Cars and commemoration highlight Sept. 11 benefit

Sunday Times Newspapers

SOUTHGATE — Can the 11th of September be more than a day of tragic history?

Sgt. Ron Pongracz, Vice President of the Southgate Fraternal Order of Police, said the organization’s annual car and truck show tries to balance memorial tributes with a celebration of law enforcement and community activism.

“We’re trying to remember this tragedy — it needs to be remembered — but also turn it into a positive day,” Pongracz said. On Sept. 15, the third annual Southgate Police 9-11 Tribute Car and Truck Show continues working toward that goal.

The show will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Southgate Municipal Complex, 14400 Dix-Toledo, and classic vehicle enthusiasts are invited to show off their rides for a cause. Proceeds from the event — including a $10 entry fee per vehicle — benefit Southgate Police Charities. Pongracz said the organization provides three scholarships annually to local students along with donations to local baseball and soccer programs.

Pongracz is a longtime monster truck enthusiast, and fellow officer-turned Chief Jeffrey Smith is also a frequent participant in car shows. Combining their vehicle passions with their dedication to police charities seemed a natural fit.

“Once the 9-11 idea popped into my head, I thought what a great way to remember, celebrate and raise some money,” Pongracz said. “This has really turned into a fun day.”

The spectre of Sept. 11 is not forgotten, of course. Retired Police Chaplain and former Southgate Mayor Dennis David will begin the day presiding over a moment of silence for the victims and heroes of September 11. The event is a celebration of community and family, Pongracz said, and police officers have a chance to recognize their commitment to duty.

“It’s a fun day for the police officers, to get everyone to come out, get their families out and spend time together,” Pongracz said. “We’re very proud of it.”

Registration for the car and truck show begins at 9 a.m., and the day’s events include three trophies for best rides — Veteran’s Choice, Chief’s Choice and Cop’s Choice — donated prizes, music, food, games and more. Events include entertainment/education attractions including K-9 police dogs and a chance for visitors to wear “drunk goggles” to see the impact of alcohol on driving skills.

Pongracz said the Fraternal Order of Police typically hosts a variety of fund-raisers throughout the year, and past programs included golf outings and comedy shows. The car show — linked to Sept. 11 — will continue as long as the event is a success, he said.

For information contact Southgate Police or email

(James Mitchell can be reached at