The first of two Hot Summer Nights Car Shows in downtown Danville was a crowded family affair attended by thousands Thursday night.
For the 17th year, a multi-generational crowd mixed and mingled while strolling Hartz Avenue and side streets packed with hot rods, muscle cars and vintage vehicles.
Of the over 300 cars shown, there were also some “new” kids on the block — cars up to model year 1976.
Lots of other kids roamed the streets as well.
Perched on shoulders or cruising in strollers, parents brought their children, who especially delighted in attractions designed with them in mind.
Andy and Colleen Atwood, who live in downtown Danville, brought their daughters, Brooke and Allison, to enjoy the fun.
They enjoyed meeting “Tank,” a 16-year-old tortoise at the Jungle James Animal Adventures booth, as well as “Norbert,” a Citrus Bearded Dragon, and a slithering corn snake.
The Atwoods say they love the downtown street festivals, and the family-friendly events are a key reason they moved to Danville, even before they had children.
For the sixth year in a row, Jerry DeRoche of Danville showed his 1949 Ford Van Pelt fire truck.
The distinctive whine of the engine’s siren filled the summer night air, as DeRoche gamely let children climb in, don a fireman’s helmet and sound the siren to their heart’s content.
At the College Nannies and Tutors booth, kids lined up for free face painting.
With the return of hot weather, the shaved ice truck was also working hard. Kids gladly endured brain freezes to cool down with their rainbow confections.
Usually the carefully restored and maintained cars are hands-off for small and big kids alike.
Kevin O’Connell’s three young grandchildren, Daniel, Evan, and Madison O’Connell of Danville, however had the best seat in the house — they watched the passing crowd from the inside of his extremely rare, “1964 ½” convertible Ford Mustang in Wimbledon White.
The car, featuring a D code engine, is one of the first generation to roll off the production lines of the distinctive pony cars that inspired a frenzy in 1964.
One of only one hundred made, the Mustang served as a parade car for the opening of the Indianapolis 500 race.
O’Connell, who restores and sells vintage travel trailers in Guerneville, bought the Mustang from a Ford executive who owned it 32 years ago, and kept it largely in storage until three years ago, when he brought it out on Father’s Day.
One of the most distinctive features of the car is the entirely white styling, inside and out.
“Donald Trump can’t even get a white, on white, on white, Mustang,” says O’Connell.
So, why would he let his grandkids hang out in the rare vehicle?
“It’s important to teach kids how to love and respect the cars,” says O’Connell.
If you missed it, the next Hot Summer Nights Car Show in downtown is Thursday, August 18, from 4-9 p.m.