Mark Houlahan
Tech Editor, Mustang Monthly
July 24, 2014

By now everyone should be well rested with the Mustang 50th celebrations far off in the rearview mirror. Having sufficient time to reflect on the two shows, the more I thought about the griping and complaining I heard while attending Charlotte (and I was told it was fairly common in Las Vegas as well) the more I felt something needed to be said about show planning and follow through in an upcoming Hoof Beats column. So now you get to read and absorb my thoughts on these events this month. Pull up a seat, grab a drink, and read carefully. You may not like what I say, but it comes with much experience.

Having been in this hobby going on almost 30 years, I've attended and been involved in enough Mustang shows to have just a bit of knowledge of how a show is produced. From the very early beginnings of show planning where a few club members say “Hey, we should put on a show and help XYZ charity,” to taking down the tents at the end of a long, hot day, I've been there and worn the show T-shirt. I've been involved in everything from your basic cruise night planning all the way up to MCA Nationals and Grand Nationals that my club has hosted. Even after doing our annual show for nearly two decades, there are new issues that pop up each and every year we have to tackle.

When you sign up for an event, be it a regional Mustang club show, an MCA national, or one of the anniversary shows that happen every five years, know this; everything that is handled, from registration, to parking, signing up sponsors and attracting vendors, to judging and even handing out the awards, is done by 100 percent volunteer labor. The majority of this workforce is club members, but often clubs will recruit family members or even the local Boy Scout troop to help out. Why do these people volunteer months and sometimes over a year of their personal time to help put on a show? It's because they support the hobby and want to see it continue to grow. There are many facets of this hobby and car shows are just one part, albeit an important one for the majority of Mustang owners.

You've no doubt heard the phrase “don't judge a man until you've walked a mile in his shoes.” To paraphrase, “don't complain about issues at a car show until you've been involved with putting one on yourself.” I've never attended a show where the awards didn't start a little late, or that I was told I could park with my club but then the parking changed on the day of the show due to other circumstances, and so many more. These issues shouldn't ruin the show experience for anyone. Remember, for the majority of shows we attend we're there to support a good cause, hang out with friends, and meet new ones. That $5 gold plastic cup with a car on top should be secondary to why you are there.

Now a really big show like the 50th anniversary show does have its own unique set of problems, but let's be honest. If the show has nearly 3,000 Mustangs registered and the majority of them are arriving the day before the show (don't we all do that for big weekend shows?) isn't it fair to expect hundreds of people in line for their registration pickup? I wouldn't expect to walk into the host hotel and walk out the door five minutes later with my registration packet. Some things were out of the MCA's control, others changed as the week wore on (weather can be an unexpected event changer), and yes, some things the MCA should have contemplated and been prepared for.

Does any of this ruin the event? Not in the slightest if you ask me. I was one of the few people who were actually AT the Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday in 45-degree weather with a constant, drizzling rain. The Mustangs that were there looked just as nice to me as the ones that were there in the sun on Thursday. There were just less of them, as many people opted to skip the show venue and stay dry elsewhere. Can I blame people for doing that? Not really, but you can't blame a 100 percent volunteer workforce of club members for everything that happened at Charlotte or Vegas. Try getting involved with organizing a show sometime and wear the MCA's shoes, and for those who do put on the Mustang shows across the country every year I salute you. It's a lot of hard work with very little appreciation for the effort.