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Cindy Williams signs an autograph at the Iola Car Show on July 8th. Williams starred in the 1973 film American Graffiti and attended that year’s show with two other actresses from the film, Candy Clark and Mackenzie Phillips. Greg Seubert’s photo

Old cars and curds

By Greg Seubert

Nearly 50 years after its release, “American Graffiti” continues to resonate with audiences.

The 1973 film tells the story of a group of teenagers roaming the streets of Modesto, California on an August night in 1962.

Three of the film’s stars — Cindy Williams, Candy Clark and Mackenzie Phillips — attended this year’s Iola Car Show, which ran July 7-9.

Williams, who later played Shirley Feeney in the TV series Laverne and Shirley, said she didn’t initially appreciate the film’s impact.

“We had no idea until about two weeks into shooting, George Lucas took us into a studio and showed us a 20-minute assemblage of the film with music,” she said. “We knew we were into something special: the time, the place, the music, the fun-loving aspect and the moral of it.”

Lucas directed and co-wrote the film, which also starred Ron Howard, Harrison Ford and Richard Dreyfuss.

The film, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, cost less than $800,000 to produce and has grossed more than $200 million in box office and home video.

Williams played Laurie Henderson, the girlfriend of Howard’s character Steve Bolander. Howard played Richie Cunningham on the television series Happy Days from 1974 to 1980 before going into film directing with Splash, Cocoon, Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind.

The film’s background music featured a who’s who of early rock ‘n’ roll pioneers from Chuck Berry to Buddy Holly to Fats Domino.

“It was fun for the audience and cast to record,” Williams said. “People hold on to it because it was a beautiful time before President Kennedy was assassinated.”

Williams, Howard, Clark and Phillips joined other cast members of “American Graffiti” for a sequel, More American Graffiti, in 1979.

Al Leonard of Pickford, Michigan polishes his 1958 Edsel Corsair July 8 on day two of the Iola Car Show. Leonard’s car was part of an exhibit centered around the 1973 film American Graffiti. Greg Seubert’s photo

Edsel lover

The auto show also included a display of cars associated with the film.

Al Leonard brought his 1958 Edsel Corsair, the car Williams and Howard drove through the streets of Modesto in the film.

“I found it at an air park in Spring Hill, Florida last spring,” he said. “I only got it working three days before I arrived.”

Leonard, who lives in Pickford in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, recalled seeing “American graffiti” years ago.

“It showed what it was like growing up in that time, cruising and stuff like that,” he said. “People were coming back from the Vietnam War and cars were all the rage. A lot of them came back from the war with mechanical skills and got involved with these cars and races.”

Leonard has been collecting cars for more than 50 years.

“Cars are like a left arm, you love them or you hate them,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for 55 years. I find them and they have to be original and rust-free, otherwise I won’t buy them.”

Ford introduced the Edsel in 1957 but only made it for a little over two years.

“The Edsel is a story in itself and would probably take hours to explain,” Leonard said. “It came at the wrong time. In 1958 there was a terrible recession and they only reached half of the production numbers. They only sold 64,000 instead of 120,000, but it was still the second-highest of any automaker that year. If they had waited six months they would have started selling these.”

Leonard was eventually fascinated by the Edsel.

“He runs and drives fabulously,” he said. “It’s a beautiful car, it’s well made, it’s solid, it’s well engineered, but it’s been mismarketed.

“Anyone can have a Camaro, anyone can have a Firebird,” he added. “I like the oddball. You don’t find these everywhere and a lot of people don’t know what they are. People follow me down the street to a gas station and have their picture taken. We even stopped at every gas station on the way here.”

Leonard attended the Iola show for the first time.

“There’s a little town in Michigan called St. Ignace,” he said. “You have 100,000 people and the atmosphere and the cars are the same. They have a different theme every year. It’s very similar to Iola and I love it.”

Stacey Delforge processes an order for cheese curds in the Wittenberg Lions Club cheese curd trailer at the Iola Car Show in Iola. The club has had a supporter at the fair for a number of years. Greg Seubert’s photo

cheese please

Classic cars are the main attraction of the car fair every year.

Thanks to the Lions Club Wittenberg, fresh fried cheese curds could be in second place.

The club has been bringing its cheese curd trailer to the show for more than 40 years. This year’s show helped the club raise thousands of dollars for local causes.

“This is our most important fundraiser,” said club secretary Gary Thompson. “We provide scholarships to Veterans Flight of Honor, Lions Eye Bank, Wisconsin Lions Camp at Rosholt, Special Olympics, the Wittenberg community and high school scholarships.”

The show celebrated its 50th anniversary this year and Thompson said the club has been selling its curds on the show for at least 40 years.

Shortly after the gates opened for the show, a line formed outside the trailer. An order of Quark sold for $5, but several people walked out of the trailer with more than one order.

“They’re beer-battered with our own mix,” Thompson said. “This year we’re using Ellsworth Cheese Curds from Ellsworth, Wisconsin. It’s a really good curd and they make it specifically for frying.”

Nine people worked inside the trailer. Some, like Stacey Delforge, dropped the curds into hot oil, while others passed the curds through a window or prepared them for the fryer.

“Right now we’re using seven cans of beer and five pounds of fry mix,” Thompson said. “We mix that together and put it on top of about 80 to 100 pounds of curd.”

The club bought their custom trailer two years ago to replace a trailer the club had used for more than 30 years.

Show attendees had a wide variety of food options including hamburgers, bratwurst, chicken, egg rolls and funnel cakes.

“We used to go through 2,700 pounds in four days here,” Thompson said. “They’ve cut the show down to three days so we’re hoping to pull through £2,000 this year.”

The association also takes its quark trailer to other events such as the Wittenberg community days and the Eland days.

“Two weeks ago we went to the farm in Waupaca County for brunch,” Thompson said. “We did it a bit differently. Instead of charging money for the curd, we just donated it to people for free, and if they wanted to give us something in return, they could.”

Thompson said the club will be back for next year’s auto show.

“I always say we’re almost world famous,” he said. “We have people come up and say, ‘The only reason I come to the show is because of your cheese curds.'”

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