Car shows are special events that indulge devout enthusiasts, plain and simple.
People get to see vehicles from different genres that reflect their interests while mixing with the owners. Me, I'm usually there on behalf of a company or a show's organizers to meet people and sign autographs. And I love it.
This summer I visited many cities, but there were three standouts.
Tunica, Miss., for those who have not experienced it, is like Las Vegas of the South. There are casinos (gambling is actually legal) and every year there's the ShowFest Custom Car and Truck show. It's a blast and I would highly recommend taking it in. Here, most of the vehicles were trucks, although there were custom cars as well. For me, this was a glimpse into the truck subculture as I had not seen it before. There were giant monster trucks with ride height taller than me, mini trucks riding so low to the ground I could rest my arm on the roof, and every size and model of restored and custom truck in between.
Hardcore enthusiasts from many of the biggest clubs were represented at this show. When talking with fans I learned that they also drive trucks - not surprisingly - and mostly Chevy models at that. Why? They say because the truck and the parts and accessories to modify them are easy to find and affordable. Makes sense. I love that people with passion for the hobby and for their rides do whatever it takes to inject their personality into what they drive and enjoy the fun of customizing.
Although I live in Los Angeles, my hometown is Minneapolis. Actually, I was born in Edina, Minn., and grew up in the suburb of Orono. We had a cabin in Brainerd and our family once owned Brainerd International Raceway. I am a devoted Minnesota girl with tremendous love for the Land of 10,000 Lakes. The number is closer to 15,000, but the state has long been branded.
It had been years since I had been to the "Back to the Fifties" car show. This year I participated in a two-day appearance alongside the booth of a guy named Wings Kalahan, who is a local radio-show host.
Now, you've heard of some large car shows, I'm sure, but this one is huge. How does 12,000 vehicles sound? The show was so big, in fact, that I only had a chance to take in a small portion of it.
Because the vehicles of this event have to be of year 1964 or older, you see a lot of the same models with the standouts being the 1950s Chevrolets and early Fords. You obviously don't see any Mustangs or Chargers or Camaros at this show because they're all newer than 1964. But the rides are abundant, and the enthusiasm is potent. There is so much color, revving engines and the rides lining and cruising the streets of the Minnesota State Fairgrounds with the gorgeous Minnesota trees surrounding them is a truly beautiful site.
Northwest Motorfest is Idaho's largest car show and is an event I first visited in 2005. It happens on the same weekend as the Atlantic Nationals in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada, and for several years I attended that show. Well, this year I was back in Boise with my friend Jack Armstrong, aka Big Jack, who puts on the three-day event for a show that includes festivities that make it a truly unique experience for gearheads and enthusiasts.
Each year, they set up a small drag strip called "Hole Shot" where vehicles line up against each other (1970 Hemicuda against a Challenger of the same year, a 1965 Mustang against a 2012 Mustang and Mini Cooper against a GTO, for example). The Hole Shot races happen several times throughout the weekend, and the participants are abundant with the overall winner taking home a pool of cash. In 2005 I competed in a new Corvette and won each time.
This year there was a rock-crawling area where guests were taken for thrilling rides by expert drivers. A cruise through Boise Saturday evening has excited spectators lining Main Street while the proud drivers parade their vehicles, "American Graffiti"-style, as the sun sets over Idaho.
Every year the festival raffles off a donated and impeccably restored vehicle determined the year prior with the proceeds going to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. This year, a stunning 1970 GTO garnered $57,070, with all the money benefiting Make-A-Wish. Next year the car is a 1972 Chevelle Malibu and everyone is already getting excited about it. Northwest Motorfest is a special event.
It was a busy and entertaining summer with automotive festivities, and now I have begun to prepare for the Specialty Equipment Market Association show (SEMA) in Las Vegas in November. That's an entirely different type of show that's unfortunately only open to corporate buyers and sellers of aftermarket accessories. SEMA is an important organization that fights to keep the old-car hobby alive by aiding businesses that supply the parts for them.
So, the big question is what show caught your attention this summer? Drop me a note or post some photos on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/autoshiftweekly).
Among her numerous accomplishments, Courtney Hansen is the author of her own book, the host of Spike TV's "Power Block," the former host of TLC's "Overhaulin' " and a writer with Wheelbase Media. You can email her by logging on to www.shiftweekly.com and using the contact form.