USACE Reflects on a Dam Fine Day at the Dam Fine Car Show
by Trevor Walsh
Social Media Program Manager
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Fort Worth District
This author thinks there are few things finer in life better than a crisp autumn breeze on a sunny day.
Maybe a crisp autumn breeze on a sunny day in the Texas Hill Country. Add another fine ingredient in the mix — a crisp autumn breeze over the top of Canyon Lake Dam on a sunny day in the Texas Hill Country.
Or how about driving a classic show car across the Canyon Lake Dam with the windows down, letting in a crisp autumn breeze on a sunny day in the Texas Hill Country?
What about several dozen show cars driving across the Canyon Lake Dam? Now that’s dam fine.
In fact, it was one of the main attractions on Oct. 17 as part of the Canyon Lake Dam Community Alliance’s (DCA) 4th Annual Dam Fine Car Show & Sunday Drive at Canyon Lake.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Fort Worth District operates Canyon Lake. The nonprofit DCA works to unite the Canyon Lake community and raise funds to restore and enrich access to the lake, the dam, and the parks.
Hundreds of participants, spectators, vendors and volunteers assembled in Canyon Lake’s North Park Campground to show off their rides and talk with and meet other car enthusiasts. From a blue 1957 Chevy to a brand new blue 2021 Toyota GR Supra, and Cajun food to Texas barbecue, the event had something to offer for everyone.
DCA President and Pct. 4 Comal County Commissioner Jen Crownover said it all started several years ago when they were trying to get the road on top of the dam reopened to pedestrian traffic after 463 days of being closed for repairs.
“The car show came to me as an idea from a constituent after the closing of the service road to pedestrians after decades of being a favorite spot for residents and visitors to walk, run, or just take in the majesty of where we live,” she said.
“I’d never thought of doing something like that, but it sounded like a really cool idea,” Crownover said. “We needed a fundraiser to raise funds to get the walkway reopened for the community. At the point of the first car show, we still didn’t even know what that solution would be yet, or how much it would cost, but getting started on the fundraising was crucial.”
She added the event wouldn’t have happened without USACE.
“We had to sell them the idea in a way that they did not think we were completely crazy,” Crownover said. “We also reached out to many members of the community for buy-in and support. The more we started moving with the idea, the more it just kept snowballing!”
Even with support from USACE’s Fort Worth District and Canyon Lake Project Office, DCA’s board of directors still had a mountain of coordination and planning to make the event a reality.
“As president of DCA I’m certainly the figurehead of our organization and the event,” Crownover said. “I could not do it without my vice president, Paul, who truly spearheads the car show. The rest of my board is amazing; we really have a ‘dream team’ of dedicated members of the community. It’s also so wonderful how well we work with our folks at the Corps, all the way from the Canyon Lake office, the rangers, and volunteers, to the top of the chain in Fort Worth. Our sponsors are also an integral part of the event and the DCA’s success in the community and with the Corps. I couldn’t be prouder of the work we are able to do, and what we will accomplish in the future!”
Paul VonHeeder, vice president of Dam Community Alliance, is a longtime, part-time resident of the Canyon Lake area since his birth in 1957. He’s now a full-time resident since 2017. He has such a love for the area and its precious resources that are Canyon Lake and the Guadalupe River.
He passionately believes these lovely resources need our help to be preserved and enjoyed for generations to come.
“From our family cabin on the Guadalupe River, I grew up watching the dam being built,” VonHeeder said. “For many years we enjoyed and took for granted the walk across the dam. When dam access was closed, we along with much of the community felt a great loss. I learned of a petition being signed and in that I met Jen. She asked if I had any thoughts as to fundraising, noting my advertising background.
“My longtime love of collector cars came into play and I mentioned my vision of a car show that ran across the entire length of the dam,” he said. “Two weeks later, she called to say the Corps was open to the idea and would I organize the event. That was four years ago and the beginning of the Dam Fine Car Show.”
VonHeeder said DCA has been welcomed by the Corps in the best way, as a team member. USACE shares its goals and vision, in which DCA is happy to invest its time, energy and funds as possible.
The format of the show has changed much over the years, especially with COVID-19 restrictions, but the team has been determined to make it happen.
“The first two years, the event grew year-to-year, the third year was during COVID,” Crownover said. “Our board and committee were dead set against canceling our event. Too many things had been canceled in 2020. People needed something to look forward to, something safe, fun, and something to get them out of the house.
“We adapted the car show concept to a ‘Sunday Drive’ across the dam and opened it up to all vehicles, not just show cars,” she said. “It was wildly popular, and we had over 500 cars come, and some crossed twice. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for so many folks. And many families brought their elderly relatives to the event. For many of them, it was their first time out of the house in the better part of a year. It was so heartwarming to see such happy people, eager to have something fun to do.”
Due to the popularity of the ‘drive-across,’ DCA decided to take a stab at a hybrid event this year, moving the car show to North Park, and again allowing the public to drive across as well. It was very well received, and well attended.
Anu Day serves on DCA’s board and is active in the community, having served as treasurer for her homeowner’s association, as port captain for the Canyon Lake Yacht Club, and on the Board of Governors at the Yacht Club.
She and her husband have forged numerous friendships with “dam walkers” and believe the dam is a valuable resource for locals and visitors alike. They have had a sailboat at Lake Canyon Yacht Club for over 15 years, moved to the area full time about seven years ago, and have been actively involved with the car show since its inception.
“The first two years, the cars were displayed on the dam, it was truly spectacular,” Day said. “Last year the car show was canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions but USACE allowed us to do a ‘Dam Fine Sunday Drive’ where people drove across the dam for a fee. That was a very popular event, so this year we combined the drive across the dam with a car show at North Park.
“The enthusiasm of the participants, the level of support from the community, and the increasing number of spectators each year is my favorite part of the event,” she said. “It is amazing how well this community has come together to support the DCA. The DCA is very excited about continuing our active partnership with USACE.”
Coordination of a large-scale event like this takes input and guidance from members of many various organizations.
DCA takes on all aspects of planning and organizing the event and USACE staff ensures access to areas, assists with the safety and security of the event, and also uses this as an opportunity to get out the water safety message.
Bobber the Water Safety Dog even made an appearance!
Timothy L. MacAllister, chief, Operations Division, Fort Worth District, expressed his sincere thanks and gratitude to DCA for their continued support.
“The Dam Community Alliance is a non-profit organization which supports USACE, specifically at Canyon Lake, by providing supplies, materials, and volunteer labor to accomplish a host of different maintenance needs,” he said.
“For instance, DCA was instrumental in supplying needed materials to reopen the pathway on Canyon Dam to the public when needed safety improvements and additional access could not be funded within our budgets,” MacAllister said. “DCA continues to work with the Canyon Lake staff to assist with other maintenance needs as they arise.”
MacAllister and his wife, in their new Ford Mustang GT Convertible, also led the caravan of show cars across the dam after the car show awards were made.
“The car show and drive are simply amazing,” he said. “The overwhelming number of participants in the car show are local citizens who deeply care about the stewardship of Canyon Lakes’ public lands, maintaining public access and improving experiences for visitors.
“The car show is one example of the local community putting their money where their mouth is since the funds raised support the foundation who in turn supports Canyon Lake,” MacAllister said. “I am humbled and grateful to be associated with this group and was more than excited to lead the parade across the dam. It is an amazing feeling to know we have the support of DCA, individuals, recreation users and other organizations such as the Boy Scouts, who volunteered their time and energy, to make this such a wonderful event.
“To top it off, I was honored to meet TV personality Faye Hadley who came out to support the effort!”
Hadley, who lives in Canyon Lake and helped sponsor the event, is the owner of Pistons & PixieDust, an ASE-certified general repair shop outside of San Antonio that specializes in Toyotas.
She also co-hosts MotorTrend’s All Girls Garage and is a co-founder of Woman and Machine, an organization of tradeswomen that hosts day-long, female-centered, automotive workshops across the country.