Bluegrass Club Conclave 2012
Louisville Conclave 2012: Memories to last a lifetime!
By: Ben Moore
Louisville Conclave was quick out of the gates on Sunday with a VIP trip to Millionaire’s Row. More than 300 Healey fans were treated to a scrumptious buffet and a front-row seat on the finish line for a day at the races. The backdrop, historic Churchill Downs, provided the perfect spot to begin our week of festivities. The Bluegrass Club and Conclave 2012 were proud to sponsor the fifth race and appropriately named it the Donald M. Healey Memorial Race. Bluegrass Club members Bill and Jean Fryrear were instrumental in organizing this day for us.
Back at our host hotel, the luxurious Crowne Plaza, the Conclave crew had actually already been at work for a few days. Load-in began on Friday with a special volunteers meeting and dinner that night. Early Saturday morning, the “Teal Shirts” descended on the Crowne to begin final setup. Around 2 p.m. on Saturday all stations were set and Registration, Regalia, Arts and Crafts and Auction were all opened to more than 200 early arrivals.
Mike and Arlene Schneider kept things humming in the Registration booth with an army of volunteers including, Bev Frazier, Linda Moore, Bonnie Chreste, Trevor Jessie, Sonny Moore, Don Swann, Rande Swann, Peter McHugh, Kenny Krebs and MaryLee VanArsdall while Joyce Wilding and a team of Bluegrass Belles, including Betty Dilger, Ginny Carter and Jean Fryrear, presided over the Regalia suite. Meanwhile, Bill Wilding was busy making sure hotel guests and rooms were well taken care of and that meeting rooms were setup appropriately. MaryLee VanArsdall coordinated the loading into the ballroom of cars being judged for Concours, as well as a few special candidates. Meanwhile, Jim Werner was already hard at work assisting anyone and everyone that had car trouble in finding parts and a proper technician.
On Sunday night more than 500 Healey fans were treated to a very unique Opening Ceremony. Starting with the Presentation of Colors, special jockey silks representing each local AHCA club represented at the event were paraded into the massive Crowne Plaza ballroom to the Olympic theme song. The emcee for the evening, Matt Moore, welcomed the crowd of Healey faithful and provided commentary for the evening. Conclave Chairman Ben Moore welcomed the group and provided an introduction for the Conclave guest, John Nikas and Grace. A short video played that introduced Grace and John’s mission to Drive Away Cancer and dedicated the Louisville Conclave in memory of those that could not make the journey with us.
Following this moving presentation, hilarity ensued in the form of an old-fashioned Conclave skit. John Lomax, Bob Thurman, Gerry Cossette and Robbie Cook performed as the Whistling Belly Button Troop and entertained the crowd. Following the raucous presentation, Chairmen Ben Moore serenaded the crowd and kicked off the evening’s sock hop. A special photo booth was brought in and commemorative photos were provided to any participant brave enough to step behind the curtain. The evening was a perfect beginning to the fun and memorable week ahead.
This morning was also special for a select few anxious owners as the Concours judging began in the perfectly air-conditioned grand ballroom. Coordinated for the Conclave by MaryLee VanArsdall and from AHCA with Marion Brantley, the four cars presented for judging sparkled under the crystal chandeliers. The team of more than 20 judges spent the morning and early afternoon working the cars over with “a fine-tooth comb.” The end result was three Gold and one Silver showing.
Monday was another fast-paced and exciting day for Conclave guests. The Ohio Valley AHC stepped up to host another awesome Gymkhana. They had a perfect venue for it. The E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park provided a lush and shady backdrop for our autocross day.
Thrill Seekers – A day at the Gymkhana
By: Don Klein, Ohio Valley AHC
The 502 Auto Club graciously allowed us to park our freshly painted AutoX trailer at their fine restoration complex for days before and after the event. Many were involved in teching cars, course setup, staging cars and timing and scoring.
Workers involved were:
Bob and Pat Duffey, Jake and Joyce Jacobs, Gayle and Cindy Loos, Tom and Nancy Hall, Tim and Bobbi Ross, Dale Ballinger, Jon Andorn, Jeff Porada, John Jacobs, Richard Pratt, Skip Jackson, Chuck Law, Jerry Cox, Bernie Grabow,
Del Border, and Jim Hofer.
A course walk-through was led by Don Klein, instructing drivers on the proper line thru the short twisting course. The first car was started on time and as lap times accumulated it was clear that this day was ruled by the Sprites with the Fastest Time of the Day (FTD) of 28.81 by Trevor Jessie from the Bluegrass Club.
Best time for Big Healeys was 29.27 by Jim Hockert. We were honored to have John Nikas and Grace on-site. John posted a time of 33.35. After all runs were completed, John and “Grace” spent an hour taking children and big kids on thrilling rides around the course, bringing out smiles and good cheer for all involved.
Again, a special “Thank You” to the workers and participants in putting on a successful Gymkhana.
- Don Klein
Monday afternoon provided a great opportunity for Michael Grant from Moss Motors to host a very well-attended educational tech session on the state of current motor oils. The Platinum Sponsor team from Moss Motors was on hand all week to answer tech questions, help locate parts and provide expertise for our Conclave group.
As the sun set on Monday, we kicked off our Funkhana in the side parking lot of the Crowne Plaza. With a huge audience, Funkhana participants battled the cones and obstacles designed by Chief Fun Officer, Bob Thurman.
Fun for all ages – Funkhana
By: Bob Thurman, Middle Tennessee AHC
This year’s Funkhana combined the perfect amount of ”khana” and fun. It was a challenging course that provided fun for not only our veteran participants but the youngsters in the crowd, too. Needing a driver and navigator, the course required the navigator to direct a soccer sized ball with a “widget’’ through a series of five gates made from cut-in-half hula-hoops. Not only did the navigator have to concentrate on the gates, but also had to communicate his actions to his/her driver so they could drive around the gates, as they were not in a straight line! As the team finished the last gate, the ball had to be shot into a net.
The return trip to the finish line was a slow down process. This consisted of stopping and dropping a small ball into a piece of PVC that had three exits marked 1, 3, 5, denoting how much time would be deducted from the total run time. In order to stop the timer, the last task was to run the right front tire over a board with a button in the center that rang a doorbell. You had to drive up on it slowly or it would not ring. As soon as the bell rang, the course was complete.
Giggles and smiles were present in abundance for the nearly 80 participants. Some tried only once, others couldn’t get enough. Plus, we had veteran participants as well as plenty of 20-somethings and teenagers. Many lucky youngsters also had the opportunity to participate, thanks to special piloting in Grace.
- Bob Thurman
Monday night kicked off another raucous evening of festivities and entertainment. With a “Future 50” themed dance -- consisting of music only from the birth years of Future 50 members (1970-1980s), the place was hopping. Hospitality snacks overflowed and provided some nice refreshment and the perfect appetite-whetting for our live show. This evening, the “Big Kids” treated the group to a Ladies Tea Fashion Show. With commentator Ben Moore on hand, the models showed the latest trends for Ladies Tea threads. Our very special models included: Tilly Screams, Amber Alert, Helen Bedd and Emma Roid.
After a great evening of partying and socializing, the Conclave-faithful were up early for a trip to Louisville’s front door, the great Waterfront Park. A beautiful tour through historic Old Louisville provided sightings of hundreds of restored Victorian-era homes before arriving on the waterfront. An army of “teal shirts,” led by Car Show Planner Dave Case, were ready for the more than 200 cars preparing for display. “Parkers” included: Doug Conway, Chuck Conway, Jim Werner, Roger Coates, Kenny Krebs, Trevor Jessie, Peter McHugh, Lee McCracken, Tadd Roberts and Ben Moore. The dispatch team at the Crowne Plaza consisted of: Don Swann, Sonny Moore, Bill Wilding and Bill Fryrear.
With the beautiful Louisville skyline, bridges and Ohio River as a backdrop in this lush park, the Healeys were in great company. Our DJ brought the Healey-era music with us and the party began! Participants enjoyed the dozens of museums, restaurants and shops all within walking distance. The sun was shining bright on our old Kentucky home as the RC car races, coordinated by Mike Schneider, Jr., and the Pinewood Derby hosted by Gary, Paulette and Alex Lownsdale, all provided exciting activities throughout the day.
Ladies Tea – a star studded affair
By: Linda Moore
Tuesday afternoon our Bluegrass Belles hosted a beautiful Ladies Tea in the Grand Ballroom. Under the crystal chandeliers, more 80 ladies in attendance were treated to a sampling of Kentucky original foods including the Hot Brown, Benedictine and Derby Pie.
Special guest performer/impersonator “Rosemary Clooney” entertained the crowd with songs and stories from her glamorous career. It proved to be a very special presentation for the audience since many of them grew up watching and listening to Rosemary Clooney. The afternoon concluded with a door price giveaway of a special handmade basket of Kentucky foods and specialty items donated by Robbie and Angie Cook with Cake Vintage Table and Home.
- Linda Moore
On Wednesday, Conclave guests took to the streets to explore our great Commonwealth and city. Tours were assembled by: Jim Werner, Dale Ballinger and Bruce and Linda Rosenrkans. Some favorite locations from past SpringThings were part of the tours, including Maker’s Mark, the Kentucky Horse Park, Woodford Reserve, the Corvette Museum and Plant, Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory and Muhammad Ali Center. Sunshine was plentiful as our group enjoyed the beautiful country roads and historic grandeur of Kentucky.
That afternoon double-platinum sponsor 502 Auto Club hosted a breaking-news tech session about the future of automotive paints. Resident painting expert Matt Phillips presented his knowledge and findings about water-based paints and how they will change the way we look at car finishes in the future. 502 Auto Club is already offering these amazing new paints.
Wednesday evening, a breathtaking caravan of more than 200 Healeys took to the winding roads of Southern Indiana as we ventured to the Huber’s Family Farm for an evening at the Party Barn. More than 500 of our guests devoured the buffet of fried chicken, summer salad, country ham, veggies and fried biscuits with apple butter. Topped off by heavy helpings of cherry, peach and blackberry cobbler, the group was treated to a great awards presentation. They were also treated to the lively sale of 50/50 tickets by Bev Frazier and Linda Moore. Gymkhana, Funkhana, Arts and Crafts, Pinewood Derby and RC car race winners were all honored with quirky trophies consisting of the iconic orange cones with color emblazoned plaques. A short live auction was fast-paced and lively thanks to auctioneer and AHCA President Gary Brierton and featured premium items donated by sponsors Moss Motors, Automotive Artistry, Frederique Constant and a sampling of other items from private collections.
A Town and Country Drive – Rally
By: John Rice, Bluegrass AHC
Thursday morning saw Drivers and Navigators from 22 different clubs embarking upon our Conclave Rally through downtown and suburban Louisville and the surrounding countryside. Many chose to leave early, to avoid the afternoon heat.
Our route took everyone through modest residential areas, an old Army camp, past three major universities, and out through tree-lined, riverside country lanes. Turning uphill into rolling farmland, we passed by a storied thoroughbred farm, and on through an old railroad town with antebellum estates.
Our turnaround point was the 502 Auto Club, a fantastic restoration shop and storage venue for a variety of classics, including a ‘lemon-lime’ 1955 Studebaker President Speedster, my favorite. The A/C and cool drinks were welcome relief from the heat. Some of the ‘sick’ Healeys also received careful attention in the workshop.
Our return leg drove us through a real roundabout, and down into enigmatic Sleepy Hollow. Retracing River Road, we turned south on Third Street and passed the mansions of Louisville’s 19th century plutocracy. The University of Louisville and its major sport venues were also on display.
But the highlight of the day was yet to come. A famous guest awaited us at the Awards Ceremony that evening. Legendary Finnish Rally Master Rauno Aaltonen (Jim French) arrived that afternoon from Helsinki, coming straight to the banquet. He was a little the worse for wear, having had some sort of an incident driving from the airport, perhaps involving alcohol. He offered a fascinating account of his 1964 Spa-Sofia-Liege Marathon, the last victory for a Healey Works team car, but then became somewhat combative in challenging the interpretation of his Finnish dialogue by local rally master John Rice.
The local Conclave Committee chose not to allow any small children to go for a ride with Rauno.
Awards for the rally were determined by the teams’ successfully unscrambling six words, which gave them the letters to assemble the answer to the cartoon puzzle: RAUNO AALTONEN. Several contestants got all six words correctly, as well as the name. The tiebreaker was ‘Funniest Sign Seen on the Rally”, and there were some.
- John Rice
Thursday evening the Conclave faithful gathered one last time to celebrate a fun and memorable week of friends and family. The Mardi Gras themed night, complete with beads and noisemakers on every table, added to the festive atmosphere. A delicious dinner was enjoyed and then the evening’s program began. After a quick introduction by Conclave Chairman Ben Moore, John Nikas shared stories from the road and his experiences with Grace and the hundreds of lives they have touched.
The awards ceremony kicked off with a lively presentation from Rally Master John Rice and his faithful assistant Rauno. Participants were awarded beautiful engraved silver mint julep cups. Then we moved onto awards for the Popularity Car Show. Trophies were presented by Ron Dilger of the 502 Auto Club. With more than 200 cars on the field and greater than 500 ballots cast, the awards field was deep. Check out the results listing. Our Best in Show award was presented in a very special video to unveil the winner. We were proud to present a special, personalized Louisville Slugger Bat and Woodford Reserve to our winner, John Nikas and Grace. John took the opportunity to once again address the crowd and share his thanks.
AHCA President Gary Brierton and Edie Anderson took the stage to present the DMH Award and the Edie Anderson Attendance Award to the same Club this year. The Ohio Valley Club showed up in force and dominated in all major areas of competition. This was the first time OVAHC had won the DMH award and the lively crowd filled the dance floor to celebrate.
Following the presentation, Ben Moore took the stage one last time. A special highlight video was played commemorating the three year journey of the Bluegrass Club to organize the Conclave and share a special message of thanks to the 52 members that joined together to present this Conclave. With much fanfare, the Quebec Chapter took the stage to share highlights of their adventure in 2013 and to Pass the Piston.
With that, the more than three year journey it took to put this week together was over…or so we thought. On Friday morning, as our friends were packing up and hitting the road, our special guest, Grace, continued to inspire. Still perfectly situated in the Crowne Ballroom, Grace and John Nikas received one last name courtesy of Conclave Chairman Ben Moore. Following that signing John handed Ben the keys and Ben and Grace took one last Conclave journey.
By Ben Moore
I’ve been around Healeys my entire life. I’ve driven Bugeyes and Big Healeys. Each time I felt a special energy around Healeys…they are more than cars…more than an artistic collection of metal and aluminum. In fact, these cars have a power about them and this was never more evident than in Grace.
Driving through winding roads and familiar Louisville sites, I looked down to see names staring back at me; many of which I recognized. I felt a presence, a spirit. I feel it when I attend a Club meeting or event and when I’m behind the wheel of my Healey. It’s the spirit of those that are no longer with us. I was reminded that we haven’t lost them. They did not lose their battle because they carry on through us, through our cars, our events and our Club. This is why we carry on, why we continue our amazing shared passion for these cars and a Club that transcends a mere hobby.
The Conclave journey is never easy. We had an amazing crew of 52 volunteers from the Bluegrass Club who made the vision a reality and smoothed the road the entire week. This also turned into a family affair with multiple generations of Bluegrass families joining in the effort. They all worked tirelessly and always with a smile. I am thankful to them for letting a 25 year-old pitch an idea that would ultimately lead to this amazing and memorable week. But, sitting behind the wheel of Grace, I couldn’t help but be overcome with the entire week that had just happened. I was excited to see this amazing Healey Club family reunion in my hometown, to see 230 shiny Healeys careening through the beautiful Bluegrass and 521 smiling faces and hearing the laughter we shared. I missed those that couldn’t finish the journey with us and was thankful for those that had. I knew that the spirit of this event, these cars, these people, would continue to live on in every Conclave and local or regional event as long as we continued to support and love our Healey Club family.
Grace represents survivors and those we remember. She is a symbol of hope and the same can be said for our Healey tradition. We carry on. Against all odds, insurmountable struggle, we carry on. That is what continued to drive me and provide strength through this journey and, ultimately, why the Bluegrass Club took on the 2012 Conclave: to bring fun, family, laughter, love and memories to our friends from around the globe. We were proud to host so many wonderful friends in Louisville and honored to have John and Grace and so many Healey Club family join us for this amazing Healey party!