DUANE TOMEI'S MEMORY LIGHTS UP KOOL APRIL NITES
With any luck, the sun will be shining on the thousands of folks who will gather to admire the 2,000 or so hot rods, cruisers and classics featured at the 21st annual Kool April Nites car show.
Rain or shine, though, there will be a special light illuminating the Redding Convention Center grounds this year. The spirit of Duane Tomei, one of the Kool April Nites founders and its guiding force for the past 20 years, will surely be shining bright.
To honor Tomei, who succumbed to cancer in July, the show’s directors have created an award titled “Spirit of Kool April Nites in Memory of Duane Tomei” that will be presented annually to one lucky car owner.
“Because that’s what he was—the spirit of Kool April Nites,” says Vicki Cook, who stepped in as president of the Kool April Nites board of directors prior to last year’s show. “He loved that show, he loved the cars, he loved the people and he loved doing things for the community. All those things came together for him.”
While the cars are the stars at Kool April Nites, the show has always been about supporting local children-oriented charities. Since its inception in 1990, when some 239 car buffs turned out to show off their rides, Kool April Nites’ directors have donated more than $300,000 to Turtle Bay Exploration Park and other nonprofit organizations.
Tomei had a large part in ensuring the show helped others, and that was evident to everyone he worked with, including John Johnson, the Redding Convention Center’s operations manager. “Deep in his heart, he was completely committed to the event itself. And not just showing cars, but he believed in the charities they support and he wanted it to do well so they could benefit,” Johnson says.
“Duane loved Redding and he was very proud of his community. He took care of very minute details because he wanted everything to be smooth and as comfortable as possible,” Johnson says. “To work that well and that hard shows me he was motivated beyond the show itself. He was a very can-do guy. He made sure everything got done.”
“Everything gave him satisfaction,” remembers Rod Tessier, a Kool April Nites board member who worked with Tomei since the first show. “He would help with the inside show, the entertainment inside the big tent. He was right in there when there were problems and got ‘em handled. It’s hard to describe how much Duane did for the show. People will be benefitting from his work for years to come.”
“There were lots of aspects of the show that made him fulfilled and happy,” says Barbara Harrison, a longtime Kool April Nites volunteer who coordinates the indoor “Dreamworks” display of classic cars. “Sunshine was one aspect. We always prayed for sun. But really, I think he constantly remembered how it all started and how we got this thing going.
“It was just the six of them (Tomei, Bucky Bucklin, Randy Harrison, Louis and Bud Milligan and Tom Parker) and they just decided to do this. And how it’s all grown. It brings in the most tourism of anything; the restaurants are happy, the motels are happy. They just did one heck of a job making this thing grow.”
And Kool April Nites certainly has grown. Now a five-day affair, it kicks off with a Wednesday night party for sponsors and registrants, continues on Thursday with a Show-N-Shine and dance music by the Hot Rods Band and rolls into the popular Friday night cruise. Saturday’s car show includes a pancake breakfast by the Asphalt Cowboys and a concert by Doubletake. The week wraps up Sunday with an awards ceremony. •
Kool April Nites, April 14-18 www.koolaprilnites.com