Driving for a Good Cause

Gala kicks off San Marino Motor Classic
By Summer Aguirre
Aaron Weiss/Submitted

In 2011, blues artist Shawn Amos — musically known as “The Reverend” Shawn Amos — posted a four-part series of gritty essays on Huffington Post titled “Cookies & Milk: Scenes From a ’70s Hollywood Childhood.” Six years later, we discussed them during a conversation about Amos’ music for a story in The Argonaut (argonautnews.com, one of the Arroyo Monthly’s sister publications), when he said they were “cathartic but rough to write” and had been “intended to be a teaser for a book.” At the time, the material had been optioned for a possible play or movie. “That thing has a lot of legs,” Amos says, though nothing wound up getting made. Realizing he “didn’t have the stomach” for writing a full-blown memoir, he refocused on his music.

A full weekend for car enthusiasts is fast approaching with the San Marino Motor Classic’s annual Symphony of Cars Gala in San Marino.

Sponsored by Hing Wa Lee Jewelers, the gala preludes the San Marino Motor Classic organization’s premier regional car exhibition and follows the Automotive Fine Arts Society Art Exposition & Sale.

Proceeds from the gala will benefit several local beneficiary charities, providing the community with the chance to enjoy an elaborate evening of cars, drinks and art for a good cause.

The weekend kicks off with the AFAS Art Exposition & Sale from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday, August 27, at Lacy Park, followed by the Symphony of Cars Gala from 6 to 9:30 p.m. The San Marino Motor Classic car exhibition will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, August 28.

“There are a lot of people that come to the show on Sunday, but they’re from out of town or they’re from far enough away where they’re going to stay in town overnight,” says Aaron Weiss, co-founder and chairman of the San Marino Motor Classic.

“So, this (the gala) gives them something to do, and then the next morning they get up and come to the show. You have to make a weekend out of it. We entertain them and they seem to enjoy that.”

In 2011, Weiss and fellow co-founders Ben Reiling and Paul Colony established the San Marino Motor Classic as a successor of the Rose Bowl’s Los Angeles Concours d’Elegance exhibition.

The founders began throwing parties at Weiss’ car collection, accommodating about 150 guests for a few years before hosting the galas at Lacy Park. Today, the event entertains about 550 people annually.

“We have a cocktail hour before the gala, and then we have an hourlong presentation of about 15 cars and we run them up on a stage like a debutante ball,” Weiss says.

“We have an orchestra that plays music paired to the year of the car’s manufacturer. It’s a really nice event. … The program is good, the food is good, everything is good.”

Proceeds from sponsorships and donations are split between Cancer Support Community Pasadena, the Pasadena Humane Society and Rotary charities. The latter distributes its share of the money to around 20 charities throughout the San Gabriel Valley.

“Last year we raised $518,000,” Weiss says. “It doesn’t sound like much, but for a car show, it’s huge — most car shows lose money.”

This is the second year the AFAS, an international society of automotive artists, is accompanying the Symphony of Cars Gala with an art exposition and sale. Hosted by Team Janice Lee Berkshire Hathaway and auction house Bonhams, the art event will feature 16 artists selling pieces for as much as $25,000.

“These guys are top designers for some of the major motor companies,” Weiss says.

“Some are professional artists, where there are certain guys that do a lot of magazine art for the car companies. On the side they like to paint or draw. So, they have a portfolio of work and they like to show it, just like the guys who like to show their cars, and if they can sell it, it just makes the day better.”

The weekend closes with the San Marino Motor Classic car exhibition the following day. The event attracts about 5,000 guests and around 480 car entrants from all over the country.

Entrants compete in approximately 30 classes. At the end of the day, cars are judged in several categories.

“For the younger people, there’s the Ferraris and Porsches. That’s what they want to see,” Weiss says.

“For the older people, they want to see the pre-war classics and then everything in between. So there’s really something for everybody. We’re not particularly skewed to one particular class.

“I think we’ve run a really organized show where together the judging has been good and people want to come back. That’s the key,” he added.

Along with the Sunday car show and awards ceremony, there will be vendors, food trucks and a public eating area. There will also be a VIP reception, featuring a gourmet luncheon and adult beverage while enjoying the awards at the end of the night.

General admission to the San Marino Motor Classic car exhibition can be purchased online prior to the day of the event for $35 or at the gate for $40. VIP tickets are available for $150.

Tickets to the Symphony of Cars Gala are $275 and include admission to the car exhibition and AFAS Art Exposition & Sale. Guests wear cocktail attire and are offered complimentary valet parking. The final day to RSVP to the event is August 10.

Sponsorships for the gala and art exposition vary in number of event tickets and level of recognition in the dinner program.

Packages include the Cadillac for $1,500, Duesenberg for $2,500 and Rolls-Royce for $5,000.

San Marino Motor Classic and Symphony of Cars Gala



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