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The Early Days of The Classic Car Show


September 1, 2017

One evening during the winter of 1966-1967, the Travel Committee of the Greater Bennington Association was meeting. A perennial problem was discussed: how to increase business during the "Dead Days" of tourist travel from Labor Day to the start of fall foliage. Among a number of ideas, the possibility of an antique car show was mentioned. The more we discussed it, the better it sounded. We agreed to find out more of the details involved in sponsoring a Car Show As chairman of the committee, I said I would talk with Joe Joseph about our idea. I knew that he had an antique car, perhaps he could help us get started.

I approached Joe with our plan and he was enthusiastic about the idea of an antique car show in Bennington. He stated: "There is a lot of work involved. You will need many volunteer workers. You must prepare a budget, advertising program, and car registration forms. Determine the entry fee, possible village tour, banquet, location, judging, etc, etc.

He also told me that he was an ex-President of the Classic Car Club. He also said, "That he, himself, owns 6 Classic Cars, stored about town, and if a show develops, he would bring them all to the show. After a moment, Joe stated, "My friends have often suggested to him that the Club should plan a tour in Vermont and that they were sure I would gladly host a cocktail party at my home. It never happened....(pause)....if the show is on, I will invite the whole Club to display their cars and will include an invitation to a cocktail party at my home. That should bring in a number of Classic Cars."

I reported my conversation with Joe Joseph at the next Travel Committee meeting. Other members reported they had a found a good deal of approval for a Antique Car Show. After much discussion, we agreed, "Let's go for it!"

We received approval from the GBA Board with the proviso that their budget was very tight, and that we would have to raise our own start-up money.

On March 13, 1967, the Bennington Banner reported that I had announced to the Friday Rotary Meeting that the Greater Bennington Association was planning to sponsor an Antique & Classic Car Show on the weekend of September 15-17. I explained that Joe Joseph had told us straight-up that a car show is a lot of work. However, we plan that this car show will be a community event to be enjoyed by all. It will be a new and exciting event. As our program matures, many of you will be called upon to volunteer.

Appropriately, the main speaker for the meeting was our member, Joe Joseph, who spoke on his hobby of collecting and restoring Classic Cars. He described his hobby as one of the most irrational ever conceived by man. You can only drive one at a time!! However, it is "Fun to Drive" one of the old cars once they are restored, and he said that he gets a great deal of satisfaction doing so because "people look at the car and then they look at you as the owner." He then noted, in a more serious vein, "the greatest pleasure he receives from his hobby is the restoration of the cars. The goal is to make the restored vehicles as authentic as possible."

The summer of 1967 went by in a blur. The Old Solder's Home became our location. The banquet

was scheduled at the Bennington Country Club. Advertising was prepared. Many of us went to a car show, or 2, or more, to observe the nuts and bolts of sponsoring one. A cocktail party at the Bennington Museum was hosted for all the entries on Friday, 6 to 7 PM. Free admission at the Museum was provided all weekend. A tour thru Bennington Village and on to the Bennington Battlefield Park on Sunday was well attended. We did not plan a food service on the grounds as we were very close to several near-by restaurants. Not a good idea. Next time we should have food available.

I believe we covered all expenses, however, no profits. The Car Show was a big success. My best guess is that we had about 100 cars in the Show. Not to say that we had no problems along the way. We did, but we solved them, one way or another. There were many Classic Cars at the show, as Joe predicted. And Joe hosted the cocktail party at his home. I have not mentioned more names because I am sure I would leave too many out. All I can remember is that there were many volunteers and supporters involved and that we had a wonderful time producing the First Annual Bennington Vermont Antique & Classic Car Show!.

And yes, all the motels were full!

Author: Bob Condon
Sally Sugarman (Club Member & Windmill Editor)

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