This weekend, the city… well, town, of Brandon, South Dakota, hosted Automania for the first time. Until now, it’s been held in downtown Sioux Falls, and if you know Sioux Falls, you know how hard it is to park there. Automania is billed as the “biggest automotive event in the Midwest,” and can draw crowds of 50,000 to 70,000. Brandon is perfect for the event, since the town is spread out, and there’s lots of parking for attendees. (There are three schools right along Holly Boulevard, each with a huge parking lot – even the elementary school lot is big. Plus we have an auto race track outside of town with a huge parking area, and shuttle buses were running from the parking lot there to the display area.) Automania is the biggest event Brandon has ever hosted. The event is free to the public.
I noticed something was going on Wednesday, when they put up that bright orange “snow fence” stuff all along Holly Boulevard, our main east-west street, and put “Road Closed” signs near each intersection along Holly. (Holly is one block south of the street where I live.) I wondered if they were planning a big road construction gig. On Thursday, I noticed a big truck offloading those aqua-colored Port-a-Pottys, along Holly, and I saw a big red-and-white-striped tent being put up in front of one of the Lutheran Churches in town. A local pork producer was selling pretty good-sized pork sandwiches, a bag of chips and a canned or bottled beverage for one dollar in front of the town’s only grocery store on Thursday night. That was IF you could get into the parking lot, because Holly Boulevard, which is right next to the grocery store, was closed.
On Friday morning, the cars started coming in. Lots of classic cars from the 50s and 60s, plus all kinds of sports cars. And people came in huge travel trailers from all over the place. I heard over between 1,500 and 1,800 cars were on display (0nly 1,200 parking spaces had been set aside), and there were 105 vendors (automotive items as well as food vendors) and at least two bands. In fact, they trucked in sand to cover the street in front of the place where a local “beach band” was playing on Friday night. At any given time during the event there were about 70,000 people.
I was pleasantly surprised that there wasn’t as much noise as I thought there might be, and although the streets were filled with a lot more cars, the drivers seemed courteous. There were a lot of small-town folks from the area who felt more comfortable in the town of Brandon than they would in the “big city” of Sioux Falls. I guess we’ll be doing this again next year… 🙂