Signs are pointing toward Labor Day approaching: Folks are putting away their white garments and the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival is on the horizon.

“It’s a huge deal,” said Leslie Peel, executive director of the festival. “It’s important to everyone.”

It’s important because it keeps Auburn’s automotive legacy alive while bringing together enthusiasts from across the world.

“We see people come in from all over the United States,” Peel said. “We have visitors from other countries. It’s just a really fun time. We have so many events that really appeal to everyone.”

Officially, festivities begin Thursday, Aug. 31, but there are plenty of pre-festival events around town which begin Saturday, Aug. 26, with the Cheers to the Festival, Supercharged! fundraiser.

Getting its start

Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival

Thursday-Saturday, Aug. 31-Sept. 2
9 a.m.-5 p.m. — Fall Swap Meet, Early Ford V-8 Foundation Museum, free
9 a.m. — The Auburn Auction, Worldwide Auctioneers
9 a.m.-6 p.m. — Destination Auburn, Worldwide Auctioneers, free
Evening — The 9th Street Experience, downtown, free
Thursday, Aug. 31
Noon — Kickoff Luncheon & Celebration, ACDA Museum, $20
6-11 p.m. — ACD Factory Meet and Greet, Auburn Moose Family Center, free
6-10 p.m. — Restoring the Legacy Gala, ACDA Museum, $150
Friday, Sept. 1
7 a.m.-noon — ACD Club Swap Meet, Auburn Skate Park, free
10 a.m. — Downtown Cruise-In, free
Noon — Panel Jam Auto Art Show, Courthouse Square, free
5:30-7:30 p.m. — Sundaes on Friday Ice Cream Social, downtown, $2/scoop
6-11 p.m. — Cruise-In Concert w/Sunglasses at Night and Hubie Ashcraft Band
Saturday, Sept. 2
7 a.m.-1 p.m. — ACD Club Car Show, Eckhart Park, $3/$5
11 a.m. — Pre-Parade Entertainment, Courthouse Square, free
1 p.m. — Parade of Classics, downtown, free
4-5:30 p.m. — Ticket to Ride, downtown, free
5-7 p.m. — Fast & Fabulous, Courthouse Square, free
6-11 p.m. — Fast & Fabulous Concert w/Reload and RekT, Courthouse Square, free
7-11 p.m. — The Gatsby Gala Ball, ACDA Museum, $35-$50
Sunday, Sept. 3
Noon-3 p.m. — Aero & Wing Car Invitational, ACDA Museum, free
6-9 p.m. — Dayspring’s Labor Day Festival & Fireworks, Dayspring Church, free
Auburn · (260) 925-3600

The origin of the festival began with Harry Denhard of Greenville, New York, in 1952. The owner of an Auburn Speedster, who previously had a Duesenberg Model J and a Cord 812, he put an ad in Motor Trend magazine, seeking like-minded car enthusiasts. 

Thirty-five people responded to him, and they met in Avon, Pennsylvania, in 1955. In 1956, the group chose Auburn as their meeting place. Six hundred people attended that event, and 13 years later the festival was formed to help coordinate it.

“The whole reason we have a festival is because of our club,” Peel said. 

“It is all about the history, but each year we welcome back these friends here with their cars.”

Collaborative effort

The festival has grown well beyond the club and requires a lot of effort. Peel is joined by 18 volunteer board members who make putting on the festival a yearlong project.

“We actually get together on Monday (after the festival) and kind of have a debriefing,” Peel said. “We talk about how the festival went, then we start planning that next week. So, it’s a yearlong thing.”

And they have to be for a festival that has live music, food trucks, car shows, parades, and fireworks. They also coordinate with others like the ACD Club, the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum, the Early Ford V-8 Foundation Museum, National Auto & Truck Museum, and Worldwide Auctioneers.

“We work in partnership with a lot of different groups, and we couldn’t do it without their support,” Peel said.

Something for everyone

While car enthusiasts are hitting up a lot of the events across the city, downtown is where those just looking for a good time congregate.

“Most of our events happen right around Courthouse Square, right downtown,” Peel said. “That’s where our event tents are, where the stage is, and where the food trucks are. So, most of the stuff we do is downtown.”

Among those downtown activities is the Downtown Cruise-In at 10 a.m. Friday.

“The Friday Cruise-In brings hundreds of cars downtown,” Peel said. “What’s crazy is, those cars start lining up at 4 in the morning because they want the best spot. So, we’ll have 400 cars in line at 10 a.m. when the gates open.”

Later in the night, Sunglasses at Night and Hubie Ashcraft Band will perform at the courthouse square from 6-11 p.m. for the Cruise-In Concert.

 “That brings a lot of people downtown, and it’s my favorite price, which is free,” Peel said.

Things rev up on Saturday, with the club car show at Eckhart Park from 7 a.m.-1 p.m. and the Parade of Classics at 1 p.m.

“The parade is great. Of course, it’s car-centered, but you can actually ride in a car,” Peel said, referring to the Ticket to Ride at 4 p.m. “If you want to ride in a car that you might not ever get a chance to do again, we have a ride event.”

At 5 p.m., the festival welcomes some exotic vehicles during Fast & Fabulous at the courthouse square. The event is comprised vehicles from SweetCars and the Fort Wayne Driving Club, leading to live music from Reload and RekT from 6-11 p.m.

 Things wind down Sunday with the new Aero & Wing Car Invitational from noon-3 p.m., which begins at the ACDA Museum Plaza and ends at the courthouse square

Of course, there will be constant entertainment downtown, but above is a list of other activities.