Three Ford Skyliners (below) were among those that
shared the spotlight during the International Ford
Retractable Club convention show in 2007 at the
Olympia Resort in Oconomowoc, Wis.
Car clubs are frequently faced with deciding where to hold an event that will appeal to the widest range of its members’ interests. On the list of priorities is finding some place quiet enough for pleasant scenic tours yet large enough to accommodate parking and meeting room requirements. At the same time, the venue should have opportunities that appeal to other family members.
Some organizations have discovered the benefits of holding their old car gatherings at resorts, and one Wisconsin resort in particular feels it is positioned perfectly to meet such varied needs.
Olympia Resort and Spa, Oconomowoc, Wis., sits on 11 acres between Milwaukee and Madison. Although it is situated less than two miles from Interstate 94, visitors can easily avoid the rush by driving directly from the resort on secondary roads to some of the most scenic, glacier-carved landscape in the Midwest.
Mark M. Mayfield, director of sales & marketing for Olympia, says the resort has hosted many hobby-related events since its opening in 1972, and it has many conveniences built in that make it equally suited for both small and large gatherings. Past car club guests have included the Wisconsin Edsel Club, Dairyland Plymouth Owners Club, Boondockers Car Club, Lotus Car Club, and one of the largest, the International Ford Retractable Club, which held its 36th annual convention there in 2007.
“What our appeal is, from an environmental standpoint, is that we offer a different atmosphere,” said Mayfield. “We can offer an experience.
“If you want a scenic drive you can just go out of the drive onto Highway 67 and that takes you right to the Kettle Moraine forest district.”
Scenery, however, only goes so far when it comes to hosting a club event, and Mayfield rattles off the hard statistics of what Olympia offers: 10,600 sq.-ft. main convention hall that can open to wheel a car in for exhibition, 20 banquet rooms and multiple meeting facilities.
“Our ballroom handles up to 500 people, and our Olympia Center handles up to 1,000,” he noted.
The resort is owned and operated by the Rick Eckert family and is nearing completion of a two-year renovation.
Outside are 30 RV parking spots, 650 vehicle parking spots and ample room for either public or private car shows. “If it’s a show where the public is invited, we can work with the media to get the word out, or we can cordon off a private area just for the club,” Mayfield said.
“We have it so the club can just set up and relax. We don’t have parking fees, or Internet fees. We can offer the experience … If you’re looking for a glass of fine wine or a Pabst Blue Ribbon, a hamburger or filet mignon, we can accommodate everybody’s tastes.”
It’s the “extracurricular” activities and opportunities that some of today’s resorts can offer that really break from tradition and can make an old car gathering a truly first-class event. Long gone are the days when car show attendees can look forward only to long, hot days in a field or on a sun-baked parking lot. These days, car club members don’t even have to bring their cooler or lawn chairs to survive the weekend.
Olympia Resort is probably better equipped for car club functions than most facilities in northern states because it has year-round attractions. The resort includes an 18-hole golf course on-site, plus 18 additional holes just a mile away, with a total of seven courses within the immediate area. There’s a large outdoor pool, a scenic pond and, for winter, a ski hill. For car show “widows” who want a little pampering, there’s a state-of-the-art health spa.
Mayfield says Olympia Resort will be hosting a wide variety of group events this year, including sports, fishing and hunting expos, state billiards tournaments, national dog shows and several private and public car shows.
He is hoping the club can continue to grow its reputation as an ideal location for car hobby events, and admits to having a personal connection to the old car crowd after growing up with an antique car family. “My dad rebuilt a Chevy 1931 three-window coupe,” he said. “I remember the day it arrived on a flatbed trailer. He bought the body and frame from St. Louis and built the rest of the car himself. It took him seven years.”
His dad still has the car, along with a 1948 Chevy milk truck and 1981 Shovelhead Harley-Davidson.
“We really respect the fact that these cars are very important and quite valuable,” he said. “It is not just a hobby, but a part of the well being of the owners.”