July 23, 1999
Wisconsin Convertible Classic Coming to St. Croix Valley
By Nancy Nelson
The Seventh Annual Wisconsin Convertible Classic will bring 200 convertibles cruising through the St. Croix River Valley from Aug. 20-22.
The tour is coordinated by Wisconsin Auto Tours, with the itinerary planning receiving extensive assistance from the St. Croix Valley Regional Tourism Alliance.
Gary Knowles is coordinating the St. Croix Valley jaunt with Alex McDonell, who began the Wisconsin tours together in 1992. Knowles is a former public relations director for the Wisconsin Department of Tourism.
The requirements to participate are convertibles and a need for fun and adventure.
The WCC tour will start in Eau Claire on Thursday, Aug. 19, and follow with four days, ending Sunday, Aug. 22, in Hudson.
All four days will be filled with driving with tops down through the Scenic St. Croix Valley. The WCC is a non-competitive tour that has been called the "World's Greatest Open-Air Auto Spectacle."
This year the tour is being limited to 200 entries.
People from all over the Midwest come to take part in the classic, wtih drivers from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Ohio, Texas, and North Carolina.
Specific tour routes for the St. Croix Valley won't be revealed until they are passed out to participants during the tour. Knowles and McDonell are careful in selecting the roads that guide the tour's path, and they have visited the St. Croix Valley several times in recent months to map out routes and to meet with tourism leaders and business owners to include tour visits to events, attractions, businesses and entertainment.
They select only paved roads, usually county roads, because participants don't want to hurt their cars.
Knowles won't disclose what routes the tour will take, but mentioned some of the towns that are likely to be included are River Falls, Prescott, Hudson and North Hudson, Taylors Falls, Osceola, St. Croix Falls, Marine-on-St. Croix, Scandia, and Stillwater.
Saturday, Aug. 21, will be the big journey along the wild St. Croix River. This is the ideal setting for the convertible lifestyle, according to Knowles, with the Valley's winding, scenic roads that lead to quaint, historic rivertowns. Knowles said the WCC will be stopping at the incredible parks, attractions, historic sites, and shops and will be visiting with people along the way.
Hudson is the official headquarters, where participants will stay for two nights. On both Saturday and Sunday all of the 200 convertible owners are expected to rally in the morning in Hudson before beginning the day's drive.
Sunday will wind down the 1999 WCC by dropping the tops one last time until next year's Wisconsin Convertible Classic Tour. Participants will leave Hudson on Sunday for a special destination for the last day's run and will wrap up the tour with prizes and awards.
This unique group of people does have a common bond: they all own convertibles, whether it is a Geo Metro, Porsche Boxster, Ford Mustang, or a BMW. Cars of all vintages, makes and prices will be represented: an Excalibur built and once owned by the Wisconsin Design Master, Brook Stevens; a Hum-Vee driven by National Guard Recruiters; a "final edition" 1976 Cadillac; a Pink Caddy memorializing Elvis; many classics from each decade and lots of "the New Breed" convertibles.
Convertible owners also share a lifestyle: free spirit about life, according to Knowles. He said free spirits are especially found in the Midwest, where many consider owning a convertible impractical because of winter weather, but whose owners consider their car a necessity for enjoying life.
"The automobile is one of the most enjoyable, significant and freedom enhancing inventions of the last century," Knowles said.
The first Convertible Classic was thought to be a failure; but an article from that tour in a Chicago newspaper led to a quadrupling of participating convertibles. Since then, the WCC has increased in numbers with last year being the highest with 247 participants.
For more information about the tour, contact Knowles at www.wiautotour.com or call 608/271-1335.
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