Classics For a Cause Park at The Highlands

Classic vehicles of all shapes, sizes and colors stretched as far as the eye could see Monday during the annual Dan Dague Memorial Car and Bike Show at The Highlands.

And as always, eyesight is the real reason behind the event, which generates about $10,000 annually to help visually impaired Mountain State residents through the West Virginia Lions Sight Conservation Foundation. That charity provides various services including vision testing, specialty glasses and even assistance with cataract surgery for uninsured patients.

It’s a cause about which the event’s late founder and namesake was extremely passionate. That passion was so strong, according to show co-director Jeff Baxter, that Dague – a Lions Club member who founded the event in 2002 before losing a lengthy battle with cancer in 2008 – remained extremely concerned about the event’s future while on his deathbed.

His wife, Eva Dague, and fellow Lions Club members have done their part to carry on the tradition.

“I think Dan would have been proud of what we’re doing. … He did a super job of starting this,” Baxter said.

Baxter said about 500 vehicles made their way from all over the tri-state area, and even Kentucky and Minnesota, for the event.

Entries included everything from later-model Cadillacs and Corvettes to a few Ford Model Ts, including a 1918 model owned by Karl Kosem of Triadelphia and a salmon-colored 1926 version from the Pittsburgh area.

One of Monday’s top attention-grabbers, however, proved to be something even more out of the ordinary – a sleek, gray-and-black 1936 Hudson Terraplane hearse. Its owner, Canonsburg, Pa., funeral director David Sollon, said the hearse had been rescued from a junkyard during the 1970s, and it took him many years of convincing before a friend finally sold the vehicle to him a few years ago.

“I’ve been to a lot of car shows, and I’ve never seen a Terraplane,” one man remarked as he passed by the hearse. “That’s something real different.”

Another popular entry was a 1940 pickup owned and rebuilt by Joe Mellinger of Dillonvale. Among its off-the-wall features are a front bumper made from an old drive shaft, coffee-can headlights, a steering wheel made of chain links and various engine parts fashioned from such curiosities as a mousetrap and a Jack Daniels whiskey bottle.

Mellinger said there was nothing but the cab and the bed on the truck’s frame when he bought it, and it took him about two years to build, adding various elements as he ran across them.

“It’s a conversation piece. It gets a lot of attention,” Mellinger said.

In addition to the bevy of classic automobiles and motorcycles, the day’s activities included raffles, auctions and music. With students off for the Labor Day holiday, Ohio County Schools donated the use of three buses as shuttles for the event, Baxter noted.