June 4, 2020

The Best Thing about the Hershey Car Show

• By John Chisholm •

I went with an old friend to the Hershey, Pennsylvania Car Show last week.

There were, of course, a lot of cars.  Many were rare, beautifully restored or exceptionally well kept.  They appeared in every conceivable color and configuration, with over a century of manufacturing represented.  Seeing them all was fun, but they weren’t the remarkable thing about the show.

Associated with the cars was a vast flea market of automobile parts, pieces, literature and associated machinery, tools, lifts, supplies, paraphernalia and sundries.

There were rubber vulcanization demonstrations and antique tire sizes.  They accompanied the models and display stands, chroming and polishing services, upholsters and auto fabrics available.  There was a thick catalog of it all that didn’t begin to cover everything.  I walked from tailgate to tailgate, booth to booth and tent to tent discovering people from all over the country and abroad offering items not mentioned anywhere in the official index.

Of course there was food and drink there, too.

Somehow, all of it interrelated with our automobile culture.  Wow.  Over 100 acres of parking lot converted into a huge store with a reported total aisle length of over 27 miles.

It took three days of steady walking, just to cover it all.  I did that.  I enjoyed it immensely and not just because of the shopping.

Oh, sure.  I did a little of that.  Who wouldn’t?

But the amazing thing here, none of that represents the remarkable part of this show.

That, quite simply, was the people involved.  The social interconnections and inter-reactions of the thousands of individuals involved in putting on such a huge event were the wonder.  Many of the vendors were return attendees.  Windshield after windshield displayed a dozen years or more of annual attendance stickers.  Every aisle featured people shaking hands, renewing relationships, chatting and catching up with each other.  I’m sure there was security there, but I didn’t see it.  I never heard it called, either.  The camaraderie involved was amazing.  Old men in wheelchairs led the younger generations, introducing them to their friends and acquaintances ― and their cars.  At every booth, folks sat in lawn chairs chatting.  Picking up a conversation was easy.  All you had to do was mention your Pontiac, your Studebaker or, in my case, my Daimler.  Do that and away you went, inquiring, relating, mentioning, inferring, learning.

All that brought up other names, other sources for parts, different ideas about who to see and how to get a job done.

I doubled my collection of business cards on the first day.  That’s considerably more contacts than it might sound.

But, better than all that, I spent three days meeting people ― a wide variety of characters ― and loved every minute of it.

In this season of political discord and strife where members of the various parties are actively encouraging their entourage to pick fights with the other sides, the accord felt between thousands and thousands of people was truly remarkable.

It was incredibly enjoyable.

Far better than that, it gave me hope ― not for cars.  For people.