Now that the 2019 Central Ohio car show season has officially come to an end, it's time to take a look back at what was good, what was bad and what was ugly.
I managed to participate in 80 events this year. When you consider there were five weeks during 2019 where I didn't participate in any events, that's a pretty big accomplishment, even if I do say so myself.
I traveled more than 3000 miles to attend events in Centerburg, Columbus, Delaware, Dublin, Gahanna, Hilliard, Johnstown, Lewis Center, Lockbourne, Marion, Marysville, New Albany, Obetz, Plain City, Powell, Springfield, Westerville, and Worthington.
Throughout the season, I took more than 9200 photos of cars, trucks, and motorcycles from around Central Ohio. Besides my car, Kevin Martin's 1962 Chevy pickup truck wins the award for the most photographed vehicle in 2019.
Before I get deep into the recap of this season, let me take a second to make the usual disclaimer:
The lists I'm about to present reflect my opinion and my opinion only of the events I attended in 2019. If you attended a show or cruise-in not on my list that you thought was exceptionally good, bad or ugly, please feel free to share it in the comments. Also, feel free to post a comment if you agree or disagree with any of my choices.
Okay, let's start with the GOOD.
Here are the criteria I use to judge an event:
- Was the event well advertised?
- Was it well organized? Did registration go smoothly? Were awards presented at the advertised time, and was the award presentation organized?
- Was there ample parking for the size of the event? Was the parking area car-friendly (i.e, no potholes in the pavement. Grass areas properly manicured and free of holes, ruts, and roots. Was the dust level low, etc.)?
- Was there ample food and refreshment choices?
- If applicable, did the event adequately judge the cars?
- Were the awards unique?
- Were other activities going on besides the car show, especially stuff for kids?
- Did the DJ and music enhance the event (live bands get extra points in my book)? Could the entire event area hear announcements?
- Did the event have quality door prizes?
- Was there a variety of vehicles (i.e., old vs new, domestic vs exotic, trucks vs cars)?
- Was the cost of registration reasonable?
- Was there good spectator support?
- And most important of all, was it fun?
Now that you know the criteria, let's look at the top picks:
Best Registration Fee "Judged" Car Shows
The top three shows are the same as last year. The only difference is the number two and three shows swapped places.
- Vettes, Rods, and Classics Car Show at Creekside - Gahanna, Ohio Last year I ranked this the number one registration fee show in Central Ohio. I debated long and hard whether it deserved that same ranking again this year. The live band wasn't as good as previous years and the judges did mistakenly classify my Camaro as a C7 Corvette. But in the end, the show received a higher score for the above criteria than any other show in this category. The Creekside district in Gahanna is one of the best venues for a car show. I like how there are two award categories, one for the rods and classics and the other for the Corvettes. The cars are thoroughly judged and the awards are always unique. This show attracts a lot of different makes, models, and years from all over Central Ohio and beyond. Closing the Creekside area to public traffic an hour earlier this year seemed to eliminate much of the congestion at the beginning of the show. Once again bravo to the Capital City Corvette Club for hosting the number one registration fee "judged" show in the area.
- The Empty Pocket Cruisers Trunk or Treat Show - Hilliard, OhioThis show can be summed up in one word -- FUN! If you weren't in the Halloween spirit before the show you are afterward. Jim McGruder does a great job as DJ, the door prizes are nice, lots of kids have fun trick or treating among the cars in the afternoon, and the Ohio Zombie Guard is worth the price of admission. I've done the show four times and I've left every one of them with a big smile on my face.
- Discover Church Cruisin' for a Cause Car & Truck Show - Dublin, OhioThis show offers a little bit of everything. Besides the car show, there's an arts and craft show, silent auction and model car contest going on simultaneously. The special trophies are all custom handmade. Five to six teams of judges thoroughly inspect each vehicle. I like that the cars are broken down into classes. It's fun to go around and see what the competition is like in each class. I didn't think the doors prizes were as good this year and my wife said the craft show was quite a bit smaller than in past years. Despite these minor nitpicks, the show is still one of the best in this category. If you've never been to a Cruisin' for a Cause, you need to make a point to attend this coming year. You won't be disappointed.
- Pearl Classic Memorial Car Show at the Franklin County Fairgrounds - Hilliard, Ohio
- North Hill Church of God Car Show - Springfield, Ohio
Before we leave this category, I want to point out that the total cost to register for ALL three top-rated shows was $35 ($15-$10-$10). This just proves you don't have to charge an arm and a leg to put on a top-notch event (are you listening Arthritis Foundation).
Best No Registration Fee "Judged" Car Shows
- Rod Knockers' monthly car show at the Rural King - Marion, OhioThis show remains the undisputed "Top Dog" in this category for the third year in a row. Every month the show has a different theme be it Hot Rod Night, a Beach Party or Yesterday's Legends. There are door prizes and a 50/50 raffle. The club presents 25 plus awards each month that are always different and unique. A Saturday evening of good weather will bring out more than 100 vehicles. All this fun comes at no cost to register. If you're looking for something to do the first Saturday of each month, April through October, it's worth taking a drive to Marion.
- Mid Ohio Cruisers monthly car show at Burger King - Marysville, OhioThe Mid Ohio Cruisers stepped up their game this year. They added a second O'Reilly's Auto Parts pick and upped the number of club favorite awards from 10 to 15. They also added an award for the favorite club member's vehicle as voted on by everyone that registered an automobile. I've been participating in this show since 2013. It has consistently been one of my favorite events. And just like the Rod Knockers show, registration is free!
- Friday Night Cruisin' at Jack Maxton Chevrolet - Worthington, OhioIncluding the Jack Maxton shows as the third-best event in this category was a difficult decision. The "golf cart" judging is a joke. The same cars seem to receive a Top 70 award every month. Factor in participation is limited to Chevys only and you end up with some significant negatives. But it's tough to come down hard on the Maxton events when registration is FREE, "live" entertainment is always included for free, and four times a year you won't find a better collection of Chevrolets in one place (assuming you're into Chevys). So the shows stay in the top three again this year because when it's all said and done it doesn't cost a dime to enjoy the cars, the music, and a Friday evening with friends.
- Creative Towing/Advanced Auto Parts monthly car show - Marysville, Ohio
- Der Dutchman Weekly Cruise-in - Plain City, Ohio Once again the weekly cruise-in at the Der Dutchman restaurant is the number one cruise-in in Central and possibly all of Ohio. The cruise-in had it's the biggest year yet but it was not without some growing pains. Grease from the barbeque grill speckled many car finishes this year and some car owners were not thrilled about the drone that made an appearance during the week the cruise-in was shooting to register 300 cars. Still, the cruise-in broke the 200 car mark four times this year. It also held it's first Saturday morning Coffee and Donuts cruise-in which was a huge success. If you're a car enthusiast, there's no better way to spend a Thursday evening during the summer. And if you happen to win one of the Der Dutchman deserts, that makes it even better.
- Columbus Cars and Coffee (corporate-sponsored version) This version of Columbus Cars and Coffee holds Saturday morning meets once or twice a month at various locations throughout the Columbus area. The group is also responsible for the Exotics on Scioto Mile event. You can always count on coffee and donuts being served at each meet. On occasion, you might get some "live" entertainment with the coffee. You'll find a great mix of automobiles at each event. Everything from classic cars of the 50s and 60s to the latest European Exotics costing six figures or more. If you love cars, this is one event you'll want to attend at least once during the season.
- Rally for the Ranch at Easton Town Center - Columbus, Ohio For participating in the Rally for the Ranch at Easton Town Center, you get a free breakfast at Smith and Wollensky compliments of Esoteric Fine Auto Finishing and a goody bag with more than $50 in merchandise. The only stipulation is you must submit your vehicle for inclusion at least a month before the event. If the weather is good, be prepared for lots of spectators to see your car. I've done the event two years in a row and will do it again next year.
- The Toy Barn Spring Car Show - Dublin, Ohio
- Tuesday Night Polaris Hilton Cruise-In - Columbus, Ohio
My Ten Favorite Vehicles of 2019
These are the cars and trucks that made me take a second and sometimes third look. My only stipulation to be on this list is the vehicles couldn't be a "Trailer Queen". They had to be driven to the event.
The 1963 Volkswagon Beetle belonging to Mark Siders. Don't let the exterior fool you. Inside the front trunk is a twin-turbocharged 5.3 liter LS truck engine. The owner says his VW puts down around 650 HP to the wheels!
The first car I owned was a '69 Plymouth Belvedere with a slant six engine so I have a bit of fondness for the nameplate. Mark Hermann's 1964 Belvedere is nowhere close to what I owned. From the red color to the wide tires, his Belvedere epitomizes what sixties muscle cars were all about. It looks fast and aggressive.
1966 was the first year Porsche began selling cars in the United States. This 1966 Porsche 911 showed up at the April Columbus Cars and Coffee meet at Esoteric Fine Auto Finishing. The car was in fantastic condition for its age. I have no idea why it had a Montana license plate.
The first car my wife and I purchased together as a married couple was a 1977 Oldsmobile Cutless Supreme. So when I saw Ray Leopard's 1976 Oldsmobile 442 with that Olds 350 in it at the Marysville Founders Day show it brought back a lot of memories. I ordered my Cutlass with the sport wheels but never got them because the wheel manufacturer was on strike at the time the car was built. To this day I regret taking possession of the car without the sport wheels.
This 1932 Ford convertible caught my attention at the Poor Man's Nationals in Plain City. If I were judging that day, this car would have been my Best of Show pick. The car's interior is stunning.
Staying in the 30s, I saw this 1936 Packard convertible at a Saturday morning Columbus Cars and Coffee at Lennox Center. Just like the '32 Ford above it was in immaculate condition.
This custom airbrushed 2016 Harley Davidson Road Glide belonging to Jay Little just blew me away. You can't appreciate the artwork on the bike until you see it in person. Jay's Harley received a well deserved Top 75 award at the Jax Wax Car show.
At first glance, this 1965 Chevy C10 pickup belonging to Ron and Candy Kinder can easily be mistaken for Kevin Martin's '62 Chevy pickup. However, the only thing the two trucks have in common is the red body color. I first saw this truck in August at a Der Dutchman cruise-in. It also made an appearance at the Dublin Rotary show.
I'm a huge fan of restomod classic cars. To say I got a little giddy when this C2 Corvette convertible showed up at the last Polaris Hilton Tuesday Night Cruisin' is an understatement. With wide Forgeline wheels, a Wildwood big brake package and GM's 427 cubic inch LS7 motor, this Corvette is an absolute attention grabber.
I know I said no trailered cars could be on this list, but I'm making an exception for my number one pick. Mike and Suzzette Burger trailered their 1967 Corvette from Bucyrus to the last Jack Maxton show. The couple has owned the car for more than 50 years and drove it 38,600 miles before starting a frame-off restoration in 2014. The paint, body, engine, and interior are flawless. It's one of those automobiles you look at and say wow! The main reason I granted the exception is the car sat out in the heavy rainstorms that hit the Maxton dealership at the final show. The owner didn't rush to get it under cover before the rains came. It got soaked like all the other cars.
The Rare, Unique and Unusual
Attend 80 events and you're bound to see some vehicles that can best be described as rare, unique or unusual. Here are my picks in no particular order:
Best Food Spread:
- American Legion Southway Post 144 Independence Day Cruise-In
- North Hills Church of God Car Show
Best Promoted Show:
- Pearl Classic Memorial Car Show - Dave Bratton and his partner Lou passed out more than 7000 flyers this summer promoting the memorial car show for their late dog Pearl. I've never seen two people work harder to promote a show.
Cruisers of the Year
- Jeff and Pam Shankle - Pam participated in 108 car events this year while Jeff made it to 120! They traveled to events in three different states (Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana). I'm not sure anyone will ever come close to participating in this many events in a single season.
That's it for the good, let's move on to the BAD.
- Cars receiving multiple awards - There was a rash of shows in early September that passed out multiple awards to individual cars. One show even bragged about giving cars more than one award. It's redundant for the Best of Show winner to also receive a Top 25 award. It's the Best of Show for goodness sakes! The quickest way for an event to lose attendance the next year is to get a reputation for giving out multiple awards. Spread the trophy love and the show will grow in popularity.
- Judging from across the street - The judging at the Performance Classic Car Show in Delaware, Ohio sparked 20 comments. The most for any single post on this website. Comments ranged from judges ignoring cars to judges cars receiving awards. The most controversial comment came from one of the show judges who claimed he could spot a top 100 car from across the street. All I can say is are you serious? I've seen a lot of cars that look good from a distance turn out to be a hot mess up close. If you're charging car owners a premium price for registration, I think it perfectly fair for them to expect judges to walk up to every vehicle and spend a few minutes looking it over.
- Making too few and too broad model year categories - The flyer for the Blendon Senior Center show advertised four trophies in each of five model year categories -- 1940s & older, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s & newer. By advertising the 80s & newer, the show attracted a fair number of late-model cars. Over half of the 21 cars in the 80s & newer category were above the year 2000. Compare this to the 70s category which had a total of seven vehicles. As it turned out, the judges didn't select a single-car above the year 1997 to receive an award while four out of the seven cars in the 70s category went home with trophies. That didn't seem very fair to me. The judges shut out nearly two decades worth of cars. If the Senior Center wanted to continue to use categories for future shows, I posted they would better balance the categories by combining the 70 and 80s and making the last category 90s and newer. Or better yet, keep the 70s category, combine the 80s and 90s into the fifth category and add a sixth category for the cars 2000 and up. I shared my post in the Ohio Car Shows and Cruise-in Facebook group and it immediately turned into an old car versus new car discussion. Go figure...
- Passing out award plaques at registration - Last year I complained that the 125 "Favorite" awards presented at the Powell Cruise-In and Pig Out were way too many. I suggested 75 would be a better number based on the number of cars that attend the show each year. Well, this year the organizers went a step further and gave out award plaques to everyone that registered a vehicle. The award ceremony was reduced to presenting 14 "special" awards. This move made it feel like everyone got a participation trophy and it totally killed all the excitement during the show. A lot of folks who didn't feel their cars were special award-worthy left early. The moral of the story is to present dash plaques at registration and award plaques at award ceremonies.
- Registration at the Goodguys All American Sunday - It took almost 20 minutes to register my car at the Goodguy All American Sunday. The person doing the registration couldn't figure out how to enter the $5 discount for a Silver Goodguys membership. Multiple people had to assist. On top of that, the person failed to tell me that once I entered the show I had to register a second time if I wanted my car judged. My first impression of All American Sunday wasn't very positive.
There's not much ugly to talk about this year. I managed to keep my hands away from running motors so there are no chopped off fingertips to report.
I suppose you could call the heavy rainstorms some of us got caught in ugly. The two worst were at Der Dutchman in July and the last Jack Maxton show in September.
The shelter at Der Dutchman provided absolutely no protection from the heavy rain and high winds. The wind blew so hard I was a little panicked the roof of the shelter wasn't going to survive the storm. You know it rained hard when the money in your wallet, which was in your back pocket, had to be dried out.
The storms at the last Jack Maxton show came in waves. The first wave hit around 6 PM and was your typical late summer shower. The second wave hit an hour later with a vengeance! I had to dry out floor mats and despite being in its case, I had to shake the water out of the portable leaf blower I take with me. The band, the British Invasion, couldn't perform because all of their electronics were soaked with water. The awards presentation had to be moved inside the dealership as well.
Despite some personal ups and downs (my father's health and I lost my four-legged buddy in June), 2019 turned out to be another great season for Central Ohio car shows and cruise-ins. I can't put a price tag on the friends I made over the year. There wasn't an event I attended that I didn't know someone else. That's saying a lot
This website also grew by leaps and bounds this year. During the peak months of the season, it averaged between 2000 and 2500 unique visits a week. A single-day record of 678 visits was recorded on August 21.
I want to thank everyone for your support and the wonderful compliments I've received about this site. I've renewed the contract with the web hosting company so you can expect a fourth season of carshowtalk.com in 2020.
I'm going to take a few weeks off to recharge but before I go I want to wish everyone a safe and happy Holiday Season. I can't wait to see all of you again next year. 2020 promises to be another big season of shows and cruise-ins in and around Central Ohio.