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Corvettes on the Columbia, a long-running celebration of all things Corvette and a major fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Alaska & Washington, returns in September after organizers were forced to cancel the 2020 event because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The 3 Rivers Corvette Club will hold the 2021 edition – its 11th – from Sept. 10-11. It is normally held in June but is postponed to September as a concession to the lingering effects of the pandemic. The later date gives planners breathing room after the state lifted restrictions on gatherings at the end of June.

The delay is the only concession to Covid-19, said Matt Price, president of the club. In his day job, Price is an executive with the McCurley Integrity Dealerships, where his responsibilities include fleet services and overseeing its Corvette program, including new and used sales.

A Corvette enthusiast, he drives his 2013 60th anniversary edition daily during the warm months when the combination of rear wheel drive and torque are perfectly suited to hot pavement.

“These are cars that are not driven in snow,” he said.

The car show, which includes an auction, dinner and other events, raised $145,000 for Make-A-Wish in 2019, making it one of the largest fundraisers for the wish fulfillment charity in the region. The club eked out a modest donation in 2020 even though the event was canceled.

Its donations are earmarked to fulfill the wishes of ill children in Eastern Washington, from shopping trips and snowboard outings to Disneyland trips and puppies.

“Families here are what it is all about,” Price said.

Courtesy Tom McKenna

Price hopes to pass along more than $145,000 in 2021, though he said it will be a challenge. The final tally depends on donations as well as a share of per-car sales from McCurley. Thanks to the much-reported computer chip shortage affecting auto manufacturers, car sales have slowed.

So, Price is inviting Corvette lovers and the community to team up to ensure Make-A-Wish gets the support it needs after a year that saw its ability to grant wishes slowed by the pandemic.

Price said area residents can donate during the all-Corvette show at Columbia Park in Kennewick. Admission is free. Make-A-Wish will have a tent where it will share heartwarming tales of wishes granted and collect donations. Supporters can contact Price at McCurley or leave checks – made out to Make-A-Wish – at his office at the Pasco Autoplex off Court Street.

Make-A-Wish needs

The feel-good nonprofit that grants wishes to children with terminal illnesses has felt the same pinch as its peers, said Angela Miller, regional director. The in-person events that drive donations were canceled and replaced with virtual ones.

Wishes typically fall into four categories. Travel is by far the most popular. Travel is also the least expensive to grant, thanks to widespread support for its mission from the hospitality and travel industries.

Travel was cancelled, but it has continued to grant wishes for items, experiences and virtual encounters with celebrities.

Miller said travel trailers were the most popular wish during the pandemic, a challenge given the $20,000 price tag and the shortage of recreation vehicles.

Miller said the ongoing support from the Corvette show is invaluable. Since it began 12 years ago, the Tri-City event has generated more than $750,000, easily its largest fundraiser in the region, she said.

But no thanks to the pandemic, Make-A-Wish has not been able to keep up. It had to postpone 250 travel-related wishes, and because children keep being diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses, it now has 600 wishes on its list.

Miller is eager to get back on track. She noted the national organization’s medical advisory team has approved granting travel requests beginning Sept. 15.

Besides money, Make-A-Wish has a deep need for volunteers in the Tri-Cities. It takes two volunteers to coordinate each wish and, she said, it is the best job in the world.

Go to wish.org/akwa.

Fun in sun

Corvettes on the Columbia is of course about more than raising money for charity.

It brings together Corvette enthusiasts and those with an interest or passion for high-performance muscle cars.

“I can’t imagine not owning one,” Price said.

He’d been Corvette-less for about five years before he bought his current model in 2016. He’d written out exactly what he wanted in his next car and held onto the scrap of paper for four years.

In 2016, a California transplant traded in the 2013 model of Price’s dreams. He pounced, buying it 10 days before Christmas, to his wife’s dismay. But it was the car listed on his scrap paper.

“Down to the calipers,” he said. “Everything was exactly what I was looking for.”

(Courtesy Tom McKenna)

At McCurley, he oversees an average of 40 new and used Corvette sales a year, with customers coming from throughout the region to tap into his network of contacts for deals and equipment.

He’s presold the next three years’ allocation of new models from the manufacturer and monitors auctions for Corvette listings. In the middle of an interview about the car show, he paused to take a call, then pumped his fist.

A McCurley buyer was reporting in after submitting the winning bid for a 2019 Grand Sport convertible. Price wanted it for the dealer’s inventory, knowing it would sell quickly.

Even those who prefer new will snap up used ones to get the experience and then trade in when “their” car appears.

Price said the Columbia Park show is for Corvettes only, with every model represented. Owners come from five western states and Canada to show their vehicles.

“We have to get that border open,” he said, referring to the still-closed (as of press time) U.S.-Canada border.

By tradition, each year’s event brochure highlights the winner of the previous event’s People’s Choice competition. For 2021, it is a 2019 blue convertible owned by a Puget Sound area resident.

If you go

Friday, Sept. 10 is centered at the Red Lion Hotel Pasco. Registration and a silent auction open at 9 a.m. There is a wine walk to benefit Make-A-Wish, a pool party and a Corvette Dinner beginning at 5:30 p.m., leading up to a dance at 7:30 p.m.

On Saturday, Sept. 11, the action shifts to Columbia Park. The event includes a moment of silence to acknowledge the 9/11 attacks and includes car judging, a lunch with vendors, a concert and more Corvette-related activities. A banquet and concert begin at 5:30 p.m. at the Pasco hotel.

Events in the park are free. Registration for the complete event is $160 for singles and $210 for couples.

Go to 3riverscorvetteclub.net/2021-corvettes-on-the-columbia.