Every year at the annual Tourism Luncheon, the Visitor and Convention Bureau recognizes one event planner for the year – who is instrumental in bringing large groups to our city through hosting quality special events here.  This year, we are proud to announce that the 2012 Mayor’s Award goes to Rich and Penny Pichette, of West Coast Kustoms.

It all began for us in 2008, when Santa Maria was chosen as the new home of the West Coast Kustoms Cruisin Nationals. Since that time, the kustoms car show event that Rich and Penny Pichette so lovingly cultivated, has brought tens of thousands of kustom car show enthuasiasts to our city – from all over world!

When Penny met her husband, Rich, she was 15 years old.  Rich was into Hot Rods and Penny, being young and in love, thought it was kind of cool…yes, just kind of cool. As their relationship blossomed, they married and started raising a family. Rich’s interest was still cars, Penny- not so much.  Little did Penny know, one day she would be the promoter of the largest Kustom car shows in California.

In 1976, they moved to California. They bought a little hamburger stand called the Jet Drive In and Rich talked Penny into buying a 41 Chevy pickup. She was against it, but Rich said they could use it for advertising. Then they started a cruise night at the burger stand and attracted cars from all over southern California.

West Coast Kustoms Car Club developed in 1982.  It was started because many of Rich’s friends had cars from the 50’s era and were not accepted at car shows, since everything at that time was only opened to pre-49.

Kustom car people heard about West Coast Kustoms and Rich thought they should have a get together. Rich wrote to several Chambers of Commerce, and Paso Robles responded. Rich and Penny thought a gathering out at the lake might be what they were looking for. So, in 1982, they planned for an informal gathering. But as time went by, the gathering grew as more people started to join them from all over the world.  Before they knew it, they were getting magazine and news coverage.

After 26 years, they brought the club to Santa Maria where it continues to grow. The Kustom world has exploded and, over the years, Rich and Penny saw so many cars and met so many people.

As many of you, Penny’s husband, Rich, passed away with Alzheimer’s disease, and his dream became Penny’s. Penny states “I know this day is supposed to be about me, but when you have been married for 49 years, you become a ‘we’ not a ‘me’, and have the same goals and dreams.”

Over the years, hosting car shows, Penny has learned the skills to keep Rich’s dream and hobby going. Penny has earned respect in the car show community over the years, whether it’s because of her business savvy, or her car knowledge or just for being Penny. West Coast Kustoms has become her life.

Congratulations and many thanks to Rich and Penny Pichette for the hard work and many years of dedication you put into growing this amazing kustoms car show event!  For registration and event information or to learn more about the West Coast Kustoms Car Club, visit www.WestCoastKustoms.com.