By Jim Van Dorn
The city of Bowling Green has once again become the host of an annual event which only it can host: The National Corvette Homecoming. Now some of you might say, “Hey I remember something about that long ago,” and you would be correct. In fact, the NCH has been around since 1980, when the Corvette Plant was just setting up shop. It seems several guys, including GM employee Tom Hill, got together and decided there should be a Corvette homecoming in Bowling Green every year and the NCH was born.
As with most organizations, there has been some strife through the years. Several groups of owners have come and gone but beginning in 2005, Bowling Green resident Joe Pruitt, along with his wonderful wife Vera, have taken this show from a dozen or so entrants to what we saw this past weekend.
Over 3,000 attended the National Corvette Homecoming aided by both the spectacular 75 degree weather, and the addition of steel bodied cars that couldn’t resist the chance to earn a trophy in the highly organized “drive thru” judging. From Monte Carlos to the new Camaro, all makes and models experienced the hospitality of the Corvette crowd. You’re probably asking yourself how plastic and steel get along so well?
After last year’s show, Joe and his team consisting of volunteers from the Bowling Green Assembly and Corvettes Limited Corvette Clubs had a meeting and discussed how to increase attendance, especially for the show and shine classes. Since the BG area has a huge population of cruise night cars, it was decided to open the show up to all. The result was a jump in attendance and a huge success for the show in general. But that’s not all Joe and Vera have done to improve and let the show evolve into what may soon become a major event on the Corvette calendar.
Most events have a theme. Some may be competition related with autocross or drag racing for instance. Others may be focused on vendors and swap meet style collections. Joe has focused the NCH on being a car show with vendors and a whole lot of fun thrown in.
For the past two years and for the foreseeable future, the NCH is held at the Sloan Convention center, which offers several nicer hotels and restaurants within walking distance. Friday is move in day for the ballroom vendors, inside display vehicles and the newly introduced “Sans Pareil” (“without equal”) show class which is rising fast as yet another top caliber award for only the most pristine of original Corvettes. There are 25 Sans Pareil award winners to date.
Saturday kicks off the festivities with all day judging in a drive thru format. Seminars and How To clinics by the most noted of experts are available through the day and then the real fun begins. All who care to can participate in a police-escorted parade through historic old Bowling Green, to an ever-growing audience of locals. Hundreds of Corvettes equal one heck of a car show in motion!
Back at the Convention Center, the parking lot readies for the night’s entertainment. In this year’s case the “Blue Light Special”, a local high quality band which includes several of BG’s finest law enforcement personnel. Unlike many other stiff-lipped organizations, NCH attendees are encouraged to bring their coolers, kids, and the beverages of their choice, along with their beach chairs to enjoy a fantastic (and free) parking lot concert of pop and dance tunes. But beware of the Blue Light’s lead singers as they are known to enter the crowd and make potential stars of the unsuspecting at any time.
Sunday continues much of the same and concludes with the awards presentation at mid afternoon. Joe says he hopes to move the event up one day as soon as he can remedy a scheduling conflict for Thursday with the Convention Center.
In just four years, Joe and his team have nurtured a fledgling car show into an event for many within driving distance. Joe’s hope is to make the NCH an event on the national Corvette calendar such as Carlisle and Bloomington. “We have a growing group of folks who are bringing more and more of their friends each and every year” Pruitt says. “The sky’s the limit for the event. Where else but the birthplace of the Corvette to host a homecoming!”
Next year’s plans are already being drafted and include the return of the highly acclaimed bi-annual “Vettetastic” program where up to 300 scale model Corvettes (5ft long x 2ft wide x 18in high) are purchased from the American Red Cross for painting and personalization, then later auctioned off for fundraising. Vettetastic is hosted by the South Central Kentucky Chapter of the American Red Cross provides disaster preparedness and response and health and safety education to residents of nearby counties, as well as assistance to families with members in the military. In 2008, the theme Corvette was a 1957. In 2010, the famed 1963 split window will be featured and sure to become a sought after auction item.
The SACC (Solid Axle Corvette Club) will also be holding their annual event at the NCH. Celebrities include Larry Richter, Max Brockhouse, Doc Hollada and the world famous solid axle authority Noland Adams.
While it’s true Kentucky’s normal weather is usually warm and moist, this year was beautiful with unseasonal 75 degree temps. Regardless, the Convention Center makes a terrific refuge from the heat and provides a fun and diverse shopping experience. With regards to next year’s plans Pruitt related, “We hope to bring as vendors in as we can, especially Corvette related ones, and we’re going to bring seminars and how-to clinics into the showroom. We’re also discussing thoughts of additional around town activities for our guests and their cars.”
We’re already looking forward to next years National Corvette Homecoming in beautiful Bowling Green, Kentucky. Why not mark your calendars for July 16-18, and enjoy not only the Pruitt’s hospitality, but the brand new expansion of the National Corvette Museum and newly reorganized Corvette Assembly Plant as well? For full information on the Homecoming, see their website at www.NationalCorvetteHomecoming.com.
Photography by Shutterbug Photomall