By Sharon Gittleman
DETROIT – For nearly a dozen car lovers there was just one place to be last weekend – Gay Day at the North American International Auto Show.
The group met up at the Blend Coffee & Smoothie Company in the Compuware building in Campus Martius Park before they hopped on the People Mover and headed out to the show.
“It’s an opportunity for people in our community to come together to participate in some fun and social activities,” said Deanna Tocco, program director for the event’s sponsor, Affirmations Lesbian and Gay Community Center. “It’s something we as an organization are looking to do more of.”
Affirmations Board Member Roman Nestorowicz said when the visitors got to the show at the COBO Center, they broke up into smaller groups and singles to better navigate the hall packed with people – and more than 700 concept cars, roadsters, crossover vehicles, luxury trucks and SUVs.
Vehicles, from the hard-working Jeep Wrangler to the glamorous Jaguar XK were perched on displays, inviting visitors to dream about what it would feel like to jump in and hit the road.
Before the event, Nestorowicz said he hoped to catch a glimpse of the Camaro concept car.
“I have heard some good things about it and I’m interested in seeing what the designers have thought up,” he said.
At the show, the group had plenty of time to plan their purchases.
“Throughout the day our paths would cross each other,” said Nestorowicz. “We’d compare notes about what cars we enjoyed.”
Organizers hoped similar outings would offer more chances to meet new people.
“Affirmations is a great resource to organize these events,” he said. “These activities are a gap the center can fill.”
Larry Clairmont, 50, said he wanted to see what the Big Three are offering to consumers this year.
“I’m hoping I’ll find something I like that’s U.S. made,” said Clairmont, a Canton resident. “My other half works for Ford. I’d like to buy something from his company.”
It didn’t take long for Clairmont to make up his mind to visit the show.
“There’s new and shiny cars and fun people,” he said. “I thought it would be fun to be around people I could relate to.”
Ken Gourlay, 28, said he’s come to the COBO Center for the annual event nearly ten times in years past.
“The auto show is always exciting,” he said. “For me, cars mean independence and showing off a little.”
The high-tech options available in new models interested Gourlay, a Detroit resident.
“I have a co-worker who bought an Acura with a navigation system. I thought it was fantastic,” he said. “It talks to you.”
Royal Oak resident Rick Chizmadia said he wanted to see the new models with good friends.
“It’s more fun to come with a gaggle of gays,” he said.
By Sharon Gittleman