Lime Rock Limelight: Litchfield’s Historic Race Car Parade
By Penny Stirling Michels
“Start your engines!” A colorful caravan of privately owned and lovingly maintained vintage race cars takes to the back roads of Litchfield County, Thursday, August 29, for Lime Rock’s Historic Festival, a humming herald to the beginning of Labor Day Weekend. The line-up begins at 4 p.m. at Lime Rock Park, where an estimated 150 top racing and sports cars from Great Britain, Italy, Germany, and the US will rumble to life and then strut their stuff along a fifteen-mile parade route through the Litchfield Hills, ending in a Street Festival on the green in Falls Village.
Parade fanciers from Lime Rock Park and the Falls Village Inn are encouraging residents and visitors to set up lawn chairs and picnic blankets along the route, while business owners have agreed to make their sidewalks inviting for the audience. The Street Festival at the parade’s end in Falls Village gives everyone the opportunity to meet the drivers and see the cars up close. There will be a splendid array of food vendors to keep folks munching while the fabulous Wanda Houston sings her heart out as only Wanda can to the music of the HBH Trio.
This is only the third Annual Vintage Race Car Parade in local history. It began as brainchild of Skip Barber, owner and CEO of Lime Rock Park. Barber takes enormous delight in the annual Historic Festival Weekend celebrated at the track every Labor Day weekend since 1983. He particularly enjoys the reactions from fans that have grown up with these iconic cars in the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s.
In 2011, Barber turned to his friend and fellow race car aficionado, Don Breslauer, and suggested they launch a Thursday kick-off for the Historic Weekend with a parade through Lime Rock’s surrounding towns. He was particularly keen for the parade to include a grand tour of the main circle at Noble Horizons. If those early race car fans could no longer travel to the cars, then the cars would travel to those early fans.
The first year’s parade focused primarily on vintage British models, many of them stylish MG racers, from the 1920’s onward. In 2012, the variety and number of cars participating grew to over 100 and the number of enthusiastic fans along the parade route swelled. The folks at Noble Horizons held lawn parties to greet the arrival of these snazzy dames of the vintage racing world.
Don Breslauer has managed all the behind the scenes details necessary to make the parade work since its inception. He is a Design Engineer who has been working with race cars since 1962. He owns and runs a vintage auto restoration shop in Salisbury, CT. His own magnificent Triumph TR3 is a source of great pride, but he won’t be driving it in the parade. Breslauer drives the Pace Car and leads the parade so he can double check to see that every inch of the route has been properly prepared for the occasion.
“Not often can you find vintage car owners driving unregistered restorations, as well as vintage and historic racing cars, on roads like these. Some of these cars aren’t ‘road worthy,’ and special arrangements must be made all along the parade route. This is a tightly coordinated event,” Breslauer explained. “It requires any number of motor vehicle permits, as well as agreements from the constables, police, and fire departments in the participating towns. Traffic must be stopped at the main intersections for about 20 minutes in order for the parade to advance as one group.”
A whole generation of fans who grew up with the pioneers of the racing world comes to Lime Rock Park every year at this time. Lime Rock’s history mirrors the history of sports car racing itself. In its 55-year existence, almost all of the sport’s great drivers have raced here: Andretti, Moss, Gurney, Posey, Rodriguez, Hobbs, Hill, Donohue, Ward, Fitch… the list is astonishing.
Any modern-day car buff can, for free, take his or her beloved model to this very same track to participate in the Annual Vintage Race Car Parade. To qualify, cars must date from 1965 or before and exhibit top-quality restoration and maintenance. They needn’t be racing models and, in fact, many drivers bring their vintage sports cars. Participants begin to line up on the track at Lime Rock Park on Thursday afternoon, August 29, at 3:15 p.m. Participation, as well as simply watching along the circuitous parade route, is free.
Lime Rock’s Historic Festival: Third Annual Vintage Race Car Parade
The route is as follows: Cars leave Lime Rock Park on Rt. 112 West towards the Hotchkiss School. They turn right onto Rt. 41 North at the 4-way stop. They turn right again onto Rt. 41N/44E at the flashing light in Lakeville. They drive through Salisbury to left on Cobble Road to Noble Horizons. They turn right out of Noble and left onto Rt. 41 South, through Salisbury westbound to left onto Salmon Kill Road to Rt. 112, then left onto Rt. 7 North, and left again on Rt. 126 to Falls Village Center.