KENOSHA — You can imagine Chris Allen is feeling excited, relieved and nervous this week.
As executive director of the Kenosha History Center, he and staff members and volunteers are hosting the 2022 Kenosha Homecoming Car Show, a huge event that requires years of planning.
The largest AMC car show in the world is back in the city this week. Normally, the event takes place every three years as vehicles made by local manufacturers including Nash and American Motors Corp. “come home” for the car show, swap meets and other events.
But COVID-19 intervened, canceling the planned 2022 Homecoming.
For the first time since 2017, the Homecoming celebration is on.
“We are thrilled to be hosting the even this year,” Allen said. “It’s a big deal for us to be able to honor and celebrate the rich automotive history of Kenosha.”
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ready to go
When we talked on Tuesday, Allen was confident that “everything is set. We have been planning for years and believe that this year’s event lineup and all the detail that has gone into the planning is second to none.”
One of the highlights on Friday is “a huge block party” at the History Center. Before the party, however, there is “an AMC/Nash Parade going through Downtown Kenosha” on the way to the party.
When asked how many vehicles he expects to take part in the event’s car show on Saturday along Kenosha’s lakefront, Allen said predicting a number “is the wild card.”
“The weather forecast looks awesome, and we know people are chomping at the bit to come to Kenosha for this show after the five-year hiatus,” he said. “We already have cars and swap meet vendors registered from over 30 states and three Canadian provinces. I’d say we will see over 1,000 cars, but it could be a few hundred more than that. We will find out this Saturday.”
The Homecoming Car Show — which features events each day — draws AMC car owners from all over, Allen said.
“AMC owners are a passionate group of people and will be traveling from all over the world to get here to see the beautiful cars and find hard-to-get parts at the Swap Meet on Friday and Saturday,” he said. “The whole week has the feel of a huge family reunion.”
For ‘casual fans,’ too
Even people who are, at best, casual car fans — and who wouldn’t know a spark plug from an oil filter — will enjoy the car show, he said.
“It’s really a spectacle to see that many cars from one brand in one place,” Allen said. “And even more special is to see AMCs, because outside of Kenosha they are rare at any car show. A lot of people have fun rummaging through all of the parts and knickknacks people have gathered and are selling at the swap meet. Do you need a handle for a Pacer? I’m sure you could find one there!
“Our show is different in that there is no judging, which creates a very relaxed and friendly atmosphere. The mayor, county executive, police chief, fire chief and History Center staff will all give out trophies for their favorite cars, but they don’t have to be perfect cars. The rustiest car might be someone’s favorite.”
Even though AMC left Kenosha decades ago, he added, people are still interested in Kenosha’s car-making history.
“American Motors was always an underdog in the auto-making world. I think people are drawn to that underdog story in a way. Also, and more importantly, the car companies that were here provided jobs for multiple generations. People who grew up in Kenosha were greatly impacted by Jeffery, Nash, AMC and eventually Chrysler.
“Car collectors often have stories about a car being in their family for decades,” Allen said. “The show connects generations and people from all walks of life.”