UTAH MOTOR NEWS  Performance, Motorsports and Automotive News and Events for Utah and the Surrounding Area.

Car Shows in Utah

| April 18, 2024

By: Rick Bairett

Most towns have plenty of jaw-dropping vehicles squirreled away in private garages. Fortunately, car shows pop up all over Utah during the warmer months, drawing these amazing machines out of hiding. And who doesn’t like seeing antiques, classics, and exotics that most of us only dream of owning? 

Utah shows range from small fundraisers to professional-level events featuring millions of dollars worth of vehicles. It’s great to be a spectator but what is it like to be a participant in a show? Is it worth the effort and entry cost? Also, what does it take to put on successful car shows? And how might they benefit a community? 

I provide some insight on those questions using a fairly large community event as my reference: the Cedar City, Utah July Jamboree. 

The July Jamboree

Like many local car shows, the July Jamboree is a fundraiser. The first, in 1997, was a private venture by brother-in-laws—also Rotary members—Byron Linford and Wayne Manzione. They held it at Southern Utah University during homecoming, and charged both car owners and spectators. They hoped to raise enough money to grant a scholarship but barely had enough for a celebratory pizza afterward.

Since then, the event has grown steadily in numbers of cars and spectators. One big turning point was moving the car show to Cedar City’s main street. That location drew far more visitors, who didn’t have to remember to travel to an out-of-the-way venue.  

After 10 years, the show was too big for two people to manage. Thus, the next major turning point was enlisting Rotary Club support and turning it into a Rotary fundraiser. Current club president Brittany Fisher and July Jamboree planning chair Martin Haeberle clarified that all funds really support the Rotary Foundation—the club’s service arm—and go back into the community. 

For that matter, the whole thing is about giving back to the community. It’s probably the biggest Cedar City event in terms of the number of people converging on the downtown area for a fantastic evening. 

The Jamboree is expected to draw close to 20,000 people and over 350 show vehicles in 2024. That includes owners coming from California, Nevada, Arizona, and Colorado. Word has traveled about what a first-class event this is and that Cedar City is a wonderful small town to visit. Those visitors definitely boost the local economy.

Also, the Jamboree combines the efforts of hundreds of people—city officials, law enforcement, Rotary members and families, university and high school students, local businesses, etc.—to pull off an event that’s entering its 27th year of successful execution. 

Entering and Showing a Car

I’ve attended my share of car shows, but understood them mostly from the spectator side. To write about the car show experience, it only made sense to enter a car in the July Jamboree.

The straightforward entry process meant downloading a form, filling it out, and scanning and returning it via email. I paid the reasonable $35 fee online with a credit card. 

I own a couple of possible entries—a WRX STi and an NB Miata—but I wanted to experience showing a machine that would really draw people. Accordingly, I talked my brother- and sister-in-law into lending me their 2022 Camaro ZL1, with 1LE track package. 

When the July Jamboree rolled around, it became obvious that the $35 fee was an absolute bargain. Local sponsors, including Tink’s Superior Auto Parts, provided a kick off party the night before, which was open to the public. It included live music, a beer garden, and food trucks, with food vouchers for registered entrants. Tink’s also provided a grab bag—really a bucket—with car goodies and a “NAPA Racing” hat. Entrants also got a commemorative t-shirt. 

Saturday morning began with a hot sit-down breakfast at Southwest Tech, then a “rod run” to other sponsor locations. Iron Springs Adventure Resort provided car photos, drinks, snacks and a small goodie bag. Tuckers Classic Auto Parts followed with hot dogs and hamburgers at their location. All of these events were great for getting to know other owners and their cars in a less-hectic environment. 

Show & Shine

Of course the big event was the show & shine that evening in downtown Cedar City. In the hours prior, my wife and I got to experience just how much work it is to make a car pristine for a show. Did you know that if you wash and polish a black car, by the time you drive four miles it will have dust on it again? Yeah, the polishing was an ongoing process.

Still, the ZL1 1LE turned out to be a great choice as a show car. First, I did not pay extra for a prime spot in the center of main street. That area has more shade—wonderful in July—and the most foot traffic. Nevertheless, when I got to the staging area I was directed to park that eye-catching machine in the center. My thanks to whoever no-showed and gave me their spot. 

Second, even while surrounded by amazing machines, loads of people wanted to talk about the ZL1. I helped with researching it, picking it up and driving it to its new home. So extolling its virtues and its raw race-car feel was not a problem. It was just a lot of fun to meet people and talk cars from the “owner” standpoint. 

I remember one young woman coming up to me with an apologetic yet hopeful expression. She said, “Would you be willing to start your car and let us hear it”? The sound of a 650-horsepower supercharged menace roaring to life is one of my very favorite things about the ZL1, so I was happy to oblige. From the look on her and her friends’ faces, they enjoyed it as much as I do. 

Also, we got to hand the car’s rightful owners a “peoples’ choice” award when we returned it.

Making the July Jamboree Happen

I had attended a Rotary meeting several months prior to the 2023 July Jamboree, and was surprised to learn that 10 separate committees make it all happen. They included permitting and city coordination, vendor coordination, entertainment, food, and cleanup committees, and of course car registration and participant event committees. 

Planning for a July Jamboree starts almost immediately after the last one ends, and really starts spinning hard about six months prior. Rotary members become committee members or “champions” (chairs) and high school and university “Interact” clubs—sponsored by Rotary—also provide lots of volunteer labor. 

SUU athletes help with setup and cleanup, and many law enforcement and other city officials come together to keep everything functioning properly and safely. 

Rotary’s goal was to raise over $70,000 to fund their community support efforts. However, when I did the math, even 350 entries and 150 vendor booth fees fall way short of that target. Haeberle explained that they intentionally keep the entry fee low and provide great value for entrants, because the cars are the show. He and Fisher pointed to sponsorship by local businesses as the real key. 

Several successful businesses look for opportunities to give back to the community. Linking with the Rotary Foundation ensures their donations go to deserving causes. Accordingly, business sponsorships don’t just make the July Jamboree itself amazing. They are also the reason that the fundraising aspect is so successful. There is no way Rotary would meet its fundraising goals without them, and Rotary Members Rob O’Brien and Sue Longson have been superstars about growing sponsorships. Other members similarly donate hundreds of hours. 

Consider Getting Involved

There are lots of ways to get involved in a car show. I plan to return as an owner, even without such an impressive entry, simply because it was a great experience. 

One of the important aspects of such a large community event is that it gives many people the opportunity to provide service. Service is a main emphasis of Rotary International, but you don’t have to be a member of a service club to help out. Many hands are needed, and show sponsors are typically happy to have volunteers.

If you can’t participate as an owner or volunteer, just come out to your local car shows. The vehicles may be the show, but lots of spectators make the show a success. 

© 2024, R Bairett

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1 Comment

  1. Crista Bairett

    Love car shows! Thanks for the insights.


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