Hot Dogs and Hot Cars
Members of the Fort Lee community check the hot rods during the 2007 Youthfest held April 4 at the Fort Lee Youth Center. Photo by Daniel R. Gauvin

“I want to get in and drive, daddy,” announced one three-year-old Mackenzie Green, who stood wide-eyed in front of a dazzlingly pink dragster parked in front of the Fort Lee Youth Center last week. Her father did his best to restrain the young would-be driver as he finished gobbling down a mustard-slathered hot dog.

“Of course she wants to drive the pink one,” said Tom Green, who’d brought his kids over to look at the cars after picking them up from the Child Development Center.

The little pink-striped vehicle was one of six colorful automobiles that rumbled up to the Youth Center as hot dogs sizzled on the grill during the Youthfest 2007 held April 4. Alongside the two junior dragsters that seemed to captivate even the youngest in attendance were parked a red 2006 Mustang Saleen Extreme, yellow 2007 Mustang Parnelli Jones/Steve Saleen Limited Edition, a copper 2005 Scion TC a purple 2005 Scion XB.

“What an awesome way for these kids to ‘roll into’ a month of celebration,” said Youth Center director Laura Young, who explained that this event helped to kick off the Month of the Military Child. “What? Was that a little too corny?” she asked, laughing at her own joke as she checked out the line of flashy cars for herself.

The Fort Lee Child/Youth Services Division partnered with Dreamz in Motion, Inc, a local custom automobile builder, to put on this event for the kids in the CYSD programs. Young estimated that more than 175 kids and their families stopped by for a hot dog and some hot cars.

“Our sponsor has asked many times for the opportunity to come out and show off the cars,” Young said. “This event seemed like a good fit for both of us. ”

Two special guests at the event were Shane, 12, and Nicole Hayes, 15, who showed up with their own personal Junior Drag cars, which they race in competition. Nicole is 2005 Youth Champion in the Junior Dragster Racing Division and is currently in first place in the point standings for 2007.

Members of the DIM team talked with the children and their parents about proper maintenance, customization and detailing techniques for automobiles that even fans of Car and Driver magazine may not have known.

“Watching the faces of these kids light up with excitement makes this all worth it,” said Tony Thomas, DIM, vice president.

“The important thing is everyone seems to be having a good time. This is an event I would certainly like to repeat again next year.”