A Caring Community of Cars Fuels Philanthropy
More than 300 vintage cars and almost a thousand people filled the Verplanck waterfront on a sunny Saturday afternoon, as Knights of the Road Automobile Club presented its first show at Cortlandt Waterfront Park in September.
The event featured vendors, live music and, of course, awards for some of the most outstanding automobiles. Local officials were also present, including the Town Supervisor of Cortlandt Richard Beckerwho presented some of the prizes.
“[Cortlandt] took us with open arms, and that’s where we’ll be in the future,” says Road Knights President Jules Elisio.
The Road Knights were founded in 1955 by brothers Joe and Jimmy Gurran, who built hot rods in their Peekskill garage. Their aim was to show that auto clubs were more than just havens for the type of troublemaking delinquents featured in exploitation films of the time.
To this end, philanthropy and community involvement have been a priority for the Knights from the start. Over the years, they have contributed to libraries, food pantries, veterans organizations and local families.
The recipient of the club’s fundraiser in September was the family of seven Lucas Canniffa Yorktown Heights resident who has been paralyzed from the waist down since the age of less than a year due to a blood clot in the spinal cord.
“All the money we raise goes to our community,” says Elisio. “Cars are our passion, but we use cars to attract people to help the community.”
In addition to the smaller events the club holds in towns across the region, the Road Knights hold two major car shows a year – one in the fall and a “dust” event in the spring. For the past 15 years, these events have taken place on the Peekskill waterfront, and when it came time to change venues, the club wanted to keep the Hudson River as their backdrop.
“When you’re against the waterit’s really nice,” says Brian DeeOwner of Brian’s car at Peekskill, who have been with the club since 1990. “We all decided we wanted a place on the water again.”
Cortlandt’s association with the Road Knights prompted several proposals for improvements to the waterfront area, including better access to electricity, an amphitheater, and a series of drive-in movies with jump cars delivering burgers and creams with eggs.
“We have irons in the fire with the town of Cortlandt,” says Dee. “They’ve been very responsive and we look forward to working with them.”
In addition to their charitable work, the Road Knights contribute to the community by driving business at restaurants and stores in the cities where their events are held.
“You get a thousand, fifteen hundred people that you wouldn’t normally see in your area,” says Dee. “It’s definitely good for business.”
Fostering a sense of community and helping those in need has become just as important to the Road Knights as the cars themselves, according to Elisio.
“The Road Knights’ goal is to show people that we are a united community,” he says. “We have to stick together and help each other.
Preparations are already underway for the club’s spring show, which they hope will build on the success of their September event.
“It’s going to be phenomenal out there,” Dee said. “Wait another year, it’s going to be more cars and more fun.”
Christian Larson, who lives in Peekskill, is editor of River Journal North and host of its RiverTalk podcast. He is also an event organizer. Visit it >capngoodtimes.com.
[14pt caption > Lucas Caniff]
Seven-year-old Lucas Canniff of Yorktown Heights, whose family benefited from the event’s fundraiser, chooses the winner of the 50/50 draw with the help of Brian Dee.
[14pt caption > Cars lined up]
“Cars are our passion, but we use cars to attract people to help the community” – Giulio Elisio, President of Road Knights