Blue jeans and bobby socks, roaring muscle cars and rock ‘n’ roll music will take over Sandpoint’s streets this weekend as the town gets “Lost in the ‘50s.”
The nostalgic weekend features more than 550 classic cars and draws a staggering 20,000 visitors who pack motels, restaurants and bars.
“This attracts those people who have put their hearts and souls into their cars and live for that feeling of getting out and cruising,” said ‘50s organizer Carolyn Gleason.
“For some there is nothing like the feeling of getting in a hot rod, cruising with your arm out over the window and listening to rock ‘n’ roll. It was a carefree era people like to relive.”
The event started 12 years ago, the brainchild of Gleason, who owns Second Avenue Pizza. The local businesswoman wanted to raise money for the Festival at Sandpoint summer concerts. Gleason has not only done that, she’s made Lost in the ‘50s an economic blockbuster for all of Sandpoint.
“It is the biggest weekend of the year, bar none,” said John Klager, owner of Whistle Stop Cafe and member of the Downtown Business Association. “It’s bigger than Christmas, than Mother’s Day, than any day. It’s the retail weekend of the year for downtown Sandpoint.”
Klager said people are drawn downtown to look at the rows of polished chrome, steel and brightly painted cars and they have money in their pockets to spend.
“This weekend helps those businesses who are borderline make it through the rest of the year,” he said.
There isn’t a vacant hotel room to be found in Sandpoint this weekend. Businesses bring in extra employees and restaurants order extra food to cater to the influx of ‘50s fans and car buffs.
“It’s absolutely amazing. Most of these people book rooms a year in advance and come back year after year,” said Robin Douglas, a clerk at the Edgewater Resort on Lake Pend Oreille. “It’s a wonderful time, plus I get to wear my poodle skirt.”
Most of the workers at local businesses dress ‘50s style for the weekend, pulling on cuffed jeans, white T-shirts and greasing back their hair.
Money raised from the ‘50s weekend is donated to local charities and the Festival at Sandpoint. Last year, money went to Hospice and the Bonner County Food Bank, along with about $10,000 to the festival.
“When we started this ‘50s weekend we said ‘It’s either going to go like gangbusters or fall flat on its patoot,”’ Gleason said. “It’s definitely got a life of its own now. It’s a feel-good event and much needed with all the negative press Sandpoint has received recently.”
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MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: WHAT’S UP Today the 500-plus classic cars will be parked downtown and on display from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sunday will have a car rally, foot race and live music all afternoon.