Engines already revving up for second Fins and Films event

Greg Melartin's aim is to have this '61 Imperial ready for the second annual Fins & Films celebration he's planned for July 7. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
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Greg Melartin’s got himself some Imperial fins and a strip of American Graffiti as he turns the key to ignite a second summer event in Spring Valley. 

Melartin is preparing for the second annual Fins and Films car show and outdoor movie Saturday, which this year includes a burnout show, pinup show, swap meet, concert by “2 for the Road” and the day’s finale, the projection of the 1973 movie, “American Graffiti,” on the side of a pre-1988 box truck in downtown Spring Valley. In addition to organizing the event, Melartin is also getting one of his own cars ready.

 “This is my 1961 Imperial…she’s a heavy car – about 6,000 pounds -- and has some awesome fins and floating headlights.  Most people don’t know that Imperial was its own company for a while before it became the Chrysler Imperial.  I’m hoping to have her ready for this year’s Fins and Films,” commented the Spring Valley resident as he made final preparations for his event.

Last year’s celebration, the first-ever Fins and Films, was successful, said Melartin, in that he witnessed people of all ages pulling up in downtown Spring Valley to see the classic cars parked there and the beautiful pinup ladies modeling vintage clothing onstage, and to watch the outdoor showing of the John Travolta and Olivia Newton John’s “Grease” on the side of a box truck. 

Spanning five decades, from 1933 to 1988, the drive-in movie theater was a staple of Spring Valley’s landscape.  Nearly everyone that now resides in the community has likely heard the tales of days gone by when the towering screen provided small town entertainment, recalled Melartin. With that in mind, he came up with the idea of Fins and Films, “a fresh chapter of memories upon the hearts of the current generation,” he said.

Last year, between the historic brick buildings lining Broadway in Spring Valley, hundreds of people were “blown away by the energy and beauty onstage” during the pinup show, “captivated by the amazing” vehicles on display in the car show, and rocked out to R Hogg before they threw down blankets, set up lawn chairs or climbed into a classic car to watch “Grease” on the side of a vintage big rig, explained Melartin.

This year, Melartin is inviting everyone in the community to wax their cars and their nostalgia as the second annual celebration starts its engine on Saturday, July 7, kicking off at 9 a.m. this year with a new event when dirt drags rev up behind Five Wynds Event Center at the north end of Spring Valley. His Imperial will be at this event, which lasts until about noon, along with possibly a higher-end ‘70s-something Firebird and his ’50 Plymouth. 

At 1 p.m., another new event takes place when the burnout pit fills the downtown area with exhaust notes and tire smoke on North Vine Alley. The burnout contest is open to any vehicles, including motorcycles, 1988 and older.

The event features vehicles that are 1988 and before because 1988 is when the drive-in closed.

The car and bike show and swap meet taking place all day in the parking stalls up and down Broadway Avenue affords a peek at “riding in style” and some mean muscle machines. This is open to all vehicles — trucks, bikes, tractors and cars.  On Main Street and North Vine, Jefferson Street and Courtland, there’s plenty of parking for modern vehicles, and if a car club wants to prearrange to park together at the show, Melartin said he can block off some spaces. 

“I look forward to getting everybody into it.  I think the hotrod community has quite a bit to offer the community…I think the athletic community is a little stagnant, not saying that in a bad way, but the hotrod community needs to get back in,” he said. 

Once the burnout show hits the brakes at 3 p.m., Spring Valley’s pinups take the runway outside of Chateau de Chic, courtesy of salon owner Jenn Slifka, who put out a call for anyone with a penchant for playing dress-up to get all dolled up. 

“Anyone can be in the pinup show, and it will be similar to last year, but the biggest difference is this year, it is a contest.  We will be making an annual Fins and Films calendar as a way to make money for the event.  Our winning pinup can be the cover girl, and the runners up will get a month in the calendar.  It’s a fun way to enjoy vintage dress-up, as well as a chance to feel feminine, sexy and beautiful,” said Slifka. “Last year was a success, and this year will be even bigger — we are getting a much bigger reach this year with people from all over, not just the Spring Valley area.” 

Furthermore, pinups walking the runway in last year’s show have been featured in a calendar that will be available for purchase during this year’s Fins and Films.

“Last year, the energy at the pinup show was amazing, and in the new calendar, we hope to have some pinups and feature some of the cars in the calendar, too, maybe some architecture,” added Melartin. “I want to educate people about architecture, and we have a very rich automotive history in this town.” 

After the pinup show, at 5 p.m., the group 2 for the Road, which features blues-rock music, will perform. 

The movie begins at sundown. Last year, some people came downtown and sat in their cars. More people brought lawn chairs while others opened the back of their SUVs so they could watch the movie. 

“Last year, Jeff Thauwald told me as he was watching ‘Grease,’ ‘The drive-in was not just about the movie…it was about socialization, catching up with your friends.’  I counted 120 people with picnic blankets thrown down and their kids watching the movie.  My daughter was sitting in my Plymouth…this gives the younger generation a glimpse of what their parents and grandparents saw,” said Melartin.

“American Graffiti,” the feature film to be shown on the side of a truck this year, is a 1973 American coming-of-age comedy film directed and co-written by George Lucas, starring Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Paul Le Mat, Harrison Ford, Charles Martin Smith, Cindy Williams, Candy Clark, Mackenzie Phillips, Bo Hopkins and Wolfman Jack.  Set in Modesto, California, in 1962, the film is a study of the cruising and rock and roll cultures popular among the post-World War II baby boom generation.  The film is told in a series of vignettes, telling the story of a group of teenagers and their adventures over a single night. 

And a single day in downtown Spring Valley means so much to Melartin, who shared that his goal while organizing Fins and Films and this past winter’s “Sleds at the Cinema,” a snowmobile-themed event held after Christmas to jostle cabin fever-ridden residents out of their funk, is to promote downtown Spring Valley.  He pointed out that he’s been approached about holding Fins and Films at the county fairgrounds or at other locations outside of downtown Spring Valley, but he’s adamant that it should be held on the cruising strip, right where the action used to be. 

“I want it centralized downtown.  There’s so much traffic on Highway 63 that there’s no reason we can’t draw some of it downtown,” he said. “The hotrod community can help draw people in.  We lost two buildings in the last years, and it breaks my heart because I started this because I was trying to get people into those buildings.  But it was fantastic watching people pulling up to watch the movie last year.  That was a success.”

Melartin credits the members of Spring Valley’s Chamber of Commerce and the surrounding community with giving when he has asked for something. 

“The community support has been amazing, and the board of directors has been awesome to work with,” he said. “Who else will close a street so that we can have a car show or a groomed sledding hill?” 

The event is free to all people, but sponsorships are sought throughout the year. Melartin said he is hoping to give back a little bit this year from Fins and Films, which is about trying to create acceptance of the hotrod community, create education about hotrods and bring people to downtown Spring Valley.

To sign up for any event, or to attend as a vendor, contact Melartin at 507-481-8308 or log onto the Fins & Films Facebook page at www.facebook.com/finsandfilms for more information.