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CONCOURS D’ELEGANCE: A BRIEF HISTORY
According to Webster, “Concours” comes from the French, and means “a crowd or confluence of things; also a park promenade.” The term conjures up romantic visions of beautiful women in haute couture in a park-like setting surrounded by sparkling coaches, glistening groomed horses, gorgeous flowers, champagne, fine art and sculpture, and later, by the finest automotive art.
Man, being the perpetual competitor, has generally sought to triumph. Civilized chivalry, combined with grandeur, became the prevailing spirit of the Concours d’Elegance. Originating in the late 17th century, the early Concours was a leisurely social affair where light-hearted competitions among coaches and fashions were rewarded with rosettes, wine and champagne. As coaches and carriages segued into automobiles in the late 19th century, the competitions became more defined. By the mid 1920s, no society season on the French Riviera was complete without a variety of organized Concours events.
As the romance of the Roaring 20s and the refined elegance of the 30s gave way to the perils of world war, we find the demise of the Concours as it gave way to the bare survival of nations. Once the free world was able to right itself and move beyond subsistence, it was the troika of visionaries Jules Huemann, Reverend Paul Woudenberg and Loren Tryon who in 1950 created what was to become the grandfather of all post-war Concours—Pebble Beach.
So, what for centuries had been a European staple has become a true international tradition. It pays homage to its French roots by its very name, and is patterned by the defined structure of judging rules. We wish to acknowledge and thank all of our past and present sponsors who have supported the La Jolla Historical Society in hosting such a first- class event. The La Jolla Concours d’Elegance today gives our competitors and spectators the opportunity to share this time-honored tradition. Enjoy!
–Dr. Cy Conrad, Chief Judge Emeritus