBerge stated. “The August concept, the (Falls) Ballroom took charge and said, ‘We’re going to do peanuts, cotton candy, and outside food barbecue thing.’” Music and special 50s theme items are up to the individual businesses, but VonBerge said she was confident the right atmosphere would be set at each rendezvous.
The Hansmanns said car owners need not worry if they don’t belong to a car club.
“It’s for everyone,” Wayne said. “Whether they’re club members of any club. They’re all welcome. The public’s welcome.”
“Even if you’re not in any club you’re welcome,” Karen said. “There’s a lot of old cars in Little Falls that don’t belong to the club.”
The three started warming to their subject.
“And it’s free to the public,” VonBerge said. “It’s incentive to come out do things in the community instead of staying at your house.”
“And it’s free for people who bring their cars,” Wayne said, noting that many gatherings charge both car owners and the public.
“And the incentive for some folks fixing up cars, too, is bring your car out, see what car clubs do, where they go, just mingle with the car clubs,” VonBerge said.
“Bring the whole family,” said Wayne. “Bring the kids out. Because I’ll tell you what, these kids get hooked on these cars. I’ve seen it at car shows.”
The Hansmanns and VonBerge admit that the first time trying these gatherings means not being able to predict how they will work.
“It’s something new we’re trying in Little Falls,” Wayne said. “Hopefully it’s going to be a big event and it’s going to take off, and grow it.”