What made the one-day July 20, 2014 Appleton Auto Show (www.applewtonoldcarshow.com) so big this year? A lot of organizers of other hobby events would like to know why the number of participating show cars seemed to suddenly grow by several hundred cars. The trend for most shows today is fewer show cars and fewer spectators. However, the Appleton show was filled with both cars and people and the swap meet was larger than ever.
We drove our ’53 Pontiac into Pierce Park around 11 am. It was packed with cars and packed with people. The parking volunteers directed us to the area around where the featured cars are displayed in tents, and then they split the incoming traffic and directed us to the left. We had to crawl along slowly because of the size of the crowd. Luckily, flathead Pontiacs are used to moving slow.
For awhile, we thought we could not find a place to park. There were very few empty spots for show cars in that section of Pierce Park, where the show is held. On the Tuesday night after the show, Brian Young—a member of Stephensville Street Rods in North Central Wisconsin—came to our weekly cruise night and said his brother got a 1200 entry number at Appleton. Brian heard that the total number of cars was around 1400, which may be a record.
There are several reasons we can think of why the show did so well. First, it is a free show. Collector car owners don’t have to pay to enter. People talked about that over lunch. With the slow economy, free shows may have additional appeal today. If Appleton is a good example, it would also seem that free passage into the show brings in more cars and more customers for vendors.
It appeared that car clubs had a big presence at Appleton 2014. A large group of two-seat Thunderbirds stood out as a good example of club participation. When we arrived there was a bunch of British cars and they all left together. Best guess is that they were from the Fox Cities British Car Club (www.foxbrits.com) based in Oshkosh. If show promoters can attract clubs to an event, they get a bunch of cars instead of just one.
We mentioned the swap meet growing and there were many smiling vendors in that area. Gary Nehring—the former owner of The Ford Barn—said that business was good and that he was also having fun seeing people he had not seen in awhile. Other vendors ranged from local restorers emptying their garages to Hagerty Classic Insurance. Members of the Wisconsin Chapter of the Vintage Chevrolet Club of America are in charge of the swap meet.
Finally, Bob Pinterelli and his hardworking crew of volunteers do a great job promoting this show all year long and putting it on each July the weekend after the Iola Old Car Show. They even ordered great weather this year—it was a little warm, but not a total scorcher as it has been in the past.
Whatever inspired the success, the Appleton Auto Show was a success. We’re already looking forward to next year’s show on July 18, 2015.