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Penngrove celebrates the 7th annual Hot Rods and BBQ Event

  • Penngrove residents and owner of RP Equipment in Petaluma, Rick and Liz Piazza show cased their 1956 Chevy with a 350-horsepower motor, ceramic headers, dual exhaust and all leather interior to help out with the Penngrove Social Firemen's 7th Annual 'Hot Rods & Bar-B-Que' fund raiser. Photo by Robert Grant

By: Stephanie Derammelaere
July 28, 2017

Amid shiny chrome and gleaming paint jobs in all the colors of the rainbow, hundreds of people gathered Saturday, July 22 at Penngrove Park to look at a variety of hot rods and old classic cars, enjoy some free entertainment and raise money for the Penngrove Social Firemen. The event was free to attend and there were no entry fees or judging, but all the money raised through the chicken barbeque benefited the Penngrove Social Firemen, who in turn divide the funds and donate it to local charities benefiting children and agriculture.

“The event is free but we hope people buy lunch to help the fundraiser,” says John Rossi, Penngrove Social Firemen Board member and organizer of the event. “I really want to thank the community for supporting us and for all the volunteers who help make this happen.”

Every year the group sells about 525 halves of chicken and net about $10,000. In years past the money has gone to 4H groups, the FFA (Future Farmers of America), and Penngrove school. One year they purchased all new uniforms for the Junior Petaluma Riding Club. Most years they buy a MIG welder for a promising agriculturally-minded student. 

“We pick a kid who can’t afford one but has talent,” said Rossi. “We’ve done that for three years now and work with Petaluma High School to choose the best candidate.”

After the event the board members convene to decide how to disperse the funds. 

The first year the Penngrove Social Firemen sponsored the event, in 2011, they quickly organized the event within one month. 125 cars were displayed that first year. The idea quickly spread and by the third year, 450 cars showed up and they have had about that many ever since. 

“I have a lot of friends bringing in cars today,” said Leroy Halbe from Petaluma, when asked what brought him to the event. “It’s great getting the community together and it seems to grow every year.”


Displaying his 1962 Corvette, Al Ridgway from Santa Rosa has come almost every year. “It’s much bigger than it used to be,” he said. “It’s great seeing people I don’t get to see all the time and supporting the fire department.”

Row after row of cars filed in Saturday morning from all over Marin and Sonoma Counties, reaching into the overflow parking area. From Fords to Corvettes, Buicks to Chevy’s, most of the cars displayed were in mint condition, from the 1930s to the early 1970s.

Frank Wheeler and his wife Phyllis from Santa Rosa were proudly showing their 1930 Model A Ford, the sixth classic car he has renovated or built. The front and side panels of the car are original, but he constructed the frame and chassis, built the wood body and used reproduction parts for the rest.

“It took me two years to build and we’ve been driving it for about a year,” said Wheeler. “The body is my own design.” 

On the side wood paneling of the Model A was written ‘Phyllis’ Pie Shop’, as homage to his wife. “We’re all sold out of pies already!” joked Wheeler. 

Geo Borba of Geo’s Chop Shop in Sebastopol, which specializes in car restoration and customization, enjoyed walking around with his two sons and seeing the great work everyone did to their cars. “I like being able to look at all the cool cars,” said 14-year-old Jesse. “And the paint jobs!” chimed in Eddie, 13.