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ZOOM car show at zoo attracts car enthusiasts, animal lovers

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Flashy vintage cars nearly stole the spotlight from the new lynx kittens this weekend.

New York State Zoo at Thompson Park’s ZOOM car show, featuring dozens of vehicles, attracted more than 500 car enthusiasts as well as animal lovers on Saturday alone.

Zoo Executive Director John T. Wright said the car show has been going on for five years, only two of which have been at the zoo. “Before, it used to be at the (Salmon Run) mall and at the fairgrounds,” he said. “Having it here gives the opportunity to attract people who typically might not come to the zoo. It’s like a little hook to get our conservation message across.”

To attract more car owners this year, the zoo offered a $500 people’s choice award. The winner, Dara Oliver, Sackets Harbor, was chosen Saturday afternoon for a red and black 1970 Mustang convertible.

“We want to be known as the wildest car show in Northern New York,” Mr. Wright said.

This year, 45 privately owned cars, 30 commercial cars and about 30 state- and county-owned vehicles were registered for the show. Some owners even brought their all-terrain vehicles or motorcycles to show off.

Mr. Wright said the cars driving through the zoo grounds early Saturday did not have a negative impact on the animals.

“It’s not much out of the ordinary for them,” he said. “We have other events throughout the year, so they’re used to seeing big groups of people.”

One of the first cars visitors saw as they walked out of the gift shop and onto the zoo grounds was Murray G. Pfaff’s 1959 Imperial Speedster. The Detroit resident and Watertown native was alerted about the show by locally owned Standard Auto Parts.

“This car actually I found in Sackets,” said the car illustrator and designer, pointing to the glimmering bronze-gold convertible. After 4 years and 10,000 hours, the four-door sedan became a car featured in Hot Rod magazine and shown at the Playboy Mansion and the Toronto MegaSpeed Car Show.

His car was not a part of the competition. Mr. Pfaff did not think it would be fair to others.

“It’s like bringing a machine gun to a knife fight,” he said.

Alfred N. Davis’s 1971 chocolate brown Camaro was in the competition, however.

He said the car was in “pretty bad shape” when he found it at Claude’s Transmission.

“The thing was draped in mohair,” he said. “It was the ’70s, and all the cars had that.”

The car has only 31,000 miles on it. Sitting in the sun, it sparkled thanks to the gold metal flake in the paint.

“The color is root beer brown with gold metal flake,” Mr. Davis said. “When the sun’s out, it jumps out at you. When it’s in the shade, it’s very dull.”

The show will continue today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“The baby lynx will be out as well,” Mr. Wright said.

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