By Lindsay Eckert
Tribune lifestyle editor
It started with a broken down car on U.S. 31. Decades later, 500-plus cars roll in and rewind time for the 11th Annual Summer Place Car Show.
Jim Richardson founded the event as a way to raise money for his family’s foundation, A Home for Every Child. The foundation, which raises money to help children in need of adoption, is one that’s close to Richardson’s heart just as his love for the 1950s is close to his roots.
“My wife and I adopted two girls [from Russia], so adoption is important to us,” Richardson said. “We know we can’t cure the whole world’s problems, but if we can help one person it’s the greatest feeling in the world. Just to know we helped put them in a safe and secure world; it’s so saddening to think a child may not have a mother or father to go to for a [bandage] or to help them when a their feelings are hurt. We want to help find homes so kids have parents and a great environment.”
And a great environment Richardson has created for the cruise-in fun that’s revving up for Saturday’s event.
Richardson explains it’s not just a car show, it’s a doo-wop dance through the 1950s. He said his entire backyard is a real-life replica of the era he grew up in.
“I have an entire 1950s town in my backyard, I can’t take credit for it though. I always had people around to help. But, we have a diner back there, a movie theatre. It looks like you stepped into the 1950s when you walk in,” he said. “My wife always accuses me of trying to restore the world. But, I’m trying to restore the ethics we had back then. The music sounds positive and that era represents a lot of happy times for people. For me, I especially had a lot of happy times.”
Happy days define Richardson’s excitement for the Summer Place Car Show that hosts 400 to 500 cars on his 25-plus acre property.
“It’s really exciting. I jump out of bed when it’s getting ready to happen and the day is here,” Richardson said with added enthusiasm. “It’s so much fun to see people you know; it’s kind of like a reunion every year. The same people come back — I don’t know everyone’s name, but i know everyone’s face so it feels like a big family reunion.”
Richardson said the event’s feeling of family ties back into the memories he shared of his family’s humble beginnings in a car that was broken down, unlike the shiny vintage ones that will be cruising onto his property Saturday.
“My family and I ended up in Kokomo after our car broke down on our way to Michigan to look for work. We ended up moving into a barn in Kokomo and became tomato pickers,” Richardson said. “We were having a yard sale here once a man came up to me — after seeing the 1950s town — and said, ‘It must be nice to be born with a silver spoon.’ It may not have been the answer he wanted, but I nicely told him I worked three jobs and my dad taught me to work for everything I got. I said my dad was an honest and hard worker. I said being able to learn from his example was like being born with a silver spoon.”
Richardson said the event may feature meals served in his 1950s-town diner, a movie in the 1950s-styled movie theater and some of the best looking cars of the poodle skirt era. But, it’s the sight of children taking in the era he loves that puts that outshines the newly-waxed vintage rides.
“We get a kick out of watching the little kids in the 1950s town,” he said. “They all say, ‘Gosh, I wish I lived in this time.’ That makes me feel good every time I hear that.”
IF YOU GO:
WHEN: Car registration: 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.; Awards: 3 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: 4190 N. State Road 19, Sharpsville
COST: $5 per person; Kids under 12 are free
For more information or to register, visit www.asummerplace.org or call 765-963-5943.
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