Thanks for the memories: Car show ends, remembering one of its biggest fans
Since its beginning, Tom Smith embraced the spirit of Midnight at the Oasis. So how fitting that he was remembered Sunday along with the classic cars he loved so much.
As the sun set on the hugely popular car show, the late Smith's wife, Janel, admitted she almost didn't come to this year's event - Tom's favorite function but a bittersweet reminder of his passing in June.
At age 51, he died in a car crash.
Every year the San Diego couple - who went on their first date nearly 20 years ago in a '52 Henry Kaiser - rode here in their hot rods, the anticipating dispositions as sunny as the weather.
"I have my little moments," Smith said, explaining her bouts of gloominess during thenormally upbeat event. She wears his wedding ring on a chain around her neck.
But, she said, "all my friends have been really good" moral support.
"The Loaners" car club turned out in full force, wearing T-shirts that memorialized the member's passing;
The peculiar '61 Ford Econoline that he admired so much last year won an award,named in his honor.
"He talked with the (owner) for the longest time last year," Smith recalled. "Tommy really liked that car."
In tune with recent years, about 850 classics and at least 40,000 spectators turned out during the course of the three-day event, according to event hosts Caballeros de Yuma.
Bill Kirkland got to stand in the winner's circle on the final day, showing off his rare strawberry-cream colored '40 Hollywood Graham.
The Kingman resident has been coming here for several years.
"It's one of the best shows in the country," he said. "Continue the good work.'
Others who traveled a good distance to attend remarked on the friendly atmosphere here one doesn't necessarily find at other car shows.
The late Tom Smith was one of the first to figure that out.
"I got to tell you, this was his favorite event," Janel Smith said.
THE HOTTEST RODS 2004:
"TOM SMITH MEMORIAL AWARD" NICK DANYLUK'S '61 FORD ECONOLINE
"MOST SOUGHT AFTER" BILL AND GINGER FREEMAN'S 1936 FORD 4-DOOR
"BEST-REPRESENTED CAR CLUB" THE LOANERS OF SAN DIEGO
"FASTEST" RON JENKINS' '69 DODGE DAYTONA CHARGER
"SLICKEST" DAVE AND DIANE WILLIAMSON'S '55 CHEVY BELAIR
"HOTTEST" BILL KIRKLAND'S '40 HOLLYWOOD GRAHAM
"CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT'S CHOICE" EARL AND CHRIS BUMPAS' '40 FORD CONVERTIBLE
"EL PRESIDENTE'S CHOICE" BILL AND WILLIE EDGINGTON'S '57 FORD THUNDERBIRD
"MOST DISTINGUISHED" BILL HOAGLAN'S '23 DURANT CONVERTIBLE