WARREN TOWNSHIP - For the past 19 years, the Glenn Christian Foundation Church has provided a weekend of classic cars, food and rides for families to enjoy at no charge to them. The brainchild of Pastor Frank Glenn, he said the Labor Day weekend ox roast and car show originally started as a fall church picnic.
"One Sunday before the event, I said to members of the congregation if they had old cars. I told them to bring their cars to the picnic and park them on the grounds. We had 17 guys with old cars that first year. The next year we had 75 and then the next 250 cars," Glenn said.
Glenn said he himself had a red 1964 GTO, which he brought to many of the car shows.
Year after year, more and more cars started to fill the church grounds off Parkman and Templeton roads.
"It eventually got so big we could not handle it here so we moved to the Trumbull County Fairgrounds," Glenn said noting of the 19 years for the event, 11 have been held at the fairgrounds.
The event has received national attention including being selected Best of Show in Cruisin' Times magazine for 15 years. Glenn said the public votes for their choice for the magazine.
Glenn said in addition to many local crowds, the event brings people from California, Maryland, Tennessee and even Canada.
Glenn said once when he was in Las Vegas he was recognized by someone who had been to the car show and remembered it.
''It's received national attention,'' he said.
"People tell me they have heard about this event but they couldn't believe it. When they get here, they still can't believe it," Glenn said.
The event is all free including rides, entry, entertainment, door prizes, parking and food.
Glenn said last year more than 5,000 roast beef sandwiches and 10,000 hot dogs and tons of corn were served.
He said Lutz Farm in Lordstown plants a special row of corn for the event.
"There are people who take vacations over Labor Day weekend to work at the ox roast and days after for cleanup. People plan their vacations so they can be at the event," Glenn said.
"People ask me how we are able to do all this," he said.
Hundreds of sponsors and donations from individuals and businesses make the event possible. Glenn said there is retired teacher who gives $1,000 each year to cover the cost of the rides.
"We don't charge anyone. The sponsors make it possible," Glenn said.
He said many people think you have to pay to be on the rides and we are always glad to tell them they are free.
"This is a charitable event for the community that creates memories for the kids and their families That is what it is all about," Glenn said.
He said he remembers when he and his own family went on picnics and events at Mosquito Lake or the Trumbull County Fair when it was located where Warren G. Harding High School is today.
"If we can do anything thing in this life we can do something for the children and their families to enjoy," Glenn said.
"It's a honor to be part of this. I think about all the people involved with this. We have 50 people judging cars, motorcycles and tractors. No car show around has 50 judges,'' he said.
Glenn said he credits all the people parking cars, cooking food, making sandwiches, providing security, and handing out trophies.
"There are so many people involved with this who do such great work. These are good people,'' he said.
Glenn has served 42 years as pastor of Glenn Christian Church. The ministry started at the Grange Hall in Warren.
"I originally wasn't going to be a pastor but an evangelist,'' he said.
The church is active in the community recently hosting a blood drive and collecting $4,000 and 80 shoeboxes for the Samaritan Purse Operation Christmas Child. The church is also active with Right for Life and the Warren Family Mission.
Glenn said the church has also been located at Grange Hall in Warren, then at Horace Mann School, Secrest School and Austin Village Plaza. The church began at the current site in 1982 with additions in the 1990s.
John and Marcy Chizmar, who help at the annual ox roast, said the event is often referred to as ''Trumbull County's best kept secret.''
"Pastor Glenn has taught our congregation that caring for others is paramount. He leads by example. Even the congregation sees him caring for others by providing this free event. Everyone is anxious to help by volunteering to make it happen each and every year," Marcy Chizmar said.
She said the event is about families having fun together, especially families who may not be able to afford other entertainment, such as county fairs or amusement parks.
Marcy Chizmar said the event brings in 2,500 to 3,000 cars from across the nation not to mention the 40,000 plus people who attend and receive sandwiches and meals.
John Chizmar said the real secret is how hard Glenn and his wife, Linda, work on the show.
''No one sees the hours spent with the fair board, dealing with vendors, negotiating to provide the rides, and setting up their personal display of memorabilia," John Chizmar said.
Marcy Chizmar said Glenn has led his entire congregation to take care of a whole community.
"It was Rev. Glenn's idea and vision that made it happen,'' she said.