By Elsie Walker
Thirty-five years ago, Terry Cook Delahaya USA in Chester started a car show that turned into an event like no other: Lead East, known as the world’s biggest ‘50’s party. The event grew to become a journey back in time to the music, dance, movies, and sights of the 1950s.
After the last Lead East, Cook decided to retire to write a book. However, the party isn’t over. Four longtime Lead East attendees from the Hope area have taken ownership of the event and Jim Craig of Great Meadows has become event coordinator. With these changes, Lead East still features an abundance of classic cars, but it is morphing from a party into a festival of the 1950s, with more offerings for kids than in the past. Classic cars are still a big part of it, as is the spirit of giving. Lead East will run from Thursday, Aug. 30 to Sunday, Sept. 2 at the Parsippany Hilton.
“We want to open the door to more generations and introduce other generations to the ‘50’s,” explained Craig. He compares attending Lead East to being beamed up to a spaceship and taken back in time. Things were different then. “In the ‘50s, everything was American; it was an American phenomenon,” he said.
Lead East has always had the sounds of rock and roll bands and accapella do-wop groups, the look of ‘50s fashion like poodle skirts and greased back hair, plus a traditional prom and even Elvis sightings. Now, it is offering more for not only those who remember the ‘50s, but those experiencing it for the first time.
Craig shared that people can learn about how to dress like the ‘50’s or to decorate their home ‘50’’s style. Country line dancing has been added to the dance lesson offerings. Craig noted that classic country was also part of the ‘50’s. For kids there will be Craigles the clown, a clown mobile, a flea circus, face painting, balloon animals and contests. A model making contest will be open to both boys and girls, in two different age groups. The children will be supplied with model car kits and judged on who does best at putting one together. Another contest for kids is to see who can get the best greaser (greaser down hair) look.
Of course, Lead East wouldn’t be Lead East without cars with 1,400 plus cars expected to arrive by Friday of the event. They come from not only New Jersey, but a variety of states. Also, they’re not all from the ‘50s. There will be cars from the 1930s – 1970s: classics, rot rods, muscle cars and more.
One aspect of Lead East is that of giving. Every year, Lead East picks a charity to support and this year it is the Ashley-Lauren Foundation which helps children in N.J. who have cancer. There will be a booth at which 50/50 tickets will be sold.
Also, as it has been for many years, Piccatinny Arsenal, from Dover, will be on hand showing some of its military vehicles and collecting toys for Toys for Tots to be given out to needy area children at Christmas. The Parsippany police and fire departments are also expected to be on hand with vehicles and taking donations.
For more information about Lead East, including admission, visit its site at