CHAMPAIGN — Beginning in 2013, Champaign County will host a Corvette festival that could bring 40,000 people over three days to the region.
The Bloomington Gold Corvette Show will be held on the grounds surrounding the University of Illinois Assembly Hall and in the I Hotel and Conference Center in Champaign. It will be on June 27-30, 2013, and every year after that through 2017.
As part of the 2013 event, organizers want to take a crack at breaking the Guinness world record for the most number of Corvettes in a single road tour. The tour, which would include over 2,000 Corvettes, is expected to weave through the country roads surrounding Champaign-Urbana and conclude in downtown Champaign, pending city and county approval.
Highlights of the show include a Corvette auction by Mecum Auctions, a Bloomington Gold certification judging event, a hall of fame, swap meet and more.
The Bloomington Gold Corvette Show began in the 1970s in Bloomington and eventually moved on to other cities, including Springfield. Since 2002 the show has been held at Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, a far western suburb of Chicago. The 2013 show will be the first in Champaign County.
The new location in Champaign "is naturally attractive because it's the Midwest and accessible by lots of interstates," said David Burroughs, chief executive officer of Bloomington Gold. But also important is "the brand personality of the town," he said.
"We have to have a small-town atmosphere with big-town infrastructure," Burroughs said.
Among the many reasons they chose Champaign County was the potential for owners to drive country roads in the area and the ease with which Corvette owners can drive to the show.
Champaign County also hosts Vintage Weekend, the American Street Rod Association event in Rantoul in the fall, and the Parkland College Car Show in the spring.
"This is on a different scale," said Jayne DeLuce, president of the Champaign County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
DeLuce attended the Bloomington Gold Show in St. Charles this past summer to get a sense of what it was all about.
"It's a pretty amazing sight," she said.
"Our goal is to showcase Champaign County and we want to do it for different audiences," she said. That includes the IHSA state football championship games in the fall and the Illinois Marathon in the spring.
"With Corvettes, it's a very unique type of event. This is a very different kind of car show. It's high-end and owners are traveling from all over to attend," DeLuce said.
It's possible some attendees never have set foot in Champaign County. DeLuce hopes they will come back for multiple visits.
About 60 percent of the event's attendees come from the Midwest, according to Ed Saari, chief financial officer with Bloomington Gold. In previous years some showgoers have come from abroad to buy Corvettes at auction or shipped their Corvettes to the U.S. to have them certified by Bloomington Gold.
Saari said the Pheasant Run facility is great, but the event hasn't attracted as many people as organizers have wanted. And perhaps one of the reasons was people didn't want to drive into the Chicago region, he said.
Bloomington Gold is said to draw about 40,000 people over its three days. On each day, 2,000 to 3,000 Corvettes can be found in town, according to Saari.
DeLuce anticipates area hotels (there are about 3,500 hotel rooms in the county) will sell out.
Champaign County residents can attend the show, view or participate in the auction or catch the road tour as it makes its way through the county or when it culminates in downtown Champaign.
"Hosting one of these events lends itself to other types of events," DeLuce said. "We want to be able to be known to do these kinds of events."
Champaign-Urbana is fortunate, she said, for being at the crossroads of several highways, and "we have to capitalize on that."