Longing to have a close-up encounter with a coveted Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing worth somewhere to the tune of two million dollars? Look no further than in your backyard to experience such a rare moment. At the Highlands Motoring Festival in Highlands, North Carolina, you never know which spectacular collectible car will take your breath away. This festival draws a sophisticated group of car collectors who showcase their pride and joy and give you the opportunity to admire and inquire. So, rev your engines and mark your calendars for this year’s Festival, an extraordinary weekend of unforgettable cars, community, and camaraderie.
Touted as the “Festival with an Altitude,” the Highlands Motoring Festival (HMF) is proud to shout from the Blue Ridge Mountains that it is the highest motoring festival east of the Rockies. Celebrating its twelfth year, this rapidly-growing, family-friendly event attracts car collectors, enthusiasts, and the curious. This June, it is expecting around 3,500 attendees from across the nation, including 125 car owners for Saturday’s main judging event, “Cars in the Park.”
The vision behind the Highlands Motoring Festival is to produce a unique educational and social car event, creating a fundraising platform to give back to the community. With most car shows charging a hefty entrance fee, this festival is free to the public, making it even more special as a gift to the community. According to the motoring festival spokesman Steve Ham, “It is exciting to think that an open-to-the-public event like this could inspire someone to start collecting. It is a spectacular opportunity to celebrate the history of the automobile and experience many rare and exotic cars in one place.”
The HMF weekend is chock full of daily events, from “Monte Carlo Night” to a scenic 160-mile technical driving rally called “One Lap of the Mountains” to the grand event, “Cars in the Park,” where a judging competition takes place. Trophies created by a local artist will be awarded to cars designated as Best in Class and Outstanding in Class. This year’s competition registration is already filling up with collectible sports cars like the 1966 Chevrolet Corvette and 1967 Porsche 912 making their inaugural trip to Highlands. Showcased at this year’s festival is an exciting new class of vintage racing cars with an established racing history in famous races such as Le Mans and the Daytona 500.
The level of sophistication of this regional car show is quite evident by the impressive competition. Remarkable past entries include a 1926 Model T and the most unusual of entries, the Amphicar, which operates as both a car and a boat. Copious touring models and high-performance cars are also present. In the case of the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing, there was not only one at the show a couple of years ago, but three! Entrants are judged in eight different classes with an awards ceremony to follow. The car owners have gone to great monetary and physical lengths to restore and prepare their cars for show.
Fundraising dollars are raised through Platinum sponsors like Mercedes, Porsche, Ferrari, and BMW, as well as important local supporters, ticket sales, donations, and registration fees. All net proceeds from the HMF go to charity with this year’s event serving three beneficiaries: The Literacy Council, which endeavors to advance lifelong learning and a knowledgeable community; R.E.A.C.H., whose mission is to prevent family violence in all its forms; and the Community Care Clinic, which provides free medical services to the needy.
If you have a pre-1990 collectible car you would like to register for the Saturday, June 8th competition, go to highlandsmotoringfestival.com. If you want to feel like you are walking onto a James Bond movie set, make a plan to attend any one of the weekend events. The pulse and enthusiasm of this unique class of people and cars is something you don’t want to miss.
Monte Carlo Night
THURSDAY NIGHT, June 6
A high-stakes “gambling-for-good” fundraiser that kicks off the weekend hosted by Highlands Falls Country Club. Expect game tables, hors-d’oeuvres, cocktails, exotic cars, a live auction, and chances to win lots of “play money.” Cost per ticket: $75.
One Lap of the Mountains
FRIDAY DAY, June 7
In its sixth year, this popular road rally is an adventure of a lifetime, giving participants an opportunity to explore a bespoke curvy route through the countryside. A technical rally rather than a timed rally, the event allows participants to meander 160 miles as a group over paved rural roads taking in vast mountain vistas, lush forests, waterfalls, pastures, historic landmarks, flora and fauna, and a multitude of lakes and babbling brooks. Passing road markers like Happy Place Lane and following detailed maps with directional cues such as “take a left at the hound dog by the red mailbox” make the route even more interesting and fun for drivers and their passengers. The lap begins at 9 am and ends at 3 pm with a stop for lunch along the way. Only a max of 40 cars are allowed. Register now so you don’t miss this special event. Cost per vehicle: $125 (includes one passenger).
Welcome Party at High Dive
FRIDAY NIGHT, June 7
An evening meet and greet at Highlands’ newest watering hole, from 6 pm to 8 pm for all “gear heads” (that’s industry talk for car enthusiasts). Free to participate. No registration required.
The Main Event:
Cars in the Park
SATURDAY, June 8
This classic car show with a judging competition takes place in the heart of Highlands at the Kelsey-Hutchinson Founders Park beginning at 11 am. Entrance is free for all spectators, but donations are greatly appreciated to benefit three local charities. Competition cars are judged and awarded Best of Class in the following car classes: Touring, Classic, Street Rod and Custom, American Sport and High Performance, Foreign Sport, Foreign Classic, and Trucks/Utilities. This year’s special interest class is Vintage Racing Cars, requiring a racing background in such prestigious and varied venues as Le Mans, Indianapolis, Daytona, Monte Carlo, etc. Competition entry cost: $35.
After the car show ends at 4 pm, “Music in the Park” will round out the night beginning at 6 pm. Free to the public.
Cars and Coffee
SUNDAY, June 9
Located in Wright Square, this casual morning send-off at 8:00 am allows participants and spectators alike to gather one last time, relive the weekend, and make future plans. Free to participate. No registration required. •