PALM HARBOR — Nearly 250 vehicles of every make, shape and color were on display under the leafy canopy of John Chesnut Sr. Park on April 27, for the Rotary Club of East Lake Sunrise’s 2019 Cruisin’ the Park community festival and charity car show.
For the event’s 13th year, thousands of attendees, and nearly as many cars, packed the park during the five-hour event, as the sprawling grounds of the county park on the eastern shore of Lake Tarpon featured rows and rows of classic muscle cars and cool convertibles, modern sports cars and eye-catching customs.
According to Rotary Club of East Lake Sunrise president Dan Depies, the event, held annually in conjunction with East Lake Fire Rescue and the YMCA of the Suncoast Healthy Kids Day, typically has a decent turnout but has grown in recent years.
“It’s a big turnout today, one of our biggest,” Depies said, adding, “we’re estimating four thousand people will come through here today despite being Easter weekend.”
Depies said this year’s count of 243 vehicles fell just shy of the event record of 250, but he’s encouraged because the show “has been growing every year. The word is getting out that this is a great show for a great cause, and we have a great staff of volunteers working to support local nonprofit organizations that help kids.”
Indeed, Best of Show winners and Rich and Gina Diorio of Hudson said Cruisin’ the Park has become a staple of their show circuit, although Rich admitted they almost didn’t make it this year.
“I almost didn’t come but my wife reminded me we won trophies the last two times we were here,” he said, noting they won Best Engine for their 1957 Chevy and another award for their 1957 Chevy convertible before their 1959 Impala took home the top prize this year. “But I finally relented, and we win Best of Show!”
When asked what made Diorio, a retired NYPD police officer who was injured in the line of duty, decide to return to East Lake, he was straightforward.
“This is a nice show, and you know what’s nice about it? The people are real, they’re human,” he said. “At some shows it’s better to know the judge than to have a good car. That’s not the case here. I really like it.”
So, does he plan return for the 14th edition of Cruisin’ the Park next year?
“Absolutely,” Diorio said. “I’m bringing my 1954 Corvette. I learned my lesson — always listen to my wife.”