Cobble Beach draws international car collectors

KEMBLE, Ont. — Georgian Bay has become a destination for automotive enthusiasts from around the world with its Concours d'Elegance. Rob McLeese explains why in this Q&A article.

KEMBLE, Ont. – Georgian Bay has become a destination for automotive enthusiasts from around the world in recent years. The Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance, which traces its roots to parades of horse-drawn carriages in 17th-century France, has joined the ranks of similar events held at Lake Como, Italy and Pebble Beach in Monterey, California to attract antique and classic car collectors for a weekend celebrating art in motion. 

Created by the McLeese family, developer and operator of Cobble Beach Golf Resort just outside Owen Sound, the event also shows off a spectacular corner of Ontario. Following the seventh edition on September 13-15, event founder Rob McLeese took time to discuss the event’s origins and ongoing success.

Rob McLeese (right) with Cory Haggar, general manager of resort operations at Cobble Beach.

Rob McLeese (right) with Cory Haggar, general manager of resort operations at Cobble Beach.

Canadian Lodging News:How long have you and your family been involved with Concours?

Rob McLeese: Plans for the Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance began in 1998, after my family acquired 574 spectacular acres on a stretch of untouched shoreline with panoramic views of Georgian Bay. My father Willis had the initial vison of a wonderful promenade of high-end, beautiful antique and classic cars parading down Cobble Beach Drive to the elegant Clubhouse. This gave birth to the idea of a Concours d'Elegance at Cobble Beach. This inspired me to create an exclusive experience that would beckon automotive enthusiasts and jetsetters from far and wide. We founded the Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2011, with the first show taking place in 2013. 

CLN: Reasons for your passion for antique cars?

RM: My passion for cars came at young age. I always loved the history behind automobiles. Throughout the years I’ve owned many different cars, from a 1961 Mini Minor woody wagon to multiple Citroën to Porsche. I’ve owned a yellow 1971 Porsche 911 E Targa since 1988, and recently acquired a 1931 McLaughlin Buick Model 64 roadster.

CLN: Why does having the Concours at Cobble Beach work so well?

RM: The Cobble Beach Golf Resort Community is the perfect venue to host a Concours d’Elegance with its scenic lakefront views of southern Georgian Bay and lush fairways. It’s also a great way to show off this beautiful region of Ontario.  

CLN: What sorts of marketing synergies does the Concours create for the resort?

RM: The Concours d’Elegance event and the resort work hand-in-hand to make this event a success. Without the support of the resort the event would not be where it is today. There are definitely marketing synergies. 

CLN: How do you involve homeowners at the resort in the event?

RM: We are very fortunate to have the residents of Cobble Beach support this event. It is not uncommon to see the Cobble Beach members volunteering throughout the event or sitting on their driveway watching the Participant’s Tour leave Saturday morning. They truly love being part of this world-class event. 

CLN: the event isn’t just for show, though. It also support various charities, correct?

RM: The Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance supports two wonderful charities, the Sunnybrook Foundation and the Owen Sound Regional Hospital Foundation. In the past seven years the event has raised over $500,000 for these charities. In the early years of the event, money raised for the Sunnybrook Foundation went to its helipad. Once that campaign was complete, we moved our focus onto the Garry Hurvitz Brain Sciences Centre. For the Owen Sound Regional Hospital Foundation, the event focuses on different needs each year. Further information about the activities we fund can be found at https://www.cobblebeachconcours.com/charities

CLN: How much money was raised for charity this year?

RM: We do not have a final number yet, but to date the Cobble Beach Concours has raised over $60,000 for our two charities, putting the total year to date at more than $500,000.

CLN: How has the event raised the resort’s profile among people across, and beyond, North America?

RM: The event draws people from around North America. This year we had cars shown from three provinces and nine states. Our media coverage includes publications and web articles with a much further reach.

CLN: What was attendance like this year?

RM: The event saw about 10,000 people over the weekend. We had 175 cars at the Cars & Coffee event on Saturday, 112 cars in the Concours d’Elegance show on Sunday, and 60 additional cars on display on Sunday.

CLN: Those sound like impressive numbers! What has growth been like?

RM: This event started as a 1.5-day event over seven years ago with an attendance of approximately 3,000 people. Over the seven years, we have seen the show grow into a 2.5-day event with more than 10,000 people coming to enjoy these wonderful works of rolling art.

Retired Commander Chris Hadfield.

Retired Commander Chris Hadfield.

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CLN: What were some of the highlights of this year’s event?

RM: Porsche was a lead sponsor, and Porsche enthusiasts embraced the event. There were some amazing Porsches on display, as well as several interesting, privately owned Porsches driven to the event. Hagerty’s Classic Car Ride and Drive is always very popular with attendees. On Saturday night at the kick-off dinner we hold a live auction in support of Sunnybrook. This year we had a special guest participant, Retired Commander Chris Hadfield. Commander Hadfield kicked off the live auction and played “Space Oddity.” We then auctioned off his signed guitar, with the proceeds going to Sunnybrook. GM’s concept Corvairs, which preceded the mid-engine C8 Corvette, were cool as were the three special 1953 GM Motorama cars brought by a private collector. 

CLN: How does the event showcase the hotel’s facilities?

RM: Newcomers to Cobble Beach had the opportunity to see several aspects of the property and meet with sales representatives to learn more about the development. The VIP lounge was in the Clubhouse (Sweetwater Restaurant). The kick-off dinner for 300-plus people was held in the Clubhouse and Pavilion. We hosted the live auction and dessert on the Georgian patio and Marquis tent. Sunday’s After Glow reception was served in the Sweetwater Restaurant. 

CLN: Which car won this year?

RM: Best of Show went to a 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet owned by Robert S. Jepson, Jr., of Savannah, Georgia.  A full list of winners can be found on our website.

CLN: What are the dates for next year?

RM: The next Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance will take place September 19-20, 2020. The main Concours show will take place on the Sunday, September 20).