Palo Alto Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - April 27, 2012

Floats and roadsters

Palo Alto plans a busy May 5, with May Fete Parade and Vintage Vehicles festival

by Rebecca Wallace

Once upon a time, people really knew how to name a car. "Don't cry, dollface. I'll buy you a Supercharged Phaeton." "Goodness, Chauncey. Watch out for that Model T Speedster."

Saturday, May 5, should be a fine day for Skylarking, as these and other old-school autos cruise into Palo Alto's Heritage Park at 300 Homer Ave. The eighth annual Vintage Vehicles and Family Festival will feature about 40 retro cars and motorcycles on display for free viewing.

Vintage Vehicles is usually at El Camino Park, but the event was uprooted this year when the city closed the park through the summer of 2013 to build an underground reservoir and well. The auto show will be smaller (it's usually about 120 cars), but will get to link up with a major city wingding: the annual May Fete Parade.

The parade starts at 10 a.m. at the corner of Emerson Street and University Avenue downtown, then heads down University, turns right on Waverley Street, and ends up at Heritage Park with all the swanky roadsters.

"It's a really nice tie-in. We're happy to be more connected with the city," said Gwenyth Claughton, executive director of the Museum of American Heritage, which organizes Vintage Vehicles every year.

The new location also brings the auto show closer to the museum — right across the street. This is fitting because Vintage Vehicles is a major fundraiser for the museum, bringing in donations from sponsors and underwriters from this event and an associated June gala.

As for the parade, it's a 90-year tradition in Palo Alto. The theme for 2012 is "Palo Alto at Play," with a parade-float contest, marching bands, old-time cars and contemporary "green" vehicles, clowns, kids and dancers. (Contest entries are no longer being accepted.) The grand marshal is Robert N. Klein II, former head of the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine.

The May Fete Fair is scheduled at Heritage Park from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Bands, kids' activities, refreshments, performances and picnicking are being planned by the Palo Alto Recreation Foundation and the Kiwanis Club of Palo Alto.

Meanwhile, Vintage Vehicles will run from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., with cars as old as a 1912 Ford Model T Speedster and a 1919 Buick Racecar. Convertibles from the 1950s will be particularly well-represented.

Claughton said she's looking forward to again seeing the 1937 Ford Phaeton owned by museum community-advisory board member Steve Moore. "It's a beautiful art car. White. It's gorgeous," she said.

During the auto show, the museum will have a free open house with an ongoing exhibition of vintage toys, a printing press that visitors can try out, and a relaxation area for seniors in the gardens. In the science area, people can experience a Van de Graaff generator and a Tesla coil.

What: The May Fete Parade and Fair, the Vintage Vehicles and Family Festival, and open house at the Museum of American Heritage

Where and when: Downtown Palo Alto. The parade starts at 10 a.m. at University Avenue and Emerson Street, then continues down University to end at Heritage Park, 300 Homer Ave. The fair is in the park from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and the auto show is in the park from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The museum, at 351 Homer Ave., is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Cost: Admission to all events is free.

Info: Go to pamayfetefair.com or cityofpaloalto.org for May Fete details, and to moah.org for information about museum events.

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