CarFest Gives Back

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Mcallen International CarFest Raises Funds For Charities While Sharing Love Of Classic Cars

gleaming off a custom paint job, buttery leather refurbishing interior, perfectly restored engine… There’s a lot to appreciate in a well-loved classic car. One might be forgiven for failing to notice the auto’s most significant facet: its ability to give back to charitable organizations in the Rio Grande Valley.

The McAllen International CarFest has raised nearly $40,000 to give to charitable organizations to date. Now in its seventh year, goals for this year’s fundraiser tally from $7,000 to $8,000.

Al Diaz, a producer for the McAllen International CarFest and operations manager for the McAllen Convention Center, has been there since the beginning to ensure that his passion for the unique autos translates into tangible aid for groups that give back throughout the area. “We met with the car club members,” said Diaz, remembering the first CarFest. “They always compete against each other, and they came to us about doing a charity car event.”

Diaz says car aficionados love to show their cars and talk about the stories that went into their restoration. “It’s something that they grew up with,” says Diaz, “with their dads and over generations and generations.” What started out as a modest undertaking with about 200 cars on display in the exhibit hall of the convention center has accelerated into an internationally known event.

The atmosphere of CarFest is welcoming to families and anyone interested in learning about cars. There is something for everyone, including chances to test drive high-end cars, witness or take part in drag races and demos, compete in harrowing feats of vehicular balance, talk shop with vendors, and see makes and models of cars that haven’t been shown anywhere else, including celebrity cars. Diaz estimated that about 500 classic cars will be on hand per day throughout the convention center and surrounding grounds for the weekend event. Funds for charity causes are raised by the $30 entry fee for show cars applying for consideration in the festival-wide competition: Winners get plaques and bragging rights in categories ranging from best within a make of car, such as Ford and Corvette, to people’s choice awards.

A seven-member committee chooses the charity organizations each year and helps determine how the money raised from the event is divided among the different causes. Groups and charitable efforts that have benefited from funds raised in years past include Palm Valley Animal Center, The Make-A-Wish Foundation, and the Antique Automobile Club of America, among others.

City of McAllen volunteers have contributed in a big way to the success of the event, helping with everything from setting up and ticketing to ushering and directing competitors to their designated spots. Though volunteers must go through an application process and background check with the city, those already registered to volunteer at other events, like December’s McAllen Holiday Parade, qualify to help out at the CarFest.

David Guzman, CEO of The Mopar Shop in Mission, has volunteered at this event since its first year. “We’ve been so blessed,” said Guzman, explaining that while automobile aficionados get to enjoy putting their “toys” on display, their contribution to organizations like the Make-A-Wish Foundation ensure that less fortunate children get to enjoy toys and experiences of their own.

“When you participate in CarFest, you give back,” Guzman said. “You’re setting a good example and being a part of something bigger than yourself.”

This year’s McAllen International CarFest will take place Jan. 27-29. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors, $12 for students ages 13 to 18, and free for children ages 1 through 12. Three-day passes cost $30, and tickets may be purchased online through www.ticketmaster.com. For more information on the McAllen International CarFest, go to mcallencarfest.com.