Words Sharie Sblendorio, Photos Jackie Tomarchio Hood:
The Village of Canastota rolled out the red carpet and welcomed the participants of the 2018 New York-to-Paris Great Race celebration.
The members of Apex Automotive Magazine, village officials, the public and many car enthusiasts from around the area were there to greet the participants on June 22. The Apex team helped organize the stop in Canastota because the American Great Race team spent the night at the former Weaver Hotel — where the village office now stands — in 1908.
Jeff Mahl, the great grandson of the winner, George Schuster, spoke to the public and recalled the tales he learned from his great grandfather about the connection to Canastota which included learning about Weed tire chains, which were made in Canastota, and how they were instrumental in helping the car travel in the brutal winter conditions. After the presentation and photos at the historic marker, the group walked to the Canastota Canal Museum where they were able to see an exhibit about the Great Race. Jeff Mahl and the other participants were thrilled with the reception they received, and especially the Canastota Police escort into the village!
Although only three cars were making the entire New York to San Francisco tour to commemorate the 110th anniversary of the Great Race, Jeff and the other participants were kind enough to offer anyone who wanted to join them for any portion of the tour, that they could do so. Two members of the Apex team joined them for the next leg to Buffalo and were treated like royalty. In Buffalo we visited the Buffalo Transportation Pierce Arrow Museum and toured Rich Products, which still maintains the building where the Thomas Flyer cars were manufactured.
In nearby Springville, where George Schuster is from, we visited the Heritage Building. Inside is a great recreation of George Schuster’s automotive business. Also in Springville, we visited the Schuster family home and the Maplewood Cemetery where George Schuster is buried. There was a graveside service, including the playing of taps, which made us feel like we were part of the family.
The next morning, under drizzly rain, they left from the museum in Buffalo, which coincided with the departure of the Hemmings Great Race. At the starting line there were four generations of Schusters in attendance, from his granddaughter down to the great, great, great grandson. What a sight! To learn more about their entire tour across the U.S., go to the blog at 2018nytoparis.com.