Mountain Motoring set for Sept. 11-13

  • Kelsey-Hutchinson Founders Park will be filled with classic cars during the one-time only Mountain Motoring event on Sept. 11-13.
    Kelsey-Hutchinson Founders Park will be filled with classic cars during the one-time only Mountain Motoring event on Sept. 11-13.

While the Highlands Motoring Festival was canceled earlier this summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers found a way to keep the motoring festival momentum moving forward while providing car enthusiasts a taste of what this summer’s festival might have been like. 

Mountain Motoring, a one-time only motoring event is slated for Sept. 11-13 with a pair of laps around the mountains scheduled for Friday and Saturday, an informal parade of classic cars down Main Street on Saturday evening, and capping off  the weekend with High Octane in Kelsey-Hutchinson Founders Park on Sunday. 

Event co-chairman Steve Ham said this motoring event will follow all “phase two” guidelines set down by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper. 

“Every participant will be required to social distance and wear masks,” Ham said. “We have broken down the lap around the mountains drive into two heats so as to follow the governor’s social distancing guidelines, and the additional restrictions put in place by the Town of Highlands.”

A procession of about 40-50 cars will head out from Founders Park on Friday Sept. 11, around 10:15 a.m. following a 10 a.m. driver’s meeting, Ham said. The second heat will leave approximately 30 minutes later. 

On Saturday, Sept. 12 the second lap around the mountains, this one a 180-mile drive will depart from Founders Park around 8:15 a.m. with the second heat leaving about 30 minutes later.

Sunday’s Mountain Motoring will conclude with the “High Octane in the Park Car Show” from 8 a.m. until noon. 

The car show will be open to the public and no registration is necessary since the vehicles participating won’t be judged. To register for either of the driving tours, visit There is limited space for the Sunday car show due to social distancing. 

“The field for Sunday’s car show has been limited to about 30 vehicles so as to maintain social distancing standards in Founders Park,” Ham said. 

The Highlands Motoring Festival is in its 13th year. Despite cold and wet weather in 2019, the festival raised more than $43,000 for three local nonprofit organizations.

Ham noted that planning has already begun for the 2021 festival, which is scheduled for June 10-13, 2021. The feature class will be the “Italian Stallions” a showcase of vintage Italian supercars. Registration for the 2021 festival will begin in November.

Mountain Motoring is designed to give motoring festival fans a taste of the Highlands Motoring Festival, said co-chairman Mark Chmar.

“Because the event was canceled in June, our local charities were to receive nothing from the motoring festival this year,” Chmar said. “Funds generated by our pair of ‘one-lap of the mountains’ drives will benefit our local charities who count on the Highlands Motoring Festival for support each year.”

The first heat will be for any owner of an unusual car who would want to enter, while the second heat will be for classic cars only. The two heats are designed to ensure social distancing standards, Chmar said. 

“We’ve set the field for each drive to be between 40-50 cars, so as to maintain proper social distancing,” Chmar said. “Lunch will be provided for each heat.”

On Saturday evening, participating cars in this fall’s Mountain Motoring will participate in what Ham calls “a very loose and informal parade up and down Main Street.”

“Cars will gather in the park at 5:30 p.m. and the parade will start around six, with the participating cars cruising Main Street,” Ham said.

The vision for Highlands Motoring Festival was conceived in 2007, at a lunch table after a Rotary Club of Highlands meeting. 

“The mission was to contribute to local charities and the Highlands business community by attracting ‘gear heads’ to our beautiful area,” Ham said. 

The inaugural event took place in September 2008 with 114 cars in attendance. The show venue was created by blocking off Pine Street and utilizing the park and nearby the parking lots. Local car enthusiasts stepped up and volunteered to help. The vision of an annual event had become reality.

Since then, the festival has continued uninterrupted, with the exception of this summer, with net proceeds going to many local charities including The Hudson Library, Rotary Club of Highlands, The Emergency Council, REACH, Cashiers Highlands Humane Society, the Community Care Clinic and the Literacy Council of Highlands.