Father’s Day is that special time of the year when dads get recognition for all they do for their children and families. One place that really knows how to throw a proper party honoring those exceptional men in our lives is Willow Creek Community Church, in South Barrington, IL. Every year they host their DadFest celebration, a two-day extravaganza jam packed with all kinds of food, music, activities and a car show that is not just limited to four wheels. The church’s C.A.R.S. ministry (Christian Auto Repairmen Serving) started the event in 2005 and has overseen its operation every year since.
We caught up with John Gingerich, a full-time employee of the C.A.R.S. program and also an event organizer, who filled us in on some details.
“The C.A.R.S. ministry is completely self-supporting and all about helping people in need by providing reliable transportation. We take in about 1,000 donated cars a year and using volunteer labor and donations, will repair 350 of those free-of-charge. In addition, 10 of those cars, we’ll fix and give away to single moms to use and enjoy.”
John informed us there are about 100 volunteers who help with the ministry throughout the year. It was through this charitable service that the Dadfest idea was conceived.
“Initially, our car program was on-site at the church, but then in 2005 our shop was relocated to Elgin, where we currently remain. We needed to figure out a way to recognize what we do. We put a tent at the back of a parking lot after a service and put together a car show of about 100 classic cars.”
Now in it’s 8th year, the event has always been on Father’s Day weekend and has grown tremendously.
“It got the name Dadfest, as soon as we gave away free food and had so many other activities, we realized its more of a festival than a basic car show. We call it a Chia Pet – it started small in 2005 and has grown into what you see now.”
This past weekend boasted 250 cars and that lot wasn’t entirely made up of vintage rides.
“We joked that this year is a mini Chicago Auto Show. Our ministry works with a lot of area dealers who want to participate. This year we had several bring out their newest offerings, ending up with about 40 new cars. We even have a ‘hybrid circle’, showing the latest in alternative fuel and electric vehicles. So the event is not just classic cars but we work hard to get a little bit of everything.”
The eclectic collection out on the asphalt ranged from military vehicles, to two-wheeled machines, various boats and watercraft, mobile homes and even heavy-duty equipment.
The fun didn’t stop with motorized toys, as numerous kid activities were available, including two giant slides, inflatable bounce houses and seeing Duma, Chicago’s own boat-driving dog, pilot his tiny craft around a pool. Live music filled the air, couple with the tantalizing aroma of hot grills, as the Rib Wars Grilling Contest took place.
“A lot of people are shocked who have never been before. They don’t have to pay for anything and always leave happy and ready to come back next year. We had 25,000 attendees last year and are expecting the same for 2012. We’re thrilled to have an event that honors dads and is fun for the whole family.”
The C.A.R.S. Ministry is currently building a new facility adjacent to the church that should be operational by next summer. For more information, head to their homepage: www.willowcreek.org/cars
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