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July 10, 2000

Calling all Corvettes

Corvette owners from across the country cruise into Turtle Creek Casino to show of their vehicles

By BILL ECHLIN
Record-Eagle staff writer
      WILLIAMSBURG - For a few hours Sunday afternoon the front parking lot at the Turtle Creek Casino looked like the world's largest Corvette used car lot - acres of gleaming new and vintage 'Vettes in row after row.
      It was a little bit of heaven for the nation's Corvette lovers, a gathering at the casino after a 28-mile parade from the convention site of the National Council of Corvette Clubs at Shanty Creek Resort in Bellaire.
      Owners of 'Vettes from all across the United States arrived in the region Saturday and will be roaming all over the area participating in competitions, including a drag race, a scavenger hunt, golf and other games, and generally having a major party through this week - and, of course, looking over each other's automotive gems.
      Bob and Linda Holer of Evansville, Ind., polished and buffed their customized 1999 fire-engine red model that featured white pinstripes and accents, unique white wheels with red hubs and five huge tail pipes poking out from the rear. They had seatcovers made with their respective names embroidered and personalized doorsill protectors as well. The red rocket is their second Corvette, a successor to a 1996 yellow-and-black item.
      Their pride and attention to detail included red and white shorts and shirts and special caps.
      In contrast was the brutal-looking race-prepared 1984 'Vette that Chuck and Elaine Heretta hauled here on a trailer from Canton, Ohio. With an engine generating about 500 horsepower, a stripped-out interior and lots of other racing modifications, the Herettas' car is a serious performer.
      Chuck Heretta said it is rigged out for autocross racing, which consists of going through a marked course against the clock. He said he races nearly every weekend when the car is in running form. He guessed he's put about $20,000 into the car over the $3,500 he paid for the "burned-out" car.
      More than 200 variations on the Corvette theme, from beautifully restored cars from the early 1960s to the newest, just-off-the-showroom-floor 2000 models, were on display.
      Members of the club voted for their favorites by putting donations in containers in front of each car. The money goes to the National Kidney Foundation's Donor Awareness Program. The cars that bring in the most money will receive special honors.
      This convention is the first time the club has come to northern Michigan and organizers said they have been very pleased at the help they got from the Traverse City Convention and Visitors Bureau, Shanty Creek, Traverse Bay Casinos and Resorts and local 'Vette owners.
      The Northwest Michigan Corvette Club was out in force, with 18 cars in the big roundup at the casino.
      The casino was eager to host the car display when it was contacted by the club council and its Capital City Corvette Club in Lansing, the host club.
      The casino agreed to find a suitable act to provide a concert as part of the event. The result was signing up George Thorogood and the Destroyers, a classic rocker who casino marketing director Mark Bellinger said seemed ideal for a bunch of all-American sports car fanatics.
      "George was a sell-out hit at our Leelanau Sands showroom earlier this year, said he enjoyed it when he was here then, and was available," Bellinger said.
      The 'Vette club members were given a special 500-seat reserve area for the concert, which was expected to draw between 7,000 and 9,000 people.
      Loretta Spinrad a member of the national council and director of this year's convention, said Sunday's drive from Bellaire to the casino and the parking-lot show and competition was a first for the council and members indicated they thought it was a great idea.
      The national council was founded in 1960, a few years after the Corvette was introduced in the mid-1950s.
      "Owning a Corvette isn't owning an automobile," she said. "It's a lifestyle and involves people from all walks of life, professions and income brackets, all with one thing in common. They all love Corvettes and have a good time with them."
      "Many members had never been in northern Michigan before," she said, "and they can't believe how beautiful it is here."
      The show even had a last-minute joiner, a stunning 1960 white number owned by Joanne and Butch Cooper, who had just moved to Traverse City from Carmel, Ind. Butch heard about the rally to the casino and asked if they could join in. They got to park their beauty among the northwest Michigan club's entries.
     
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