FINAL CLASSIC CAR CRUISE-IN OF THE SUMMER – Tuesday, August 31st from 5pm to 8pm.
If you commute on SR305, you’ve probably noticed (and perhaps wondered) what all those beautiful cars are doing parked on the lawn of the Bainbridge First Baptist Church on the last Tuesday of the month throughout the summer.
Although the event itself started in the early 2000s, its roots date back to the late 1960s when a young Jim Peek was given his first car, an Oldsmobile 442. At the time, Jim was a high school student in Seattle and had always loved cars, so he began organizing car shows in his school parking lot, often times with a 100 or more participants.
Fast-forward, Jim’s an adult with a dual career managing sales overseas and working in the Bainbridge Island real estate market. His passion for cars never dwindled and he decided to create a “car club” at his home on Baker Hill. He built a large two-car garage, complete with car lift.
In addition to housing his cars and making the space available to his friends and other car enthusiasts to teach young drivers basic mechanical skills and safety, he designed the area to have an indoor/outdoor living room feel to it, giving it a grown-up club house atmosphere. He also held events surrounding live car auctions, such as the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction in 2007, where he positioned several televisions around the garage for viewing the auction. His wife, Debbie, cooked up culinary delights for the attendees.
The idea of the car show started in August 2003 as a fundraiser for Project Backpack (something Jim was already participating in through his church). Jim, his wife Debbie, and a few others organized the show, which premiered at Strawberry Hill Park. In keeping with the kid-centric fundraiser, kids were the judges and handed out trophies with colored crayons on them depicting the winners of the best red car, blue car, etc. In the first year, an anonymous attendee donated $1,000.00, which garnered a great deal of enthusiasm for the event. However, Strawberry Hill wasn’t an ideal location, and after two years they approached the Pastor at the First Baptist Church on the corner of Madison Avenue and SR305. The Pastor, who also supported Project Backpack, was more than happy to accommodate them.
Initially the show ran every Tuesday during the summer months, however that proved unsustainable not just for the venue, but also for the participants. Around the fifth year, they decided to scale it back to once a month, and they began offering food (hamburgers and hot dogs) to assist in the fundraising (then and now, all food is donated and prepared by the organizers). By 2005 the car show was really taking off and the Strom family*, car enthusiasts as well as members of the church, were actively participating in the organization and cooking for each show.
Around 2013, Jim handed the management reigns over to Micah and Aaron Strom, and continues to occasionally assist with the parking of the cars for the Cruise-In. With the help of the Stroms and their families, the show has grown exponentially, drawing auto enthusiasts from all over the Island and the greater Kitsap County. As Micah told me, “Last year Covid threatened to shut down the car show. We made last minute changes to the venue and organized an Island wide car cruise which our entire community utterly enjoyed. It was wonderful to see people’s faces and smiles as the train of vehicles would cruise by, it gave something for our community to look forward to each month during the beginning of the pandemic.”
The Cruise-In takes place from May through August on the last Tuesday of the month from 5pm to 8pm at the Bainbridge First Baptist Church on the corner of Madison Avenue and Highway 305. The event is open to the general public (with or without a classic car). No fee or advanced reservations are required, however if you’re planning to show your car, they do recommend you arrive early as space fills up quickly. Hamburgers and hotdogs are served, and donations are always appreciated and will benefit Project Backpack.
For Jim, the Cruise-In is a tribute to his favorite cause, helping kids and their families. Although Jim wasn’t all that academically inclined in his formative years, he did consider the start of each school year as an opportunity for a fresh start. One of his favorite parts of that fresh start was picking out your new clothes and school supplies. Jim wants all kids to have that feeling as well. Project Backpack (via Helpline House), is a program that provides essential school supplies and new clothing to local students in need, as well as assistance with school fees.
Today Jim no longer collects cars, and at one point, about 12 years ago, he even sold his Olds 442, only to regret the sale almost immediately. However, through perseverance and good old-fashioned luck, Jim tracked the car down and now is the proud owner a second time.
Jim has gone onto his third career, which is also a throwback to his youth. As a college student, he worked summers for the US Forest Service, he is now on his sixth year as a volunteer ranger for the National Park Service at Sunset Park on Mount Rainier. He considers himself an ambassador for hikers and visitors, greeting and advising them in the car park before they begin their excursions on the trails.