The annual Lenoir City Cars and Coffee event is going strong again this year.
From 8 a.m.-noon the third Saturday of every month on Depot Street behind Roane State Community College, hundreds of car enthusiasts can be found enjoying donuts, coffee and cars thanks to organizers Mike Henline and Lenoir City Police Chief Don White.
The season typically runs April through October but was delayed until May due to coronavirus concerns, Henline said. A first meeting was held May 16. Henline said since it’s an outdoor event, people can stay as far apart as they need to in order to maintain social distancing.
“We just felt like we were receiving a lot of emails and calls and text messages wanting us to get it started for 2020, and so we decided we’ve had a tremendous amount of support for going ahead and opening it back up,” White said.
May’s gathering featured approximately 200 cars. On Saturday there were 150 cars, Henline said.
Cars and Coffee started when the two men were discussing their love of cars after a Lenoir City Council meeting “about eight or nine years ago.” They saw a need in the city for people “to just get out and drive their car without a lot of hassle,” White said. Other Cars and Coffee events previously existed in neighboring cities like Knoxville, so they used those as models and asked council for permission.
Part of the appeal of the event is the no-rules environment. There is no signup sheet or fee to show a car. People come and go as they please, Henline said. There’s no money involved. Instead, it’s just people having a good time looking at cars.
No more than 15 cars showed up to the first meeting, White said. That number slowly grew until Cars and Coffee averaged 50-100 vehicles by the end of the first season. Up until this point, Henline and White paid for everything out of pocket. They decided it was time to find sponsors.
Lenoir City Ford and Lenoir City Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep joined as sponsors to provide donuts. Ugly Mug Cafe became a sponsor and provides coffee. White said the three sponsors make sure everybody has enough coffee and donuts to hang around 1-3 hours.
Cars and Coffee has turned into a family gathering. Henline said it’s about fellowship.
“There’s cars here from all over Knox County, Blount County, Friendsville, Loudon, Sweetwater. A whole area of people come,” he said. “This is what it’s about. Like those guys just up there visiting and talking and sitting in chairs. It’s a community get-together. There’s people here that don’t know one car from the other, but they just come because of the fellowship and seeing old friends.”
Lenoir City Mayor Tony Aikens believes the free event offers the community an opportunity to come together. He said the city is blessed to have places of fellowship.
“We appreciate the city’s support in allowing us to use this area down here, and we don’t have to block off any of the main street,” Henline said.