Kids’ car shows–the road to glory, paradise

For millions of kids in the ’80s and ’90s, the allure of a hot automobile was nothing short of epic. Whether you found yourself perched at the top of a turnip truck, sliding toward the edge of an accelerator with fright-inducing speed, or bouncing up and down in a Volkswagen Rabbit like a pole dancer waiting for a Buck– the traffic jams and road rage you encountered during the week in your parents’ beloved Suzuki Swift, Mazda Racers, or Coopers were seemingly endless and the clunking rumbling that emanated from your automobile was the highlight of the week.

Of course, you had to control that car, and that meant pumping the clutch. Once you pulled away, the throttle would kick in and you would do your best to keep it from jumping up the road and mowing down other drivers, drivers that you did not want to have a chance to beat. Of course, you sometimes succumbed to instinct and steered the car in an unwanted direction, just to prove to yourself that you could stick to the road without speeding.

Living life in a pedal-to-the-metal car was the ultimate thrill for many, and it was one that one-armed truckers or retired wrestlers had no luck getting. And that’s why the very first kids car shows were erected all across the country to give children and teens a chance to have a dancable and passionless tryout for their dreams.

The first car show was organized by Bill Boyer and his buddies at the Grange Hall in Ramsey, Minnesota, to give kids a chance to get on the leading edge of the newest trucks. Mr. Boyer, who drove a 1938 Ford X-11 pickup in the 1912 edition of the Boyer Five and Two, was all for giving kids a chance to show off their cars. But he worried that many children could not care less about steering a four-wheel drive vehicle and spending a day on a movie loop with ice. He organized a show and the rest, as they say, is history.

Kids cars parties would soon pop up at car shows and what are known today as Super Cars of the Year showcases. Focusing on the very newest Toyotas, Hondas, and Imports, the “Cruisin’ At The Fair” events brought lots of kids and their parents together.

But those early car shows weren’t hard-core car shows– they were simply car parties. Most kids attended just to get to see what the latest cars looked like. After all, the big-boy car shows were now taking place miles away at the famous Pennsylvania Fairgrounds. There they had Bugatti Veyron record-breaking shows, high-performance and high-fi. At this time, kids had far more confidence with cars, and they were so hip that they wore flared jeans and high-top sneakers.

But the kids parties were the real party. A little purple Yamaha under the tree as a gift from Grandma would bring a lot of smiles. Every kid had a car story; some good, some bad, some that were the most hilarious. All of the kids at the car parties were laughing and having fun, because they were all there to see the latest cars and talk about the kinds of tires they drove around the block in.

The buzz around the cars was electric. Hot rods and Eurofighters, GTOs and Toyotas, compacts and Subarus were the order of the day, along with fire engines and vintage cars. Both older and younger drivers were milling around with their collectors’ car and taking photos with their fans. The only argument came down to how the latest cars looked. Any car that looked more ripped off a Mr. Universe competition was THE TIME for kid parties.

In the early days of the kids parties, the children’s car shows weren’t just places to show off your latest toy to your friends. These kids car parties were also places to show off your latest obsessions. Kids traveled from all over the country and beyond for the shows, looking for friends and escapism, and finding a chance to escape the real world. And their car show nights became the perfect place to find fame, as kids would always find their story to share with friends around the lot.


William Berch has the honor of driving a Mini Cooper when he’s not driving a KTM bike.

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