There’s something about a car show that always seems to bring in a crowd. Perhaps it’s the car-enthusiast community, a tight knit bunch, many of whom put all their extra hard-earned money into the hobby they cherish so much. It might be the nostalgia, seeing a vehicle you drove as a teenager, bringing back memories of carefree summers and the freedoms and irresponsibility of youth. Perhaps it’s showing the next generation beautiful pieces of history, engines that didn’t need to be hooked up to a computer to be fixed and teaching them the importance of keeping alive memories and images of the past. From late spring through early fall you can find a car show just about every weekend across the Inland Northwest, but it wasn’t always so.
Thirty-three years ago, Sandpoint community members were looking for a way to help raise funds for the Festival at Sandpoint. Being a music festival, the thought of bringing in a few bands to perform seemed logical. To add a little extra, organizer Carolyn Gleason and her small team of volunteers decided to organize a car show as well. “We had 29 vehicles the first time around,” remembers Sally Transue, a Lost in the ‘50s volunteer since day one.
What started as a simple add-on to an event has now become the focal point of one of the biggest weekends of the year for Sandpoint and one of the more prominent car shows around. More than three decades later, Lost in the ‘50s draws thousands of visitors from all over the Western U.S. and Canada as around 500 classics take over downtown each year—with some years seeing that number swell to 700. Full factory-restored classic muscle is parked alongside tricked-out and chopped-up trucks, and ultra-fast ultra-light roadsters.
As Lost in the ‘50s continued to grow in popularity, the idea of bringing the car show downtown came to be. Shutting down traffic through downtown is a big ask, and organizers weren’t sure what the reaction from local businesses was going to be when they presented them with the plan. “We asked every business downtown and honestly, I can’t remember anyone saying ‘no,’” says Transue.
Instead of a commercial building, parking lot or isolated field like some other shows, the Lost in the ‘50s Car Show is in the heart of Downtown Sandpoint, allowing visitors to not only take advantage of a great and easily walkable setting, but all the surrounding businesses, coffee shops, bars and restaurants as well. “It’s pretty incredible that we have taken over all of downtown, considering where we started,” says Transue.
If you haven’t already circled the date, the 33rd Annual Lost in the ‘50s runs Thursday, May 17 through Saturday, May 19. For those who haven’t been, expect a great three days of music and muscle amongst thousands of others just as eager to take in the celebration. The party kicks off with the Rock ‘n Roll Heaven concert Thursday evening at the Bonner County Fairgrounds, where impressionist icons of the generation will be on hand belting out 50’s classics. Ray Anthony plays the part of Ritchie Valens and Lance Lipinsky will be Jerry Lee Lewis, a character he’s taken all the way to Broadway for performances. Elvis will also be in the building in the form of Justin Shandor, who has taken home several awards for his spot on re-creation of the King of Rock. The opening event sells out nearly every year, and you can pick up tickets in advance at Second Avenue Pizza or by calling 208.263.5678.
Friday after work is when the sounds of deep rumble and the faint smell of exhaust begin to fill the streets of Downtown Sandpoint. Eager regulars will have their spots marked out in advance, but there are plenty of great viewpoints for the annual vintage Car Parade. Classics will start circling downtown at 6pm, giving everyone a great view of some of the most beautiful vehicles in the West. Immediately following the parade you’ll find the Street Dance hosted by DJ Bashful Dan at Second Avenue and Cedar Street. The dance is free, family friendly and a great way to catch up with friends and neighbors.
Back at the Fairgrounds, the live music continues on night two with the original lead singer of The Buckinghams’ Dennis Tufano and original lead singer of The Crystals, La La Brooks. Familiar faces Rocky and The Rollers will finish off the night with more rock classics. Doors open at 6:30pm with the music going live at 7:30pm.
As you finish up breakfast Saturday morning, car owners will be finding their place downtown, and they’ll all be lined up and ready to view by 9:30am. Here you can get an up-close look at rare rides and often talk with the owners about the car’s history or what’s under the hood. Surrounding businesses are open, and there are plenty of places for a cold drink or bite to eat as you take in the sites of the beautiful rides. The Saturday night dance is the show stopper with Rocky and the Rollers taking the stage again as well as Mary Wilson of The Supreme’s making her Lost in the ‘50s debut.
While everyone is out enjoying the various festivities, a small army of volunteers is making sure the event is memorable for everyone in attendance. Lost in the ‘50s is only possible with the help of these volunteers who take and sell dance tickets, set up and break down tables, direct traffic and sell merchandise, along with many other duties. There are several like Transue who continue to volunteer their time throughout the weekend three decades after first doing so with just a simple idea. It’s seeing the fun event come together each year that keeps many of them coming back. “I see people that came to the first few that are now in walkers but still come out every year,” she says. “I always look forward to renewing those friendships year after year.”
More volunteers are always needed, and you can get in touch with Lost in the ‘50s at Second Avenue Pizza, on Facebook or by calling 208.263.5678. The free events are supported by concert ticket and merchandise sales, so additional donations are always welcome to help keep the event strong, vibrant and free to everyone. Whether you’ve been attending for years or considering your first trip to Lost in the ‘50s, there will be something for everyone young and young at heart to enjoy. Cars, cruising, rock ‘n’ roll, food and drink—something we can all get behind!