Pausing on the threshold of the future
By Mike Morrow, The Eureka Reporter
The Fortuna Redwood AutoXpo gives spectators and participants alike the chance to pause on the threshold of the future and cast a glance — and more than a glance — at the past.
This popular annual event has grown from a small car show and swap meet to a phenomenon that fills the town and includes an antiques show, a display of antique tractors and engines, and a craft show. Up to 20,000 people a day crowd into Fortuna on all three days of the event to look at all of the above plus the main attraction - cars, cars and more cars.
Frank Hizer and Greg Lovick are two of the committee members who have been involved with AutoXpo since its inception.
Lovick recalled that it all began in 1990, when some students at Fortuna Union High School wanted to put on a car show. They called Hizer, who called some of his friends, and in two days they got together 20-25 cars for a show at Newburg Park, Lovick said. Out of that success, AutoXpo was born.
"We figured the spectators would come because it's free,"
Former Fortunan Stan Smith came up with "Autorama" as a name for the event, Lovick recalled. (The name "Autorama" is owned by a company in Michigan and the continued use of that name would cause an infringement on the trademark, so the event's name was changed to AutoXpo in 2005.) Hizer said that he and Smith spent about $250 on that first show, which drew around a hundred vehicles. No money was spent to advertise that first year — "We figured the spectators would come because it's free," Lovick said.
As AutoXpo has grown, so has its budget - the budget for this year's AutoXpo is around $45,000, Hizer said. Some of that is spent on advertising, both locally and out of the area. Most of the vehicles come from California and Oregon but a few come from other states, sometimes as far as several states away.
Lovick said original committee members were "friends of Frank," not necessarily car people. "Almost all of the committee people had no idea what these things were," he said.
Members who attended other shows came back with ideas for AutoXpo, which was one of the first shows to have crafts and antiques, Lovick said. AutoXpo still has a swap meet, too, something many other car shows don't have, he said.