Get ready for RetroFest weekend!

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RetroFest returns with a roar to downtown Chatham this weekend.

Vehicles 25 years and older will once again line the downtown streets on Saturday, but there is so much more in Chatham’s core this weekend during RetroFest, which ranks in Festival Events Ontario’s top 100 events across the province.

The Historic Downtown Chatham BIA and the Kent Historic Auto Club fire up the RetroFest engine Friday night with the Parking Lot Party in the Downtown Cahtahm Centre Parking lot from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Katie Goulet, office and project co-ordinator with the BIA, said the party sets the tone for the weekend.

“We’re going to have an escape room this year. Honda will be doing some giveaways and offer chances for a test drive,” she said. “We’ll have a DJ. Old cars and new cars are welcome. Everyone is welcome.”

RetroFest offers gear heads with newer vehicles the chance to showcase the alterations they’ve made to their rides.

Goulet said registration for the Saturday showcase has been strong, and she expects about 600 cars to be on hand, depending on what Mother Nature delivers.

A reminder to folks looking to navigate around the event to be aware that much of the downtown will be cordoned off for pedestrian traffic only on Saturday.

For anyone looking to show off their vintage vehicle, but has not registered yet, Goulet said you can do so online at https://downtownchatham.com/events/retrofest/ and click on the registration link.

However, registration can be done on Saturday morning as well, as the BIA and the auto club will have personnel on site as early as 7 a.m.

Just don’t expect to be the first vehicle on site. Goulet said some of the proud car owners show up as early as 5 a.m. to get their preferred location.

Remember, to be displayed, a vehicle must be a minimum of 25 years of age. That means model years of 1999 and earlier qualify.

Also taking place on and around King Street on Saturday is the Junior Judges, where kids observe the classics and cast their votes on their favourites.

Event awards are handed out about 3 p.m., Goulet said.

Not everything happens on King Street. Aside from the Parking Lot Party Friday behind the DCC, Goulet said Tecumseh Park will be rocking with fun all weekend long.

Starting at 3 p.m. Friday and again at 11 a.m. Saturday, vendors will be open to sell their wares. There will be live music each evening as well, along with a beverage tent to slack everyone’s thirst. Activities for all ages – including zip lines, paddleboats and a Nerf arena – take place during the daylight hours.

The Miss RetroFest Pageant returns on Saturday as well. It takes place from noon to 2 p.m.

The Optimist Club will be holding a soapbox derby Saturday morning on William Street too.

Something that Goulet said is drawing a lot of interest online is the closing event of the weekend. RetroFest’s Busker After Party takes place Sunday, from 1 p.m. to 5 pm. at The Garden on King. Tickets for the event are free. There will be live entertainment and free appetizers.

Goulet said to keep an eye out for raffle ticket sales people, as R.O.C.K. Missions will be the beneficiary from the weekend raffle effort.

If you want to get a head start on the raffle, you can visit https://www.rafflebox.ca/raffle/rockmissions to buy tickets online.

This is Goulet’s first RetroFest as co-ordinator, having taken over from Connie Beneteau earlier this year.

“Everything’s been great. Connie was very thorough so I have lots to look back on and check to make sure I’m on track,” Goulet said. “There are always some last-minute details to iron out.”

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