The Elegance at Hershey blends automobiles, art, and (of course) chocolate

There’s more to Hershey than chocolate. Just about everyone in the classic car world knows the small central-Pennsylvania town for the massive Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) Fall Swap Meet held each October. But in 2010, in an effort driven by the late Jack Rich, Hershey earned another claim to fame with the aptly-named The Elegance at Hershey, held at the famous chocolate company’s flagship property, The Hotel Hershey.

Although the concours and Grand Ascent hill climb are the most visible elements, the underlying purpose of the event is to raise money for three important causes: the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the AACA Library and Research Center, and the AACA Museum. Heading into the 2017 event, $85 million dollars had already been donated.

Many elements combined to make the seventh annual Elegance, held June 9 11, a memorable weekend. The weather was hot and dry, and the property reverberated with the sounds of vintage race cars as they sprinted up the hill while competing in the Grand Ascent on Friday and Saturday. On Friday evening, guests wandered across the road to an opening reception at the lovely Hershey Gardens, which also hosted an informal cars and coffee get-together on Saturday morning. An afternoon seminar, hosted by Hagerty, shined the spotlight on Brock Yates and his famed Cannon Ball cross-country race. Featured panelists included Yates’ widow, Pamela, and race participants Oscar Koveleski and Bill Warner, who also founded the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.

The main focus of the weekend arrived on Sunday, when approximately 70 cars were displayed on the lawn and gardens behind the hotel. Limiting the number of cars meant that the display area could be compact without crowding the exhibitors. Judges, volunteers, and several thousand guests seemed to appreciate the proximity of the hotel and the cars on a day where temperatures soared into the 90s.

The setting and the atmosphere made Sunday’s display of fine automobiles feel more like a garden party than a typical concours or car show. Many of the finest marques were shown, including Alfa Romeo, Bugatti, Duesenberg, Ferrari, Isotta-Fraschini, Lancia, Locomobile, and Rolls-Royce. Rarities included an early Pope-Hartford, a Kurtis-Kraft sports racing car, a Siata, and a Pullman touring car.

Unusually, the judging teams included a handful of younger adjudicators, which provided a nice contrast to the sea of white and gray hair usually seen on show fields. In addition to beautifully-restored cars, the panelists evaluated quite a few unrestored vehicles, including an A.C. Cobra and A.C. Bristol. Other unusual machines included an Arnolt-Bristol, the 1960 Plymouth XNR concept car by Ghia, and a Devin-Crosley sports racer. Pleased with the entries, Chief Judge and board member Dr. Paul Sable emphasized the quality of the cars on display. “One team had nine cars to judge, and six of those had won Best of Show at other concours.”

As the day came to a close and spectators lined up to see the winning cars, Bob and Sandra Bahre’s stunning ex-Clark Gable 1934 Packard 1106 Runabout Speedster by Le Baron rolled away with the Governor’s Cup for Best of Show. Meanwhile, the Founder’s Award was bestowed upon the fantastic black 1929 Bohman & Schwartz Duesenberg J/SJ of Harry Yeagy.

Despite being a relatively new concours, in short order The Elegance at Hershey has become a truly national event, Sable said, noting that “USA Today has ranked us as one of the top six car events in the country.” The event’s quick rise to prominence has certainly benefitted from its remarkable location and the serious efforts of the Rich family and other board members. AACA Executive Director Steve Moskowitz believes the 2017 Elegance “set a new standard for smaller concours. With a world-class field, we had our best attendance ever.”

And with a steady stream of quality cars, expert judges, and compelling dinner and seminar speakers from around the country, The Elegance appears to have a strong future.