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Vintage car race to visit Valley

History will roll into Meadowbrook Farm Friday, July 10, when 55 vintage Model T Fords arrive during the final leg of a nearly 3,900-mile transcontinental race.

The cars left White Plains, New York, on June 13 to reenact a 1909 race from New York City's city hall to the Alaska-Pacific-Yukon Exposition in Seattle.

The cars will be on display and drivers available to talk at Meadowbrook Farm between Snoqualmie and North Bend from noon to 2 p.m.

This is the second time the race has been re-enacted. Other recreations of the race happened in 1959, 50 years, and 1984, 74 years, after the original run.

1909 run

In the original run, five automobiles entered the race. Two of the five were Fords.

"Henry Ford was really trying to push the fact that everybody should be able to afford a car," said Snoqualmie historian Dave Battey.

Cars in those days had incredibly flexible frames and high clearance, being built to run on rutted horse roads.

There were no paved roads in the Snoqualmie Valley at the time, and Snoqualmie Pass was virually impassable. The original Model T competitor had to be dug out of the snow on the pass by a railroad crew.

"Part of the game was to get over the pass," Battey said.

Local accounts by Dio Reinig, a Snoqualmie farmer and businessman, tell how he helped get one of the race cars out of a local ditch.

"One night about midnight, my uncle drove in from Aberdeen. He said that he had seen a New York car in the ditch below the Meadowbrook bridge, and that they wanted help as they were in a race to Seattle."

Reinig and his uncle went into town, and roused the livery stable keeper, who brought a team of horses and plenty of tackle.

"We soon had the car on its way," Reinig stated. "The car was one of the best makes at that time, a Shawmut with forty-inch wheels. The driver said he had New York air in one tire, which was certainly unusual for that time."

One of Ford's Model Ts reached the finish line first, after 22 days on the road. Henry Ford was at the finish line in Seattle at the exposition's Drumheller Fountain, which still stands on the University of Washington's campus.

It was the first year of the Model T's production, and Ford used the race to market the car. Over 15 million were produced before it was discontinued in 1927.

However, according to Reinig's account, the prize was taken away a few months later and given to the Shawmut car — probably the same car that got stuck in Snoqualmie. Ford's team had violated the competition guidelines.

"His 'winning' car did not really win," Battey said. The crew changed it engine mid-race in Idaho, which was against the rules.

Ford got a tremendous amount of publicity out of the race.

"This was a very big race," Battey said. "He was a genius with mechanics and a genius with publicity. He used it so well that everybody will thinks a Ford won."

50 years ago

The 50-year-reenactment included a 1959 Ford Caravan, the carmaker's 50 millionth vehicle. According to the June 18, 1959 edition of the Snoqualmie Valley Record, that year's race "followed a route carefully charted to duplicate as closely as possible the course of horse-and-buggy roads and trailes used 50 years ago for the transcontinetal contest."

That year's Golden Jubilee was held to dramatize the 50 years of change in America, "and the promise of even greater progress in the years to come."

"Striking among contrasts of old and new that the caravan portrays is the vast network of superhighways that exist today. Fifty years ago, a muddy path rutted by wheel tracks was the best to be expected for intercity travel."

The Record story of 1959 marks how the rerun lacked the trials and hardships of the first run, but not its color. Included in the caravan was a replica of the winning 1909 racer as well as a model of a futuristic "Levacar," meant to run on a film of air without wheels.

This year's reenactment, the Centennial Run, follows the original course as much as possible, including a trip across Snoqualmie Pass.

The Pony Boy All-Star Big Band and Snoqualmie Tribe Canoe Family Drum Group will perform separately at the July 10 rally. The event is free.

The Canoe Family is also hosting a salmon bake, tickets are $10.

For more information, visit www.cityofsnoqualmie.org or call (425) 749-6905. The race can be followed at oceantoocean.ning.com. For more information on the Alaska-Pacific-Yukon Exposition Centennial celebration, visit www.ayp100.org.

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