A mighty rumble was heard as 333 cars and trucks roared into town during Mountain Festival weekend. Row upon row of vintage and classic automobiles lined the streets of downtown Tehachapi in Thunder on the Mountain's biggest car and truck show held to date.
Each year, the small group of volunteer committee members who work tirelessly to host Thunder on the Mountain gather at Philip Marx Central Park post event and distribute a portion of the car show proceeds to local charities and organizations.
On Sept. 11, the committee invited the 12 recipients selected this year and gave away $14,500, but first Thunder on the Mountain set aside $7,500 for scholarships, which it will award to local students graduating in 2018.
"Some of the charities are automatic from year to year," said Al Baumgarten, co-chairman. "It depends on the presentation and what the group (of committee members) think. Some of them have favorites, like Have a Heart or S.T.O.P., and of course, Honor Flight, in honor of the people who served our country."
After introducing the committee members to the recipients gathered for the distribution, Baumgarten said, "We had a very good year this year... and plan on doing better next year as we have a lot of hard-working people."
Thunder on the Mountain committee members first began meeting last February in preparation for the 2017 car show.
"We get a whole four months off before we start again planning," Baumgarten said.
Meet the recipients
Recipients of this year's proceeds include the Tehachapi Senior Center, the Salvation Army, Optimal Hospice Foundation, Tehachapi Police Foundation, Have a Heart Humane Society, S.T.O.P. Rescue, Tehachapi Humane Society, Tehachapi Community Theatre, VFW Post #5948, Tehachapi Valley C.E.R.T., Honor Flight of Kern County and the Greater Tehachapi Chamber of Commerce.
"On behalf of Honor Flight of Kern County, I would like to thank Thunder on the Mountain for their generous contribution," said Rick Zanutto. "On this Thursday, we will be sending 50 Vietnam vets on our 29th flight back to see their memorial which was made possible by organizations like yours and people like yourselves."
He went on to say that in October, Honor Flight will send 25 World War II and Korean War veterans to see their memorial — and it's possible with generous donations.
Accepting a donation on behalf of the Salvation Army, Sandy Chavez said it was much-needed and was received just in time.
"The holidays are just around the corner, and God knows we have lots of folks in need," Chavez said.
Since Jim and Dawn Nelson first started the Tehachapi C.E.R.T. team 15 years ago, they have trained more than 1,000 residents to serve on the community emergency response team.
"The money will be used by the team to buy equipment to help us respond in the event of a disaster," said Sally Thoun on behalf of C.E.R.T.
Accepting the donation on behalf of the Tehachapi Police Foundation, Chief of Police Kent Kroeger said it will use the money to fund its annual Shop With a Cop event held during the holiday season.
"We select 20 kids from our school district, and they get to go shop with a cop for Christmas," the chief said.
Kroeger said the children are referred to the foundation by the school district. Each child receives a $100 gift card, and are taken to dinner by the officers before riding caravan-style to Kmart in police cars to spend the money and meet Santa.
"Generally, they spend the gift card on themselves and also on their family," Kroeger said. "Without the Thunder on the Mountain car show committee, this wouldn't be possible."
Committee member Sharron Letson said the money that was distributed was raised through the purchase of raffle tickets during the car show.
"It is so cool to be standing there at 5:30 in the morning and see all these amazing cars lined up and down the street," Letson said. "Next year, we would like to have more, but we only have so many volunteers to run the event."