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Mini car is big attraction at Chambersburg July 4th event

July 05, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - At first glance, the used car Douglas Gayman bought last week looks as though eight or nine clowns ought to be climbing out of it, but it is after all, a Mini.

Not one of the popular Cooper Minis introduced to the American market in the past couple of years, but a 1972 model a full 17 inches shorter than the current edition, Gayman said of the car he bought Tuesday from a man in Richmond, Va.

Accentuating its lack of size, the Mini was parked next to a 1956 Cadillac Fleetwood belonging to Mark Swain of Williamsport.

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Gayman, Swain and the owners of 51 other classic, stock and modified automobiles were at Chambersburg's Memorial Park, hoping the rain would hold off until at least 4 p.m. when the car show was due to end.

William Vandrew and other members of the Cumberland Valley 21 Day Retreat Organization were looking to the skies, hoping the weather would hold for the 9:30 p.m. fireworks show.

"We've been setting the stands up for the past two Saturdays," said Vandrew, who arrived at the park at 8 a.m. Sunday. An evening thunderstorm would mean doing it all over again on Saturday, the show's rain date.

The 21 Day Retreat Organization, made up of veteran and fraternal organizations from the Chambersburg area, has been putting on Fourth of July pyrotechnics for 20 years, although that was not the group's original purpose.

"It was to honor the flag," said Robert Wollyung of the Knights of Columbus.

The Knights and the Elks got together in 1983 and began discussions to create the organization, which holds retreat ceremonies each evening from Flag Day on June 14 to Independence Day.

"We reached out as far as was feasible" to get other clubs to participate and the first retreats were held in 1984, said Jim Buhrman, who started the organization with Michael Sabol.

"Mike and I belonged to both" the Knights of Columbus and the Elks, Buhrman said. During the first few years, he said, they had to sign bank loans for the fireworks.

The organization began hosting the fireworks display in 1985 and it has grown to become a day of activities such as the car show, a craft fair, games and music.

Vandrew, who served as chairman for six years in the 1990s, said fund-raising always is a major issue. Putting together a fireworks display costs up to $14,000, he said.

Alta Holden, a life member and past department president of the Landis-McCleaf Marine Corps League, said advertising sold for the annual Fourth of July program along with raffles and food and game stand sales are the primary sources of money, but donations always are welcome and needed.

The program lists 15 member organizations, but Holden said Boy Scout Troop 128 was added this year, and members attended all of the flag retreats and hosted one itself.

"People in this area are pretty doggone patriotic," Buhrman said.

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