Fuel Fest Is Where Cars Meet for a Good Cause

Fuel Fest
Fast and Furious cars at Fuel Fest / Marta Konarska / el Don

Motorsport lovers and movie enthusiasts stood in the pouring rain last weekend for a chance to watch actors quote film lines or pose in front of a model of their favorite movie supercar. Event organizer Cody Walker ran between VIPs and fans all day, making sure that the first Fuel Fest did not disappoint. Besides creating a space for Fast and Furious fans to gather, the event also commemorated the late actor Paul Walker by supporting the disaster-relief nonprofit he started a few years before his death.

Walker, a star in the car-racing-movie franchise, was a well-known car enthusiast in real life who passed away while the passenger in a car crash in 2013. The actor might live on to most fans through his Fast and Furious character, Brian, who drives fast Japanese cars and switches the gears like no one else. But Walker’s legacy goes beyond movies and fast cars.

After returning from a trip to earthquake-devastated Haiti in 2010, Walker started a disaster relief nonprofit called Reach Out Worldwide. Fuel Fest is a car show organized to support ROWW’s efforts, which include disaster relief and cleanup work in areas not always reached by traditional forms of aid.

Fuel Fest started last year as a car show benefitting ROWW in Santa Clarita called “In Memory of Paul Walker.” This year, promoters moved the event to Angel Stadium in Anaheim and gave it a new name. The event name was changed to not carry the actor’s name because the promoters said they wanted people to recognize the event itself and still attend it.   

“Fuel Fest will be now an official name and it will become regular event throughout the country and probably globally. We are thinking of doing it in Asia, maybe Europe, it will be something like a tour,” Sean Lee, a close friend of Paul Walker, said.

ROWW at In Memory of Paul Walker event in Santa Clarita / Marta Konarska / el Don

Besides Fuel Fest, two more events are organized every year in order to raise funds for the foundation – Game4Paul as a live-stream gaming fundraiser and Drive4Paul, a car cruise. Lee sees the challenges ROWW went through during all these years.

“It is tremendous change because back in the days Paul did all of the charities based on his own money. He wasn’t doing any fundraising. Many people didn’t even know that he was doing all of that.” Lee said.   

After Walker’s death, ROWW never stopped its mission. The actor’s youngest brother, Cody, took over the foundation. The organization provides medical relief and post disaster clean-up in areas touched by natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes, flood, fire, and others. Currently, ROWW deployed a team in Beauregard, Alabama to provide relief efforts after EF-4 tornado.

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At Fuel Fest the cars are the main draw, but so are the celebrities. Several actors and members of “Fast Family” make their appearance at the event and make the crowd go crazy. However, the pinnacle of the event were replicas of Fast and Furious franchise cars. Fans could take photos with 1996 Mitsubishi eclipse, 1995 Toyota Supra Turbo, 2001 Mitsubishi eclipse GS-T Spyder, 1970 Dodge Charger RT and others. Many car vendors like Momo, Hoonigan Industries or famous Jay Leno’s garage also made their appearance at the first Fuel Fest supporting ROWW.

“It is good to see that the car community recognized Paul’s efforts and wanted to put out his legacy by coming here to support the event and that means a lot.“ Lee said.

From right: event organizer Cody Walker, actor Tyrese Gibson and Supercar Blondie (vlogger) taking photo with a fan at Fuel Fest / photo credit Fuel Fest
1996 Mitsubishi Eclipse / Marta Konarska / el Don

Customized and exotic vehicles weren’t the farthest point movie fans achieved at Fuel Fest. Two men made themselves into celebrities looking just like Dominic Toretto, a movie character played by actor Vin Diesel. Their unique appearance became a profession that affects their lives on daily basis.  

Gino Alvarez is from New York. He is bold, he wears “Diesel style” white leather jacket and imitates moves and gestures of his favorite actor when taking photos or speaking to people. He said the idea of becoming @vindiesellookalike started about three years ago after hearing from many people that he is similar to Vin Diesel.

“People encouraged me and since I gave it a try it’s been a blessing to me. I meet a lot of new people and ladies friends. Now I am here at Fuel Fest, I am having great time and I met many celebrities. My life is being great after that,” Alvarez said.   

Richard Avalos from Fontana is muscular and drives his Dodge Challenger daily. His image as a Vin Diesel look-a-likes started when the movie industry reached out to him.

“A producer found me on Facebook and I went out to shoot for Fast 7. It was just a stand in, I didn’t do much, but I was there and I was involved. We didn’t get anything new yet but hopefully we will pick something up by coming up and doing those events,” Avalos said.

Richard Avalos (left) and Gino Alvarez (right) at Fuel Fest / Marta Konarska / el Don

Fuel Fest was an example of how some movies make an important part in people’s lives. Everyone who attended was part of the “Fast Family”. Whether ordinary or famous, they gathered for a common goal – Walker’s non-profit.

As Paul Walker said himself after he came back from his first expedition as ROWW: “When you put good will out there, it’s amazing what can be accomplished.”

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