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Corvette culture holds true 60 years later

By Brandon Hurley, Dickinson County News on Monday, June 23, 2014

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(Photo by Brandon Hurley)

The Chevrolet Corvette has been a staple among car enthusiasts for 60 plus years and continues to be as popular as ever.

Craig Germain, a University of Okoboji Corvette Club member and regular Vettes in the Park participant, was hooked from the start – 1953 to be exact. The very first Chevrolet Corvette was built that year, and every single year since there has been a newer, sleeker-looking vehicle. There are seven generations of Corvettes – in which the style of the car stayed fairly the same for several consecutive years. The older generations, obviously, have become rarer and rarer, but still remain as elegant as the day they rolled off the production line.

"I fell in love with them when they were built" he said.

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(Photo by Brandon Hurley)

Germain lives in Winnebago, Minnesota, but attends the Vettes in the Park event each year. "Back then, when we were in high school, we couldn't afford them. I've always been car crazy I guess. And (the Corvette) has always been my favorite car."

Art Stephen is also a member of the University of Okoboji Corvette Club, but it took a little more coaxing for the Augusta, Georgia, native to fall in love. He was relaxing along the curbside Sunday, June 22 in Arnolds Park taking in the view.

"I used to switch back and forth between the Thunderbird – whether I liked one more than the other," the Augusta, Georgia native said. "But then I finally started to really get into the Corvette."

Besides the appealing look of the American classic, the way it handles behind the wheel is beyond compare, Stephen said.

"It really is a great car," said Art Stephen, who owns a summer home in the Lakes. "It handles really well, it takes corners well. It is really a smooth ride. I think that's my favorite part the car, is how well it handles."

It's difficult to find a Corvette owner who just owns one of these elegant beauties. Stephen alone owns three cars – a 1992, 1999 and a 2010 limited edition Corvette.

Stephen bought his first Corvette in 1996. True to a majority of other other Corvette enthusiasts, Stephen loves the look of the vehicle – from the smooth, angled hood, to the squared rear-end with the round, round tail lights. Germain owns two of his own as well.

"I just have always thought they look really cool," Stephen said.

The University of Okoboji Corvette Club was established in 1990 with just 12 members. It has now blossomed to nearly 100 members and is focused on studying the history of the car and help to promote different events. The annual Vettes in the Park three-day event promotes the iconic vehicle through a car parade, autocross, a brunch and the area's largest Corvette show. Monthly meetings are held throughout the varying locations in the Lakes.

Stephen has been a University of Okoboji Corvette Club member for a little more than a year. Germain is just finishing up his second year of membership. They are always on the look out to recruit more Corvette lovers and feel it's a great way to share their passion with people other than their wives.

"This is really such a neat area and I like how we promote events," Stephen said.

The three-day event Vettes in the Park event June 20-23 saw several hundred cars from each generation on display.

With so many years of production and so many different styles, Stephen doesn't have a favorite.

"There really isn't a year that I like more than the other," Stephen said.

Germain shares Stephen's sentiment and struggles to pinpoint one particular year as his favorite either.

"I like them all," he said. "They all have their own special style."

A majority of Corvettes come in reds, blues, yellows and whites, but from time-t0-time one will see a new variety – such as a teal-colored 1954 Corvette or a dark green, 2014 edition – both of which were on display Sunday.

Stephen has attended car shows all over the country, including ones in Minnesota and Pennsylvania, but said the Vettes in the Park show each year can hold its own.

"There may not be a lot of cars here at this particular show, but just the setting along the lake makes it neat," he said. "It really helps promote the area and the cars and it has a family-fun atmosphere."

Corvette owners share a special camaraderie and seem to stick together. Whether swapping stories of road trips or how they stumbled upon that treasured 1964 Corvette, conversation topics aren't hard to come by. That aspect alone keeps Stephen coming back year after year and reassures him that he couldn't have chosen a better car. There's something for everyone to enjoy at Corvette shows – from families to dreamers.

"It's such a great networking opportunity," Stephen said. "It's really neat hearing all of the owner's stories about their cars. It's really a tight group of people."

As the years roll along, so do the Corvettes. A new calendar year means a new Corvette.

The newest member of the family, the 2014 Corvette, has a new, modern feel to it, with sharper angles and a sleek design. But true to it's long history, Chevy has continued to stick to the classic, basic design that makes it one of the most recognizable cars on the market today.

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