If you walked past the Nicollet County Fairgrounds on Sunday, you would have seen a couple of interesting cars. Well, more than just a couple — there were 361, to be exact. They were all there for the 43rd Car Show and Swap Meet, organized by the Auto Restorers Club of Southern Minnesota, and they put on quite a show.
The car show, which is “always the third Sunday of September,” ran most of the day and included several awards, as well as a “car corral” where people could sell their vehicles, door prizes, food and goodie bags for members.
“Everybody enjoys it,” said coordinator Myra Jongbloedt. “It’s one of the largest car shows in southern Minnesota.”
A yearly tradition
According to club president Gloria Burg, this year’s show had about 30 more cars than last year’s, and she figures that the weekend’s good weather was a “big factor.”
“I’m so happy with the way the show went,” she said. “It was wonderful. I think the weather was a real big factor. Normally, other years, we’ve had rain or cold weather, and this year we didn’t have to worry about that.”
While the final count hasn’t been tallied on how many visitors came, Jongbloedt estimates it was in the thousands, and Burg added that people traveled from all over the state to participate.
“We had somebody from Iowa, who drove six hours,” she said. “They come in from all over.”
Many of the attendants — whether showing or looking — have come other years as well.
“They keep coming back,” Burg said. “That’s their pastime and their fun. We have a lot of pedestrians who keep coming back, [too]. I see the same faces every year.”
According to Jongbloedt, all of the club’s members — about 130 families at this point — are encouraged to help with the event, which she starts planning only days after the last year’s event ends. Part of her role includes lining up vendors and swappers, recruiting enough volunteers and collecting donations for door prizes and goodie bags for car show participants. This year’s prizes ranged from a night at a local hotel to free car washes. Area businesses also donated.
“It takes a lot of organizing,” Burg agreed. “We had members on Wednesday and worked right on through to Sunday, mowing lawns, putting cones out, planning it out. It takes quite a lot of work, but in the end, it’s all worth it. You meet a lot of neat people, and you’re working with a lot of neat people.”
A long road
The Auto Restorers Club was founded by Andy (“C.O.”) and Nellie Anderson in 1961, with the first meeting held on July 9 of that year. According to club records, the goal of the club was to “share knowledge, experiences and enjoyment of old cars.” The first meeting included seven classic cars and their owners.
The club officially chose its name on Feb. 22, 1964, as well as electing official leadership positions. Dues rose from $1 that year to $10 in 1987, the amount they’ve cost ever since. Besides setting up monthly meetings that included tours and parades, the Auto Restorers Club also began sending out a monthly newsletter.
The first car show and swap meet occurred in 1977, featuring 97 classic cars and more than 1,000 visitors. Since then, the event has changed and grown, but it’s always held on the third Sunday of September. In 1987, the 10th Annual Car Show and Swap Meet became the largest in southern Minnesota at the time. Over the years, the show has attracted different numbers of participants, including 493 cars for the 24th show in 2000.
Now, the club has about 125-130 members. (Membership is based on cars, not individual owners, so there are many more people than cars in the club.) While most of the members come from the local area, there are also members from Sioux Falls, Rochester and Windom.
The Auto Restorers Club donates half of its show profits (usually totaling around $10,000 in donations) to different charities, based on what members recommend. Some nonprofits have included the Alzheimer’s Association, Boy Scouts, Camp Courage, Habitat for Humanity, Make-a-Wish, Red Cross, Salvation Army and the Shriners. Last year, the club donated towards paving the Nicollet County Fairgrounds driveway.
Burg explained that the club donates up to $1,000 towards 10 charities every year.
“[The show] is a real good moneymaker, and we send it right back out again,” she said. “It’s a good cause.”
Jongbloedt said this year’s nonprofits haven’t been chosen yet, explaining that members are encouraged to think of ideas and then vote on them during the November meeting.