Hearse Time in Costa Mesa

An Orange County tradition gets colorful, wacky, and oh-so-seasonal.

CARS WITH CHARACTER: Many a person shopping for an automobile has professed to be looking for a car with "character." That could mean a vehicle with a fascinating back story, or charismatic former owner, or perhaps some wheels that crisscrossed the country (and had the paperwork to show it). But there's no car that conveys instant back story, or character, or fascination, in quite the way that a hearse can. Look at the long carriage, which often comes in a somber hue, frequently with curtains in the window, and you know much. Where other cars do not reveal their pasts via their make or model, a hearse tells its tale upfront. But the auto isn't strictly eerie, given its relationship with those who have passed before us; collectors have snapped up the stretch cars in the last few decades and parades and shows regularly pop up, all centered on hearses and vintage ambulances and the funeral vehicles of a particular vintage. Costa Mesa is one of the best known spots for hearse owners and their beloved rides to gather, and they typically do so near Halloween. As they will again, for the 15th year, on Sunday, Oct. 26, when the OC Market Place presents the Halloween Hearse Show.

BUG AND MONSTER CARS JOIN: VW Bugs'll also be on show at the creepy-cool-tastic event, as will the "monster" vehicles (think Spiders, Cobras, Vipers, and so forth). Prizes shall be handed out in a variety of categories, and the owners? They very often accept them while dressed to the teeth in seasonal wear, or something that matches their car.

OTHER FEARSOME FESTIVE DOINGS: Screaming for ice cream, monster sculptors, outlandish pumpkin carvings, and a whole caboodle of snakes and reptiles turn out for the ghouly day. The hearses, in fact, are just one atmospheric end of the proceedings, but they're quite striking, for car buffs, yes, but for anyone who has spied the car a hundred times at the cinema. Truly, is there any vehicle that carries its role so regally? Hearses will always play a part in art, in addition to the important service they deliver.

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