Throughout the course of the year, there are literally thousands of car shows to attend across the country. Some are open to all makes and models, while others are brand specific. Then there are shows that are just for fun or competition, and then there are events that have been created to raise money for various charities. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with a car show that’s aimed at winning a trophy. But if given a choice, I believe most would prefer giving back to their community rather than watching some pretentious knob head parade off with a cheap piece of plastic that’ll just sit on their shelf collecting dust. No. Sometimes and event comes along with a purpose. A message. A cause.
Enter Paul Immo; a man who almost literally has Mopar blue pumping through his veins. 8 years ago, Paul decided to undertake the daunting task of organizing a Mopar only show that not only would bring Mo-Lovers together for the art of the game, but to raise money for a charitable organization. And thus, Moparpalooza was born. While the average person may not know this, but ‘palooza’ is and actual word. According to the urban dictionary, ‘palooza’ means “an all out crazy party”. Having attended Moparpalooza for 2 consecutive years, even after missing the first 6 installments, and enjoying the company of hundreds of Mopar owners, I can truthfully say that this gathering of Chrysler power certainly lives up to its name. But I’ll go into the details that took place at the event a little later. First, let’s talk about what went into putting this incredible show, and its cause, together.
I mentioned earlier about some car shows being held for charity. Well, Moparpalooza just happens to be one of those shows to benefit a noble cause. “And what cause is that?” you might ask. Well, I’d be delighted to tell you! For about 25 years, an organization known as The Fisher House has been providing free or low cost housing to families of military veterans while they receive their medical care. Founded in 1990, and the first two houses opening in 1991 in Maryland and Washington D.C., The Fisher House became a not-for-profit organization in 1993 encouraging people for support of their worthy cause. Today, there are 64 Fisher Houses open to families in need with even more on the way. Since its inception, The Fisher House has helped over 220,000 families, saving more than $200 million in lodging and transportation costs. In addition, since 2000, a total of 6,072 students have shared over $10 million in scholarship grants through the Scholarships for Military Children Program. In a time where military families don’t always get the care they need, it’s nice to know such an organization exists with the dedication to providing those benefits.
Just like The Fisher House, Moparpalooza’s beginnings were fairly small. The first outing hosted 83 vehicles and raised about $2,200 as a donation. And while there’s no such thing as a “small donation”, Paul and the Moparpalooza crew wanted to improve on both numbers, and they were successful in that endeavor. Every year has shown a considerable increase in both attendance and in donation size; and back in 2014 something unprecedented happened. Dodge stepped up to the plate and offered to match everything that Moparpalooza raised in donations up to $25,000. This was the ultimate challenge to really make a difference and we would meet that challenge head on!
So how exactly would such a goal be achieved. First, all proceeds from the entry fees collected after paying for the venue would be put towards the donation. Beyond that, a fleet of notable vendors got involved by donating prizes to be sold through silent auction. The list of companies that stepped up was massive; including Speedlogix, Razors Edge Motorsports, Katzkin Leather, Mopar, High Horse Performance and many more donated parts and gift certificates to be raffled off so money can be raised for The Fisher House. And it goes without saying that the Mopar community is the most generous group of people because through the show’s attendance, as well as the items being auctioned off, the goal of $25,000 was surpassed. Which means by Dodge matching that number, the official donation for 2015 was over an astounding $50,000 for The Fisher House.
Something new for 2015 was the joining of the Modern Street Hemi Shootout series to run congruent with Moparpalooza. The day before the show, racers from all over converged to VMP (Virginia Motorsports Park) to throw down and have some fun with their Mopars. It’s nice seeing the MSHS events growing and joining forces with some of the biggest shows in the country.
The festivities for this year’s Moparpalooza event were moved from the previous year’s venue of the Blue Crabs Baseball Stadium to the currently under-construction Old Dominion Speedway in Spotsylvania, Virginia. Now, the first thing to get past is some of the griping that I heard after the event of how the lot was still all gravel and it was really hot. Yes, it was hot. It was Virginia in the end of May. I would prefer a hot day over the alternative of rain. So to those that sucked it up and enjoyed themselves, I salute you. As for the gravel, well, that’s how parking lots get built. It will be better next time and no vehicles were damaged. I think those are small issues when viewing the grand scheme of things.
Throughout the day of the show, it was nice to see people that I don’t get to see very often due to work constraints and distance. Most importantly, and not my first time seeing them at Moparpalooza, was running into Ralph and Doris Gilles. In 2014, they brought their white SRT Viper (dubbed ‘Storm’) which still had the Modern Mopar Magazine decal under the hood that I placed at Carlisle ’13. This year, they brought out their gorgeous black Challenger Hellcat which had a custom Hellcat logo with flames airbrushed on the hood. The car was beautiful and it’s always great to catch up. The ‘Dodge Rocks Tour’ was on hand and Mr. John “Hammer” was doing his thing getting the crowd riled up with trivia and giveaways. I was fortunate enough to snag an officially licensed Dodge folding chair thanks to my well of Mopar trivia.
This year’s Moparpalooza saw a record breaking 625 cars in attendance, making it one of the largest all-Mopar shows in the country to date. If you haven’t been to Moparpalooza yet, and are interested in taking part in a great event that raises money for a worthy cause in The Fisher House, please be sure to check out their official website at www.moparpalooza.com The date has also been set for Moparpalooza 9, and will be held the weekend of May 20-21, 2016, and is returning to Old Dominion Speedway in Spotsylvania, Virginia. Hope to see you all there!
Text by: Shawn Kaufman | Photos by: Justin Kurtz