By Vicki Hillhouse
Classic car lovers: It’s time to rev up for the 27th annual Wheelin’ Walla Walla Weekend.
Every September on the weekend after Labor Day, classic cars, trucks, motorcycles and rat rods cruise through the community in a prelude to a daylong epic Show n’ Shine, where the only vehicular traffic through downtown’s main corridor is parked and on display.
This year’s event kicks off with the Classics Cruise Friday, Sept. 8, followed by the main show Saturday, Sept. 9.
Free for spectators, the beloved show is a must-see, whether you enjoy classic cars or meandering Main Street with music, merchants and merriment.
Once the Saturday Show n’ Shine is over, plan to stick around for live music at Heritage Square Park, starting at 4:30 p.m.
Started in 1995 with about 180 cars, Wheelin’ has grown to regularly host more than 400 vehicles. During its biggest year, a whopping 657 vehicles entered the show.
Since 2007, Jim Bluhm has been a fixture of the event. That’s the year he first entered his 1970 Chevelle Malibu. Starting in 2014, he joined as a volunteer, helping with the annual raffle, which benefits the Neal Larson Memorial Automotive Scholarship at Walla Walla Community College. Jim sat down for a Q-and-A to talk more about the event.
What is Wheelin’ Walla Walla Weekend?
I think of it as the premier car show in this corner of the state. We get people from Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho and Oregon, of course, British Columbia and California — all in this corner of the Pacific Northwest.
Registration starts Friday, and most people come for that at the fairgrounds. A big portion of the people just come and park and hang around there all day. Everybody kind of knows everybody. We have the cruise that night, and then the Shown n’ Shine on Saturday.
We have new cars every year. That’s what makes it fun. You don’t see the same cars every year.
How has it changed over the years?
The operation has changed quite a bit. When I started helping, registration was set up at one of the motels. You’d pull in, register and depart. People were spread out. Now that’s moved to the fairgrounds and given people a place to stay around. Car people love to get together and talk about their cars.
I’m also starting to notice more and more local cars. I think the car show has spurred people to maybe fix that car or take on that project they always wanted to do. There are some really talented people in town.
What makes this event special?
A lot of people love our cruise. It’s different. We’re not driving up and down Main Street, waving at the same people 20 times. The cruise follows a route through town. For the people who haven’t been here, they get a chance to see the area. The people who live on the route have a good time, too. Some have chairs lined up to watch all the cars go by. But some will make a big thing out of it with tables and barbecues.
Being able to see so many cars — every car has a story.
What about Walla Walla makes this a great place for the car show?
I’ve been to a lot of shows, and Walla Walla’s is really well-run. I think a lot of people like that. The town embraces the people. Our Main Street is so long, you almost have to pack a lunch to go from one end to the other.
How do you see the event changing in the future?
There are some little things I’m working on. I’d like to have more car-themed vendors — maybe some garage art. It’s just a matter of finding it. From services to products and specialty items.
For more details on Wheelin’ Walla Walla Weekend, the map for the Classics Cruise and times, visit the Downtown Walla Walla Foundation website.