SUMMERFIELD, Fla. – Every now and then someone will come across a classic 1950s or 1960s car that brings back memories of a different time. The Twilight Cruisers, of Belleview, are giving today’s generation a sense of what life was like during that time.
The Twilight Cruisers have been gathering in Marion County for 22 years with the intention to preserve and tell the stories about classic cars, according to the organization’s founder Steve Hawter.
“That’s what the era was; it was camaraderie, it was a feeling of togetherness,” Hawter said. “That was an era that to me will never ever come back.”
Through his organization, Hawter, a native from Scranton, Pennsylvania, said he hopes to maintain that era when classic cars came about and pass on the memories.
“We’re in the twilight years of our life. I mean, when we’re gone, this era you know, it’s gone," Hawter said. “A lot of people don’t understand what that era was or remember that era -- drive-in movies, backseat drive-in movies and you know, fun.”
Part of the fun was meeting up with friends to show off their cars, according to Twilight Cruisers vice president Joseph Spatola.
“Quite honestly, I think anybody that lived in the ’50s had the best life ever," Spatola said. “We didn’t lock doors, we left the keys in the car that was the way of life.”
Every year, the group organizes events to showcase classic cars from the ’50s and early ’60s but also hot rods from the 1930s and hot wheels including Corvettes.
“You need to keep the generations going because if we don’t have the next generation, they’re gonna end with us,” group member John Trapp said.
But the organization's mission goes beyond bringing together fans of classic cars. It's about helping those going through difficult times.
For almost 20 years, The Twilight Cruisers has been organizing Toys for Kids --a December event where hundreds of vintage cars are brought out to raise funds and toy donations for children in Marion County and for Interfaith, a local nonprofit that provides emergency assistance to people and families in crisis.
“That’s what it’s all about -- giving back; you know, I’ve been asked that question, ‘Why do you do this?’ and I don’t understand it. I don’t understand why people wouldn’t give back," Hawter said. “We’re so blessed here in this country that we have so much to be thankful for.”
To make a donation or contact the founder, visit twilightcruisersflorida.com.