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For the love of cars and community

By ZOË WATKINS - zwatkins@t-g.com
Posted 5/9/23

The Celebration City Region Car Club has been an integral part of bringing both car enthusiasts and visitors alike to Shelbyville.

They host “The Cruise-In on the Square,” each …

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For the love of cars and community


The Celebration City Region Car Club has been an integral part of bringing both car enthusiasts and visitors alike to Shelbyville.

They host “The Cruise-In on the Square,” each fourth Friday from April through October. The goal of the event, which started eight years ago, is to bring the community together, according to club secretary Phyllis Clanton.

After hosting the big 2012 AACA (Antique Automobile Club of America) national show — which had over 1,000 registered vehicles covering The Celebration horse show grounds and brought a “different kind of horsepower” — the car club wanted a more “no pressure, come and go as you’d like” event to bring to the community.

“Come and mingle; you’ll probably see your neighbor,” said Phyllis and Jerry Clanton’s son, Chase, whom you can usually find singing and playing guitar as the cruise-in entertainment (Hunter Girl, before claiming fame, was even one of the guest performers with Chase at the cruise-in).

And for Jerry, chairman of the board, just getting to see people get together around the town square is a major inspiration for continuing the event. “It’s actually become a community event,” he said.

“I think it’s really cool how it’s growing,” added club president Walt Bagar. The next cruise-in is set for May 26 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the Shelbyville Historic Square. The event is free and will feature live music.

The car club also hosts a car show fundraiser, which will be taking place on May 13 at The Celebration horse show ground pavilion.

This annual event is structured on three ideas, according to Phyllis: the love of the car hobby, bringing the community together, and giving back to the community.

The Celebration City Car Club started around 1980, with car enthusiasts like Garland King and Ronny Riddle. They only showed antique cars at the time.

The Clantons by then were active members in the AACA. Jerry said his love for cars comes from the adage of the dream for that one car we all wish we’d had in high school. For Jerry, it was a 1969 Z28 Camaro.

And that’s exactly was he has today. Restoring it and showing it was what got them into AACA. With the AACA the objective is to get as close to the original as possible — like it was fresh off the factory line from 1969.  

Though, Jerry says he kind of got into cars by “accident,” competitive car racing, which he did along with his brother Billy for 20 years, taught them how to fix and rebuild cars again and again.

For Phyllis, “I’ve always loved cars because my father [Claude Swing] was an auto mechanic and owned a gas station,” she said. “My twin brother could change breaks faster than anybody ever saw,” she added with a laugh.

With this background, the Clantons were talked into becoming a part of the club. Soon, the club started “re-generating” itself, according to Jerry, who joined as vice president of the club.

They eventually agreed to revitalize a car show, this time including all and any kinds of cars, not just antiques. That was around 2005.

Today, “We welcome all the cars from rat rods to perfect cars. The whole idea is to get people together and have fun,” said Walt.

Plus, it’s all for a good cause.

“The key is that we give money back to the community to deserving organizations. So, the more people that show up to the car show, the more money we can give out,” he said. For example, they gave to 12 different organizations last year.

“It’s hard work but it’s fun,” said Phyllis.

For more information call Walt at 256-606-0085 or Jerry at 931-684-9379. Registration for the car show starts at 8 a.m. on May 13 and ends by noon. The fee is $20 and $10 for a second vehicle.