A classic car meets at opposite ends of Prince George after a business complains

Drivers ride in candy apple red and navy blue custom paint with steel bodywork and chrome finishes and ease into dry asphalt parking lots.

On a Wednesday night in August, just after 5pm, the temperature was 89 degrees, the sky was blue, and there were no signs of a storm. The cruiser is ready for such a night. It has been raining for the past two weeks for a weekly meeting in the far corner of an open-air mall parking lot on Upper Marlboro, Maryland.

“When we have these cars, we want to get them out. If they sit all the time, it’s like blood in your body. You have to keep it flowing,” said Beverly Curry, 76, who keeps Short-haired, bespectacled and known as “Mustang Sally”, he owns a bright red six-cylinder Ford Mustang from ’66.

People head to Marlboro Plaza almost every Wednesday for the evening car party that runs from early April to late October. A parking lot near Advance Auto Parts has been turned into “Hump Day Car Meet and Cruise-In,” a four-hour event designed to bring together the coolest rides and connect others with a love of cars. This year marks the group’s 10th anniversary.

Many of the men and women in attendance have invested years of effort and money in buying and restoring classic cars to their former glory. Some of the connections go back to childhood time spent at a nearby race track or encounters at other auto shows. Week after week, on Hump Day Wednesday, they exclaim for each other’s wheels as they build community.

“I love cars, but cars are secondary,” said 72-year-old retiree Terry Daye, who has been carrying his 68 Plymouth GTX with him since the race began. “I like talking to people.”

But in recent months, with many pandemic restrictions lifted and mall business resumed, Marlboro Plaza’s property manager said the group could no longer meet in the car park and was not allowed to do so in the first place.A security guard patrols the lot on the last Wednesday in August And warned fans to leave.

“It’s a disruption to the tenants who are paying rent,” said Adam Stewart, an official at Marlboro Plaza.

Located on the busy Crain Highway in Prince George’s County, the mall features businesses such as a beauty supply store, liquor store, grocery market, Advance Auto Parts, Dollar Tree and Nipsey’s, local bars and restaurants. Jauhar Abraham, a member of the family business Nipsey’s, said the company had been receiving complaints about alcohol, card games and trash during car parties since June.He said he was concerned Nipsey’s would have to Bringing his concerns to the car group founder and property manager.

“I don’t support unsanctioned gatherings anywhere,” said Abraham, 50. “In the event of an accident or incident, we’re the ones who have to defend ourselves, and we’re not a part of it.”

Car enthusiasts, mostly older men and women in Prince George’s County and surrounding areas, believe the weekly party is largely accident-free. Hump ​​Day Wednesday creator Van Neumann said the show was designed to provide owners with camaraderie and a place to take a break from appreciating classic cars mid-week, rather than cause trouble.They also patronize the center’s businesses such as local Chinese food Takeaway and chicken wings restaurant.

The conflict pits a business trying to recover from the pandemic with classic car owners for whom weekly car parties have become their lifeblood.

Property managers seem to view the group as a liability rather than a commodity. Marlboro Plaza official Stull said gatherings were not allowed at Marlboro Plaza because it was a “public safety issue” and the group had never obtained a permit or license to hold the event, he added.

Newman, a 70-year-old man from Brandywine, Md., with pale gray facial hair, sat in the shade under the canopy of a beauty supply store on a blue lawn chair next to other Seniors sitting on lawn chairs. “I’m not old, I’m a classic,” read his long-sleeved white shirt.

Newman said he started midweek car meetups a decade ago after retiring from a 38-year career with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, first as a bus driver, then as a train operator and finally as a A station manager. The auto show will be held in the Prince George parking lot throughout the week, but not on Wednesday, he said.

So he spoke with Advance Auto Parts at Marlboro Plaza with cousin David Proctor and friend Leroy Proctor about bringing their car to their parking lot on Wednesday. The location provides a central location for many participants traveling from Charles County and Prince George.

For 10 years, a group of car enthusiasts in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, have been gathering every week. (Video: Sidney Thomas)

Rickey Sampson, assistant manager of Advance Auto Parts, started working at the store four years ago. Car enthusiasts buy car washes, waxes and towels there. The store even allowed Newman to pin auto show flyers to Coke machines.

“We never had to tell them, ‘Hey, you brought a ruffian.’ It’s not that kind of thing,” Sampson said.

By nightfall on this evening in late August, at least 50 cars will be in and out of the parking lot. Many drivers lined up with car hoods that popped out like candy store aisles. Onlookers visiting the nearby Dollar Tree will stop to see vintage models from the 1940s to the 1970s.

Marcus Boykin, 50, and Deshaun Clarkson, 62, sat and enjoyed the scene. Boykin got into vintage cars because of the ’72 Pontiac GTO that his grandfather gave him in high school. Clarkson said he remembers his father sitting in the back seat with his four brothers while driving, yelling “My car!” as they passed other vehicles. His father would say, “One day, kids,” said Clarkson, who now owns eight cars.

“You think about a simpler time and age,” Boykin said. “When you think about society and everything we go through every day, when you can go back to simpler times, you feel better about what’s happening now.”

Newman said the group has received no backlash from community members, businesses or property managers. As the years passed, it grew in popularity and influence, and on a good Wednesday, as many as 60 cars filled it.

Nipsey’s Abraham said some Nipsey employees and customers were unable to get in and out of the parking lot due to heavy traffic.

“A few years ago, the auto show wasn’t that big. Some old cars, old folks, I never cared much about,” Abraham said. But he said the gathering also attracted some young people who quickly passed many places.

“Once you create that vibe, it gets out of hand,” he added. “They can’t control what it’s going to look like.”

In August, Prince George’s County Police received just one call about trespassing and speed racing at a car meetup at 5775 Crain Highway. 31, a Wednesday. Prince George’s County Police spokeswoman Christina Cotman said in a statement that police responded and were unable to “verify any criminal conduct.” On another three Wednesdays – July 20, August. March and August, Cotman said, 24 – Police received a call for a trespass at the Marlboro Plaza address and were unable to “verify any criminal activity.”

Officials have known about the car meeting for years, and until recent weeks have not reported any issues to county police, Cotman said.

Special event licenses are required for organizers who sell tickets, set up a stage or sell food or alcohol, said Avis Thomas-Lester, a spokesman for the county’s Department of Licensing, Inspection and Enforcement. There are also requirements to ensure safety.

“People have the right to gather peacefully, but management will be responsible for deciding whether to allow gatherings on their property, such as car enthusiast meetings,” Thomas-Lester said in a statement.

Newman said the group tried to reason with Abraham and management. Over the years, participants have cleaned up during and after the meeting, and even brought their own bins to collect rubbish thrown in the woods near the parking lot, he said. They also encourage people who carry motorcycles and dirt bikes to act responsibly.

In early September, Newman was back. He received a call from a property manager saying no meetings were allowed and had informed police. But he arrived in his Ford pickup anyway, just to see if anyone showed up and let them know it was over. If it rains, he sits in the driver’s seat and opens the window.

Hump ​​day Wednesday is on the calendar until November. 2 And it may take a while for people to get used to how it ends, he said.

“We’ve had a great 10 years,” Newman said. “It’s a pity we couldn’t ride to the end.”

Only one driver attended the meeting that night. Newman asked him to spread the word that the group was looking for a new location.

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