That's how Tam Webb, coordinator of the Midlands International Auto Show describes how the annual event, held Jan. 24-27, has become a part of the fabric of the Omaha area.
Co-owned by the Nebraska New Car and Truck Dealers Association and the Omaha World-Herald
(Webb is an employee of the newspaper), in 2004 the show moved from the Civic Center
to its current home in the Qwest Center
, the result being a dramatic increase in both space (100,000 square feet then; 194,000 now) and attendance.
, who has done the show for seven years, still remembers how cramped things were in the Civic Center
"We had every nook and cranny occupied.
The Qwest Center
is a very nice facility, but we're still completely sold out."
The most recent show was one where Webb
was faced with high expectations, having previously brought in the popular characters from Pixar Animation's Cars - including Lightning McQueen, Mater and Sally.
"It was a big draw for families," she
Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s famous 88 racecar appeared at the Midlands International Auto Show
, courtesy of his
sponsor, the National Guard
This year's draw was the result of a surprise phone call - from the National Guard
"They asked how they might get involved," recalls Webb
"The show pays all the administrative costs of the raffle and all the money goes to 'Make a Wish'
," says Webb
, adding that the National Guard
also gets involved, bringing its Young Hero awards program to the show.
This year's auto show included the display of several customized vehicles now owned by NFL players as well as a number of classics.
says growth in the auto show has come as the result of a steady effort among organizers to boost its visibility.
A big help in that regard, Webb
says, is the local media.
"They treat it as a major event."
In Omaha, an economy that's based on services - including banking and insurance (notably Mutual of Omaha) - means being somewhat insulated from the ups and downs other markets that rely heavily on manufacturing might experience.
"We're pretty steady here," notes Webb
It's an environment that she
says presents its share of surprises, particularly among visitors to the area.
"People will say, 'I can't believe how busy the show is,'" says Webb
"And those show attendees are definitely in the market for a vehicle."
That assessment is borne out by feedback from dealers, she