Beach Park Fest & Car Show is one for the ages
By Long Hwa-Shu For Sun-Times Media August 18, 2013 4:52PM
An original hot rod, this 1927 Ford T-Bucket owned by Jerry Platt of Beach Park is rare in that it has the original steel body. Platt put a whimsical spin on the car by using a beer keg for the gas tank. | Tina Johansson for Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 18, 2013 2:10AM
Behind every car at every car show, such as the one at Beach Park on Saturday, is a story waiting to be told.
Invariably, it’s a story about labor of love, about how one has painstakingly restored a pile of junk into a classic beauty that turns heads whenever it is driven around.
And these owners have several things in common. They are older, with many retired. They have time on their hands and some money to spend on their hobby. Most of all, they are very American and proud.
Take Stan Ptasiemski of Antioch, who showed his 1929 Ford coupe, for instance. A retired union electrician who will be 70 next month, he said he built it from scratch basically from a stock Model-A he found in Platteville, Wis., about six years ago.
“It was all rusted,” he said.
“I did it because I needed to have something to do, a project,” he explained, adding that he loves the car so much he wouldn’t drive it in foul weather.
Ptasiemski was one of more than 150 people who showed their labor of love at the 5th annual Beach Park Fest & Car Show held at Founders Park. The festival attracted a steady stream of visitors. Besides the car show, which was sponsored by the North Shore Rods Inc., there were food concessions, crafts, raffle drawings, and for children, face painting and a moon walk. The Beach Park Fire Department showed its equipment and gave a hose demonstration.
A Lake County Sheriff’s Department helicopter circled above and landed, to the delight of festgoers, especially children who later got to see it from up close.
“I love Beach Park,” voiced Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran as he toured the park grounds, accompanied by Beach Park Mayor John Hucker.
Beach Park does not have its own police department. It relies on the sheriff’s Department to patrol its streets and enforce law and order.
Back to the car show, which was the biggest draw at the fest. One eye-catcher was a drab, olive-colored military motorcycle — a 1942 Harley-Davidson, complete with a helmet, goggles, a leather pouch and a machine gun sheathed in a holder welded to the vehicle. It was painstakingly rebuilt by Jon Burgett of Winthrop Harbor, an auto mechanic with the North Shore Sanitary District.
“I bought parts from Australia and Belgium, and had them shipped over to me by UPS,” said Burgett, pointing out that he is dedicating the motorcycle to his late uncle, Alfred Burgett of the U.S. Army who was killed during the Korean War.
A rare 1956 two-tone (champagne over green) Studebaker Sky Hawk turned many heads.
“This is history. It’s hard to find one like this,” said owner Harry Gelhar Sr., who owns Memores Auto Restoration of Zion.
He said he found what he described as a junk of a car nine years ago in South Carolina and patiently restored it to a beauty that he likes to show off.
Jon Ward and his wife Jan of Beach Park are both vintage-car enthusiasts. They showed their cars side by side: his an indigo blue 1939 Chevrolet Master sedan and hers a red 1940 Chevrolet Master coupe.
Jon, a retired millwright, said he restored hers from the frame up and it took him two years to complete. He said his car came “with parts in baskets” from someone in Wadsworth who wanted to rebuild it but never get it off the ground.
Don Hill of Zion, a retiree from “AAA,” tried to sell his brown 1982 “Z” car with suede seats, a sports car made by Datsun, Nissan’s forerunner. He was asking for $7,000.
“I have more cars than girlfriends,” he joked, explaining that he also owns a Grand Jeep Cherokee and a 1994 Ford Mustang.
To keep himself out of the sun, he covered the car with an umbrella of a tent. But the tent also kept people from looking at the car.
“You can’t see it,” he said, acknowledging his conundrum.