Riding In Style

The latest fete heading to Churchill Downs has much less to do with horses, and far more with horsepower.

Held Oct. 5-7 inside the historic racetrack, the fifth annual Louisville Concours d’Elegance – a gathering of striking, prestigious automobiles – will take place, featuring marques Cadillac and Porsche Racing, along with a selection of historic collector cars on display.

“A Concours is not just a car show, it truly is a showcase of some of the rarest and most elegant cars in the country,” said Leslie Smart, system director of philanthropy for the Children’s Hospital Foundation, internal fundraising arm for Kosair Children’s Hospital, the  benefiting charity of the Louisville Concours. “(Frank and Patricia Wismer of Stratford, Conn.) own a 1921 Brewster, and this car is going to be shown in the vintage automobile class between 1916 and 1924. The Brewster company built only 473 automobiles bearing the Brewster name, and now there’s only 23 that are surviving in the world.” Not only is the car rare, but its original owner was Mrs. H.D. Auchincloss Sr., the step-grandmother of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and has appeared on the HBO series “Boardwalk Empire.” It’s the exceptional stories behind the cars featured in the Concours that make them all the more special, aside from their gorgeous, unconventional appearances.

Fifteen judged classes, including Pre-war Cadillac 1925 to 1942 and Sports and Grand Touring Cars 1946 to 1974, will be included in the Concours, along with three special exhibition classes: Early Cadillac 1903 to 1915; Vintage Fire Trucks; and WWII Military Vehicles and Triage Tent Display. John Carlson, permanent chief class judge at the Pebble Beach Concours, will return as chief judge for the Louisville Concours, joined by judges who have participated in many of the most notable Concours d’Elegances in the nation. Three judges are involved in each class of competition and spend about 15 minutes on each car using a 100-point scoring system, which takes into consideration qualities such as body and paint finish, engine compartment detail and upholstery.

The Louisville Concours is unique in that many of the cars entered in the contest have been chosen by the Children’s Hospital Foundation and a knowledgeable committee. More than 100 cars traveling from 20 U.S. states, Canada and Italy will be exhibited in the Concours contest. Attendees are also encouraged to bring their own vintage rides.

“The idea is to surround these 120 really awesome cars with maybe 500 or 1,000 really neat cars, so when you’re there you get to see exceptional cars,” said Founder and Chairman of the Louisville Concours d’Elegance, Rob Davenport.

Davenport held the first Louisville Concours in 2008 to support Brooklawn Child and Family Services, before the Children’s Hospital Foundation began running the event in 2012. This year’s Louisville Concours d’Elegance will benefit Kosair Children’s Hospital, Kentucky’s only full-service, free-standing children’s hospital. Kosair Children’s Hospital and Kosair Children’s Medical Center – Brownsboro serve nearly 140,000 children annually from throughout Kentucky and Southern Indiana. As a regional facility that treats all children regardless of the family’s ability to pay, the 263-bed hospital relies on support from the community.

“We rely heavily on the community for philanthropic support to support not only the Children’s Hospital Foundation and Kosair Children’s Medical Center,” said Smart, “it’s critical for us (to receive funding) for improvements we make in the facility. … We serve over 140,000 children annually throughout 120 counties in Kentucky and 35 counties in Southern Indiana.”

Aside from the actual Concours, weekend activities have been planned, including a “Welcome to Louisville” reception at 21c Museum Hotel on Friday evening, the “Dawn at the Downs” Champagne Brunch with private viewing of morning racehorse workouts, a delicious meal inside the Kentucky Derby Museum and a private tour of historic Churchill Downs, and a cocktail party inside the Glenview Country Estates.

Sunday’s Concours competition will focus on the battle for the coveted “Best in Show” crystal trophy. Vehicles entered have been restored back to original condition and are worth millions of dollars, Davenport said. The Concours will also include VIP facilities, refreshments and entertainment, an automotive artist exhibit, a “Kids and Cars” tent and other attractions for an anticipated crowd of 6,000-7,000 people to enjoy.

“This is just a phenomenal, exceptional show with historic collector cars around the country,” Smart said. “And whether you’re a car enthusiast or not, they’re outstanding to see.”

For more information on the Concours d’Elegance, visit www.kosairchildrens.com/about-us.