By Angelo Van Bogart
Big draws and big, sunny skies made the 43rd annual Iola Old Car Show a big success, attracting about 6,000 more people to Iola, Wis., than last year.
“We had 121,000-plus people, and that was without a Sunday show day,” said Joan Schultz, Iola Old Car Show executive director. “Thursday and Friday, attendance was up, and we had more show cars on Thursday than in the past.”
“We had, at most, 20 show car spaces left on Friday,” added Mary Schwartz, Iola Old Car Show administrative assistant.
Other figures were equally impressive: 1,200 campground sites rented, 643 vehicles in the car corral, 4,191 swap meet spaces sold and 1,954 registered show cars.
The staff credited several special guests for increasing the attendance, from the appearance of Don “Big Daddy” Garlits and his Swamp Rat 12-A dragster and the Paris Brothers twin-Hemi-engine dragster to the Dick Trickle Memorial and appearance of the new Elio commuter car. Several clubs also had a hand in the success of IOLA ’15, including the Studebaker Drivers Club, which featured 38 vehicles in its club display, and the T-bucket Alliance, which participated with 80 vehicles.
“I think the show was fantastic with all the new activities and displays,” Schultz said. “The people standing around the Garlits and Paris Brothers display was unreal. I would compare it to 2002 when we had the 20 Millionth Ford here.”
Other big draws to this year’s event were the Super Saturday giveaways, in which 21 prizes were given away to attendees. Included in the giveaway was a 1973 Chrysler Newport donated by the Rawhide Boys Ranch. It went home with Tom Punke of Kiel, Wis. The show also added a Cruise of Honor in which residents of the Wisconsin Veterans Home at King were escorted through the show cars.
“They loved it,” said Schultz. “In fact, a couple of (veterans) wanted to go through twice.”
A non-profit event, the show employs 2,800 volunteers from 131 community organizations that benefit from the show’s success. Just days after the 2015 event closed, the staff had already began planning how to top this year’s event in 2016.
“We’re always looking at ways to improve the show, Schultz said. “For next year, we’re planning more special events and attractions and added features without raising prices.”
Some of those attractions will include the 2016 theme vehicles, which will be trucks of all sizes from all manufacturers and the Dodge Charger’s 50th anniversary.
To participate in next year’s event, contact the show office at 715-445-4000 or email@example.com, or go to www.iolaoldcarshow.com.