By Sandy Johnson
Downtown Wabash was hopping this weekend with the Kunkel Cruise-In, “Takin’ It to the Streets” Sidewalk Sales, the Herb Fest, and the Farmer’s Market. Friday night started the weekend for the first two events. Many found themselves drawn to admire the various cars, trucks, and motorcycles at the Honeywell Center parking lot. Others perused the sidewalk sales outside several downtown businesses looking for that great deal.
On Saturday, the Herb Fest drew in crowds at Paradise Spring Historical Park where booths were set up for visitors to look at the variety of items vendors brought to town. In addition, the weekly summer Farmer’s Market continued on Miami Street, with booths full of fresh fruits and vegetables to purchase.
This year marked the 15th anniversary of the annual Kunkel Cruise-In, which showcased over 400 vehicles. The event began years ago after Dave Kunkel, a local car enthusiast, passed away from Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Dan Harvey, who worked with Kunkel, wanted to organize a car show to raise funds and awareness for ALS research. After 15 successful years, the Kunkel Cruise-In continues to bring in many car buffs from near and far alike, raising money for both ALS research and Vernon Manor Home for Children in Wabash.
Each day of the car show, cars, trucks and motorcycles were judged and winners were awarded prizes in different categories. Door prize drawings for those in attendance were also offered.
David Trisler, retired body shop worker and Lincolnville resident, cruised in to Wabash for his third consecutive year.
“Each year I’ve won a plaque and even had my car displayed inside the Honeywell Center once,” Trisler told The Paper.
He also mentioned winning the “Best of Show” in Lagro recently at a car show. When asked why he enjoys restoring cars, Trisler responded, “As a kid I always liked cars, then later I drag raced cars. I also built show cars for a while. Now I restore cars.”
As a former body shop worker, Trisler had extensive knowledge in repairing and painting vehicles. For three years he worked diligently to restore his pride and joy, a red 1941 Willys Coupe, which he drove in from Lincolnville for the Kunkel Cruise-In. Like most auto enthusiasts showcasing their vehicles, Trisler did most of the restoration himself.
“The only part I didn’t do was the interior. A company in Marion did that for me,” he explained.
The red Willys Coupe has been to other car shows throughout the state, but has never been outside Indiana. His unique “suicide doors,” as Trisler called them, opened the opposite way. “If you don’t latch the door, the doors will swing out, and you could fall out,” he explained. This feature has always added a unique touch to his already exceptional car.
Although it is mainly driven only to car shows, the vehicle uses regular unleaded fuel and gets approximately 15 miles to a gallon.
With this year’s car show behind him now, Trisler is already planning for next year’s Kunkel Cruise-In.
“I have a 1969 Firebird that I am working on for my wife,” he explained. “It will be Viper Blue with white interior.” If all goes as planned, Trisler will have two cars in the show next time.
The Kunkel Cruise-In wasn’t the only event going on downtown over the weekend. Another major draw was the “Takin’ It to the Streets” Sidewalk Sales, which was programmed by Wabash Marketplace, Inc. Downtown businesses were made aware of the event and could opt in or out. Many participated and offered discounted merchandise, as well as clearance items for shoppers looking for great deals.
The timing couldn’t have been better, with the Kunkel Cruise-In, Herb Fest, and Farmer’s Market going on, too. Many spectators who came for the sidewalk sales were lured into the stores and eventually made their way to the other events downtown.
On Saturday, the 17th Annual Wabash Herb Fest brought in a number of vendors who set up booths where visitors browsed through crafts, foods, wine, soaps, herbs, garden items, and flowers.
Edge of the Meadow Herbal Soap owner, Carolyn Brinkley, and her husband, Rich, from Ossian, were two of many vendors at the event. Brinkley, a deaconess at a Fort Wayne church, started making handmade soap as a side job. She chose the name of her business from her last name.
“’Brink’ means edge, and ‘ley’ means meadow,” Brinkley explained.
In addition to running a booth at the Herb Fest, she also presented a short program explaining how the soaps were made, which natural ingredients were used, and how those ingredients are mild for all skin types. When Brinkley began her business she wanted it to be, and remain, a small company. She and her husband work together and make the soaps in their home.
“I make the soap in the kitchen, set it in the dining room to cure, my husband cuts the bars, then the soap is stored it in the China cabinet,” she explained.
With all the energy and vibrancy of downtown this weekend, it is no wonder Wabash recently won the Stellar Community Award. A car show that helped raise money for a local business and ALS research; sidewalk sales that offered discounted items at great prices; Herb Fest vendors who came from both far and near to sell their products; and the weekly Farmer’s Market that sold locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables. This was just one weekend of events, but a perfect example that truly exhibited Wabash as a Stellar Community.