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Porsche Fans Gather in Arkansas for Annual Palooza

  • Yi Suli

Porsche cars are often associated with wealth and status, sometimes also with mid-life crises. In November 2006, Porsche fans gathered in a small town in northwestern Arkansas for the camaraderie of fellow Porsche fans while driving the twisting country roads and enjoying the great scenery. For producer Ii Sully, Elaine Lou has the story.

More than 100 people and their beloved cars gathered at the small town of Eureka Springs, (in the Southern state of) Arkansas this past November, for the Porsche Palooza, a gathering of Porsche fans and drivers. Why Eureka Springs? Organizers Leonard and Melody Zechiedrichs explain.

Leonard says, "This event came about because we didn't want to drive 1,000 miles (1600 kilometers) to an event to the west coast or east coast. We like those events but for the people in mid-America, that's a long way to go for a weekend. I thought it would be a good idea to have an event like that here."

Melody adds, "We have the potential of being a rival for the west coast and east coast events. Thirteen states [are] here -- it is amazing to us how much this event has grown."

An old Victorian town of only 2,500 residents, Eureka Springs is dubbed "Little Switzerland" for its soaring mountains, gentle valleys and serene lakes. "The number one comments we hear -- the roads here are great: open roads twisting through the mountains with beautiful scenery," said Leonard.

But it is more than just driving. Jim Graven was one of the 2006 Porsche Palooza participants. "Oh, the camaraderie, making new friends, meeting friends I've seen at other events. Having a good time."

Many people associate Porsche with being in mid-life crises. Wayne Corlui, a Porsche modifying expert, offered his thoughts on this perception. "I think the reason people think Porsche owners are in mid-life crisis [is] because they can only afford them by the time they get to middle life. But I think if anyone who is 20 can afford one, they would buy them also. But our clients are running from people in their 20s to 70s."

Many Porsche fans at the 2006 Palooza questioned such an association, too.

One fan, Robert Waldrop, says, "No, no. I have too many motorcycles for that."

Another fan, Dave Sorrows, says, "I hope not. I don't think I'm quite there yet. I've always enjoyed sports cars."

Graven ponders, "I don't know. Hopefully not. That's a good question. Hopefully not."

"This is a 1960 356 -- 356 was the first model of the Porsches. This is the oldest car here. And of course it is 46 years old." Barry Sorrells relies on his Audi for transportation, while his “toy” Porsche runs only 800 kilometers a year. "This is the heritage that other cars spring from. This was the granddaddy of all the others."

This Porsche 2006 S Style cost Steve Reyna a hefty amount. "Counting the extended warranty and everything, about $75,000."

But Reyna says all the compliments make it worth it. "A lot of people look at your car. You got tremendous amount of compliments no matter where you stop, whether it is a kid or an adult or whoever. Someone's always making a really nice compliment about your car. That's kind of good feeling."

Against conventional wisdom, Sheanne Lucas does not think one has to be very rich to own a Porsche. "They are a lot more affordable than you think. You can buy the new ones. You can buy the gently used ones. So everybody can have a Porsche."

Between Leonard and Melody Zechiedrich, they have four Porsches. A 1995 Porsche 968 cost them the most, at $25,000. Leonard says, "It is a hobby. Or maybe it is a sickness. I'm not sure. But really more it is a hobby. And I like working on them. I like tinkering around with them. And being a schoolteacher you'd better be able to work on your own car because you are not going to be able to afford to have someone to work on the car for you."

Twenty Porsches entered the Autocross competition, where cars navigate traffic cones along a temporary course. It emphasizes car handling and driving skills rather than speed and power. "The challenge is it is [an] extremely tight course. You have to navigate through the course without backing up or running over cones. It's going to be a tough course,” said Leonard.

Jean Jacobi drives a 2000 Boxster "You ask if I can win? Yes!" Jacobi said it was the spirit of competition that drew people to this year's Porsche Palooza, and their shared love of a classic sports car.

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