Each fall, Labor Day unofficially marks summer’s end while saluting the hard-working men and women of the labor movement. Parades showcase bands, floats, local celebrities, various organizations, beauty queens, and grand marshals who ride aboard a colorful array of meticulously maintained vehicles. The automobiles themselves have earned their place in the procession, as auto manufacturing has been inherently linked to labor for generations.

Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn will celebrate this historical partnership September 7th and 8th at the Old Car Festival. The annual event is America’s longest-running antique car show, featuring hundreds of exquisite, rare vehicles manufactured from the 1890s through 1932.

Organizers attest that visitors don’t have to know about camshafts or horsepower to enjoy the festival. Instead, they will revel in memories evoked through glimpses into the early automotive era as it contributed to achieving the American dream.

The two-day event showcases hundreds of antique vehicles as well as historically inspired food, live music, dancing, demonstrations, and much more.

Entertaining events and activities will include:

  • An ongoing Pass-in-Review parade, where electric-, steam-, and gas-powered engines are constantly in motion.
  • Competitions with drivers engaging in games of skill.
  • A demonstration of a Model T being assembled in just minutes.
  • Conversations about automobiles with experts sharing their knowledge via “car talks” and owners eagerly discussing their beloved possessions.
  • An awards presentation for the best restored and unrestored cars. Award-winning competitors from 2018 included a 1903 Marr Auto Car runabout, a 1910 Sears J, a 1910 Buick F, a 1930 MG roadster, a 1931 Ford Model A convertible, a 1929 Ford 82 A pickup, a 1914 Case truck, and a 1929 Auburn 120. The grand champions were a 1924 Chevrolet Superior and a 1915 Buick D55 V12.

Saturday evening will see additional special events including:

  • The Gaslight Parade of Cars, with kerosene and early electric lamps.
  • Ragtime America brought to life in the center of Greenfield Village with historically inspired street food and dancing to the popular music of the era.
  • A Dixieland-style parade and fireworks finale.

Outside of the car show, historical displays continue year round, indoors and outdoors, at the museum. Named as a National Historic Landmark, the museum features interactive displays and the world’s largest collection of automobiles, airplanes, motorcycles, bikes, and more.

Roughly 1.7 million people visit each year to gain insight into American innovation as viewed through significant preservation and restoration efforts, such as the Rosa Parks bus on its journey from Alabama to Michigan, John F. Kennedy’s presidential limousine, even Abraham Lincoln’s chair from Ford’s Theatre as well as many other significant exhibits.

Historical records attest that though the automobile was not born in America, its rapid development is credited to Henry Ford, one of several early automotive explorers at the turn of the century (Karl Benz developed the first petrol-powered automobile in the late 1880s). Ford made personal transportation available to everyone with the Model T in 1909, and his innovation in 1913 of the step-by-step moving assembly line is credited with revolutionizing automobile manufacturing and ultimately all manufacturing.

A testament to the historical significance of Ford’s innovations is cleverly stated by Marge Piercy, a Detroit-born poet and author, in her 1978 novel The High Cost of Living. She quipped that the explorers who discovered Michigan were basically irrelevant, writing “Henry Ford founded Detroit in the twenties and everything before that is invented.”

Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum
20900 Oakwood Boulevard, Dearborn MI 48124
(313) 982-6001 l TheHenryFord.org