Solvang Roadster Show
How it all began …
Compiled by Chris Breyer with contributions from Kerry Dehmel and Les Canaday
It was the last weekend of April 1988, that NASA launched space vehicle S-211, “Nightline” went on location to Jerusalem Israel and New York Met’s Davey Johnson became the 2nd manager to record 400 victory in 1st 4 years (Al Lopez did it 1st) and Kerry Dehmel and his wife Jeannie started the Solvang Roadster Classic, then known as the Solvang Roadster Show. The Dehmels had been going to Solvang for a few years to celebrate their wedding anniversary. The first year they went, they invited a few friends from the Roadster Club in Fresno and Modesto to join them. There were about eight cars that first year. They drove down on Saturday with a caravan, had dinner at a local restaurant that and a pot luck lunch on Sunday, and then headed home. The second and third year they had a small Show and Shine at HansChristianAndersonPark on Sunday, with lunch provided. They brought all the stuff needed down in a truck and cooked everything themselves. The second year, Roadsters from Los Angeles were invited, but due to mechanical problems along the way, it wasn’t until the third year that LA actually made it in time to partake.
Frank Beer from Los Angeles agreed to host the show the next few years and did a great job. Eventually the event moved to Saturday and each year everyone met at the park in town. When Frank moved away, Les Canaday took over hosting the show; it got bigger and better each year. Les put on a great Show and Shine, with lunch and awards. Les came up with a different dash plaque and shirt each year for the show; now these have become collectibles. Les was the host for about 10 years and worked hard to expand the show and have more cars there each year. After Les finished as host, there were two years that people from the San Francisco/Bay area hosted the show. At the end of 14 years, Lou Smaldino agreed that the Fresno group would host again.
It was at this time of the show’s life that Kerry Dehmel and Lou Smaldino met with the city of Solvang to discuss the idea of bringing the show to the downtown area. Kerry and Lou found that one of the directors in the Parks Department had an interest in cars and planes. They located him and he helped with getting the permits and convincing the city council to allow this type of event in town. This was the first “car show” the town ever allowed. It then expanded to a Friday night get-together with the Saturday Show. Lou and Kerry worked together for two years and got the current format running smoothly; with the show growing in numbers beyond what was ever expected. Kerry and his wife Jeannie organized and hosted the show for the next three years, with help from a lot of people.
Kerry says that “My wife and I are asked all the time if we worry about what is done to the show each year because of changes and other issues. We just tell them that as long as there is a show, it doesn’t matter how it is run or presented. We enjoy the people we have met through the many years of going — cars are OK, but friends are more important. We see some friends only once a year there and then there are friends we see all the time. There are people from San Diego to Canada and some from Europe that come here. We hope to call all that have a common love of the Datsun Roadster, our friends.” This writer concurs with the Dehmels; how the show is run will always be different with different organizers. However, that is secondary. Getting together with friends and other Roadster lovers, driving the cars and letting people see them is primary.
In 2008, Jeff Torres took over as host and organizer. He kept the show alive and kept to the format that Kerry and Lou established. For the last three or four years, the show has been the largest gathering of Roadsters (at least on the west coast) known. It has evolved from 6-8 cars to 80+ cars. Each year the show has several people helping to organize it. In 2012 Jeff Torres turned the show over to Chris Breyer to host and organize. Chris Breyer is no stranger to organizing car shows, through his company CM Breyer & Associates and NostalgicDatsun.com he has organized the BRE 50 Year Reunion Car Show at the Petersen’s Automotive Museum, the SoCalROC Show & Shine Toy Drives, the Mr. K 100 year Birthday Party Car Show at the Datsun Heritage Museum, as well as the Multi-State Datsun Classics.
After the 29th Annual Solvang Datsun Roadster Classic on April 23, 2016 at the After-Show Banquet Chris Breyer turned the Show over to Harlan Katz as the Organizer of the Solvang Datsun Roadster Classic.
The Solvang Datsun Roadster Classic traditionally takes place every year on the last Saturday of April. This two day event includes the Friday night preshow get-together, which is our Meet & Greet; the show Saturday; and a catered after-show Banquet.
If you have not been to this event, it is one you have to get out to. It is more than just a show. It is more than just getting together with old friends. It is an experience you will not want to miss.
You can log onto http://www.solvangroadstershow.com to register online or print out your registration form to mail in. Do it today and get your rooms booked before they all fill up. Or you can log in and sign up to be on the “Kept in the loop” list, this keeps you up to date on show happenings as they are available via email.
See you in Solvang!!!