GARDINER — When the first car came through checkpoint at 5:06 p.m., a cheer went up from the people gathered there.

The people lining Water Street had been waiting, some for hours, for the cars taking part in the Hemming Motor News Great Race presented by Hagerty to arrive.

The annual rally-style race, featuring antique and vintage cars, is being run this year from Buffalo, New York, to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Howard Reiche drove up from Freeport to see his son, Ford, arrive in a 1930 Ford Speedster that Howard Reiche had built. As it happens, he said Ford is a family name; he didn’t name his son after a car. “This is such a great time,” he said.

Reiche’s car was not the first through the checkpoint. That position was for Peter Prescott, who had worked to get the Great Race to come through central Maine since 2014, the first year he had a car in the race. That year, it started in Ogunquit and immediately traveled south to its terminus in Florida.

Prescott was joined by Gov. Paul LePage for the check-in, in his dark green 1948 Ford sedan, emblazoned with a bright red lobster.

Elaine and Tom Gomolka drove in from West Gardiner and staked out a spot with chairs on Water Street.

The attraction for them was the cars, some of which prompted nostalgic thoughts.

Elaine Gomolka said she learned to drive in a 1955 Chevrolet. Her father also had an Impala, which had an automatic transmission, but she couldn’t drive it until she mastered the stick shift in the other car.

Sebastian Bond, at 8, is years away from driving, but he was still waiting with phone camera at the ready to get a shot of the Dodge Power Wagon that was expected.

His father, Andrew Bond, drove them up from Brunswick to check out the cars.

Coordinating an event of this scale took months of planning.

When this year’s route through Maine was announced, Gardiner Main Street and the Kennbec Valley Chamber of Commerce teamed up to line up sponsors, support and volunteers for the event.

“We could not have done this without the volunteers,” Gardiner Mayor Thom Harnett said.

“I think this is the biggest event we’ve ever had. It’s great. There are a lot of people here and a lot of eyeballs that have never seen Gardiner before,” he said.

After he had parked his car, Prescott said he was pleased with the turnout.

In addition to the parade of cars, festivities contiued at Waterfront Park with food trucks and some local antique and vintage cars on display.

Heather Merrow traveled to Gardiner from Waterville after hearing about it on the radio Tuesday, with her husband, Ralph, and son Nicholas. While they looked at the cars, she sat on a bench and kept an eye on them.

“We all had the day off and it doesn’t cost any money,” she said.

The Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center organized a show at the waterfront and the evening was capped with a fireworks show.

The drivers and their support teams were scheduled to stay in Augusta on Tuesday night and start the next leg of their race to the coast Wednesday morning.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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