Where can you find 2,500 incredible show cars, amazing live entertainment, and a massive swap meet all wrapped up in friendly Midwestern hospitality? At the 2017 Iola Car Show of course! Iola, normally just a small dot on the map, annually becomes the 3-day home to over 120,000 attendees. The event offers something for every age group. This year – the car show team unveiled a beautiful memorial dedicated to the Iola Car Show founder, the late Chet Krause. 2017 also marked the 50th Anniversary of Pontiac’s landmark Firebird. These beauts added a special flair to the event.

There are always new sights and sounds at each car show. The first annual Miss Iola Pinup Contest featured 25 contestants who embraced the hair, fashions, and personas of the 1940s-1960s. Don’t fret; it was a family friendly event. Contestants were judged on poise, personality, confidence, style, and the way they embraced the era. The winner was named Miss Iola Blue Ribbon 2017.

A sea of cars like a painted rainbow

Rawhide representatives are always honored to be part of the car show, meeting wonderful people from all across the nation. As we rode past gate after gate, we were able to observe the vastness of the car show. It’s one thing knowing the event is held on 300 acres, but another to actually see it. Incredible! We could see every color of the rainbow in the sea of cars that were harbored in the car corrals. From blossoming yellow to tranquil teal, the grounds were painted like the beauty of a sunrise.

Sea of cars at Iola

A closer look of our surroundings revealed classic cars that took people back to the ‘good old days’ and modified ones that left people in wonder. Can you imagine the creativity it took to turn a manure spreader into a working vehicle? Look a-likes from Jurassic Park, Dukes of Hazzard, The Munsters, and Cars catered to a different kind of audience. Doc Hudson, a replica of the Fabulous Hudson Hornet, and Tow Mater, the lovable rusty tow truck, looked so real we thought we were in Radiator Springs.

Cars from movies Iola

Rawhide headlines annual car giveaway

Rawhide again donated a vehicle to be given away at the car show. Our white 1999 Pontiac Firebird sat right in front of our booth adorned with a giant red bow. The bow was whisked away in the Friday afternoon storms, but neither rain nor hail could dampen the hopes and spirits of those who came to enter. For three days we accepted over 2200 entries for a chance to win the car. Entries were dropped in the drawing box folded, unfolded, and even sealed with good luck kisses. We shared a lot of laughs with those who wanted to know “the winning strategy.” The car was given away on the last day of the show at the Super Saturday Give Away. The lucky winner was from Tomahawk, WI.

People came to our booth for reasons other than entering to win that cool, shiny car. We met so many of our donors, many of whom we’ve only spoken to on the phone. It was wonderful to put faces to their names and voices! We also made new friends from around the country. Most people walked up to our booth, but one energetic fella rode up on a motorized cooler. Iola Car Show – it truly has it all.

Rawhide at Iola

Food, camping, and concerts

The Iola Car Show is the biggest nonprofit car show and swap meet in the world and the excitement is not unlike that of a carnival. With 4,200 vendors selling that rare car part or hidden treasure, the swap meet is every car lover’s dream come true. It’s not unusual to see someone walking through the crowd carrying a tire rim or replica license plate. And what compliments a well-run car show? Food! Oh, the food. Our booth was in the perfect spot to enjoy the wonderful aroma of the chicken dinners, brats, burgers, pizza, deep-fried cheese curds, etc. And don’t forget the ice cream!

As the car show came to an end each evening, some took the bus back to their camp site just down the road to relax, while others stuck around and enjoyed the Iola Car Show concerts held Friday and Saturday night. The concerts were a new feature and huge hit in 2016. Brought back again this year, they are free to all attendees, volunteers, vendors, and exhibitors.

When the Saturday music hit its final note and everything was said and done, it doesn’t matter if you attended the Iola Car Show for your first time or your 40th, the unique atmosphere is sure to keep you coming back again and again.