FLINT (WJRT) (8/16/2019) - Al Hatch nurtured a small idea for a car show in Flint in 2003 into Genesee County's largest summer event, bringing in people from around the world.
Al Hatch is founder of Back to the Bricks and is stepping aside as chairman after the 15th annual festival.
The 15th annual Back to the Bricks festival will be his final at the helm. He decided it's time to throw it in park and turn over the organization to new capable hands.
"I like muscle cars, I like sports cars, I like original cars," Hatch said.
The love of the automobile is what drove Hatch to share that enthusiasm with Mid-Michigan with the very first Back to the Bricks event.
"It's truly a community-wide event," Hatch said. "People should be proud of what we created -- and I mean we as a community -- can do."
Back to the Bricks has become the premier summer event for Flint and Genesee County, packing hundreds of thousands of people into the community. It all came to be after Hatch visited the Woodward Dream Cruise in the Motor City.
"I found it appealing that merchants would charge hundreds of dollars to park your car when the cars are the show," Hatch said. "I went back and come back home and said, you know, we can do this in downtown Flint."
Plans were put into motion in 2004. The following summer, the first Back to the Bricks event took place in the heart of the Vehicle City, under the arches on the bricks of Saginaw Street.
"We did a one-day event and it started to rain in the morning," Hatch said. "We had about 600 people, or cars rather. There were about 7,000 people that came downtown."
Each year, Back to the Bricks continued to add days and events, including the tune up parties in smaller Mid-Michigan communities. With each event came more people who wanted to get in on the action.
In 2010, Hatch and a handful of people packed up their cars and hit the road to spread the word about Flint's classic car show. The Back to the Bricks promo summer tour started with about 25 people and over time shattered records, with over 300 cars and 600 people this year.
The tour has traveled through parts of the Midwest at times and across the Mitten State.
"We do have a positive impact and what we have proven as a community is that we can attract a lot of people," Hatch said. "We have the assets."
When the weather became frightful in winter, the organization took the car show indoors with the Chrome and Ice show held at the Dort Federal Event Center.
While the cars are the stars, Hatch said another piece of the organization's mission is to help Michigan. With all of the events, and spectators out and about, it's estimated Back to the Bricks pumps well over seven figures into the state's economy.
"The thing I cannot over emphasize to the residents of Genesee County, the economic impact to these events is enormous," Hatch said.
Through his vision, Back to the Bricks is leaving a lasting impact on Genesee County. The organization donated several statues of automotive pioneers in downtown Flint and has given out several scholarships to high school seniors looking to pursue an automotive career.
Even though he is the founder, Hatch said all of this wouldn't be possible with out support.
"In the grand scheme of things, I'm just one of the gear -- one of the cogs in the gear," Hatch said.
After 16 years of riding alongside thousands of cars from hot rods to muscle cars to even some that are a little unique, Hatch said he's never seen one he doesn't like.
He still plans to remain involved with Back to the Bricks in a limited capacity after retirement, helping out with future events.