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Clayton car show draws large crowd

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CLAYTON — “No rules, no dues” were the only guidelines the late Ronald M. Mitchell, founder of the Highway Legends club in Watertown, set for the car show he launched last year in Clayton.

In only its second year, the Two Nations 1000 Islands Extravaganza lured more than 600 cars, trucks and motorcycles to Clayton Arena and Cerow Park this weekend, producing a show that Michael J. Mitchell said would have made his father, who died in August, proud. Featured cars at the show included a 1910 Babcock and a 1914 Saxton roadster owned by the Jefferson County Historical Society, Watertown, and a customized neon green 1930 Ford pickup truck.

“My dad dreamed of starting a car show for years with no admission fee,” said Mr. Mitchell, who now owns the Highway Legends club in Watertown. “He wanted to have the show in Clayton too because of the village and waterfront setting. And he wanted to make this a family-oriented show with something for everyone.”

Throngs of people encircled antiques at the arena Sunday, many juggling carnival food while they stopped to admire the vehicles’ rare features. Making its debut, the bright orange 1914 Saxton roadster left its display case at the Jefferson County Historical Society, where it was housed for 13 years. To get the vehicle operating, 15 volunteers from the Highway Legends club spent four months fixing it.

“We changed the radiator hoses, and rebuilt the carburetor, fuel-filter system and hand-cranked starter,” said club member Ed Hurley of Evans Mills, who drove the car in the downtown parade Sunday. It also was featured in the Armed Forces Day Parade on Saturday in Watertown.

Its distinctive features include an ahooga horn, which looks and sounds like a trumpet, and carbide-powered gaslights. Gas is produced by a carbide generator that’s connected by tubes to the front lamps. The front lamps are activated by simply striking a match or lighter in front of their valves.

“It’s like you’re driving down the road with candles,” Mr. Hurley said. “This car was better than a Model T at the time because the three-speed clutch made it easier to operate than the pedal system.”

Mike Smyth made the trip north from Randolph, N.J., to display his 1930 Ford pickup truck, painted “planet green” with candy-apple Spanish gold stripes. Purple fluorescent lights glow underneath its exposed front engine to lend the truck a sleek but aggressive look.

Mr. Smyth usually charges a fee to have the renowned truck featured at shows, but came to the show gratis when he heard about its cause. Proceeds will benefit the Northern New York Autism Clinic.

For dirt track driver Ally B. Amell of Watertown, who races his 1933 Chevrolet about 25 times a year across the state, the show was a chance to promote autism awareness. He gave his Chevy a special paint job two years ago to pay homage to his 7-year-old autistic grandson, Matty.

He said the show, which draws participants from Canada and out of state, has already gained a reputation as a “free show that raises money for good causes. The goal isn’t to bring in a lot of money, but to provide a venue for car fans.”

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