It's called "The Granddaddy of Corvette Shows," but as Bloomington Gold reached its 30th birthday, the great event was aging. So, in 2002, Dana Mecum moved the show from the fairgrounds that had hosted the event to the posh Pheasant Run Resort and Golf Course in St. Charles, Illinois. Now in the heart of Illinois' affluent Fox River Valley area, Bloomington Gold had a venue befitting America's Premier Sports Car, and the show has found new vitality.
For 2004, the 32nd year for Bloomington Gold, Mecum added possibly the most important piece to the show's future health: David Burroughs. David Burroughs created Gold Certification in 1978 and was chief executive officer of Bloomington Gold from 1984 to 1994; the years the event experienced its greatest growth. For 2004, Burroughs returned as CEO of Bloomington Gold.
This year, the event, called "Gold on the Green," was held over the weekend of June 24 to 27. On entering the show, one thing was clear: The place was packed. Every exhibitor space was sold out, as was every Gold Mine show-and-sell spot. All area hotels and motels (and there are many of them in the western Chicago area) were sold out as well. And on Saturday, Corvette traffic into Pheasant Run Resort was backed up in both directions as far as the eye could see. Not surprisingly, attendance was up from 2003.
Everywhere the Dave Burroughs touch was evident. A new Food Park grouped all concessions into one shaded area and the auction tent was relocated with better access for cars and spectators. Just like the good old days of Bloomington Gold, the 2004 show ran like a well-oiled Corvette.
Familiar highlights included Survivor judging on Saturday. Like a '54 Corvette that spent most of its life in storage and is now missing much of its paint, Survivors need not be perfect, but must be judged as over 50 percent unrestored and unmodified in four categories; 39 out of 45 participants received the Survivor award.
In the resort's ballroom, Special Collection XX featured the Corvettes of Reeves Callaway. Sponsored by Corvette America, 21 Callaway Corvettes from early B2K Twin-Turbos to the current C12 super car were featured. Reeves Callaway cut the ribbon to open the display, while the Callaway staff and members of the Callaway Owners Club were on hand to answer questions. Also featured were six more inductees into the Bloomington Gold Hall of Fame, and the entire display was dedicated to the late Chip Miller of Corvettes at Carlisle fame.
The Mecum Gold Rush auction ran from Friday through Sunday, with the featured Corvettes going through the tent on Saturday afternoon. From an '86 Corvette originally owned by "Tonight Show" host Johnny Carson, to a '67 Corvette purchased new by the president of Mexico, some of the rarest and most desirable cars on the planet went on the block. A stunning silver '63 Z06 topped the charts at $265,000, while a matched set of seven '57 Fuelies-one of each color available that year-was also sold. Over $8 million worth of Corvettes was auctioned over the weekend. Whether buying, selling, or just watching, the auction is a nonstop rush.
Late Saturday afternoon was the famous Gold Tour. The first car lined up at 3:20 p.m., and the tour began precisely at 6 p.m. It took just 45 minutes to launch over 1,200 Corvettes for a 45-mile trip through the rural Illinois prairie countryside. It's an incredible experience, whether from inside a Corvette or from along the tour route.
Sunday's highlight is Gold Certification. Over 100 Corvettes were present on the greens and fairways of Pheasant Run, all to be inspected by the most respected judges in the business. One judge, M.F. Dobbins, celebrated his 25th anniversary as a Gold judge, in this, the 25th year of Gold Certification. Over 80 Corvettes were Gold Certified. Eight Corvettes also received the Benchmark award, earning both Gold Certification and Survivor status, then completing a 40-mile road test.
Did the Burroughs magic work? Of the people attending the show who were surveyed, 89 percent said Bloomington Gold met or exceeded their expectations. Fully 40 percent of the people attending were from outside Illinois; 25 percent were from outside the Midwest. And 40 percent attending were women, with many coming solo. Clearly, the "Granddaddy" is hardly old and in the way. And next year, David Burroughs shoots for 100 percent customer satisfaction.
Bloomington GoldHall Of Fame Inductees1963 Sting Ray Z06 Coupe1966 427/390hp Convertible1967 427/400hp Coupe1969 427/430hp L88 Coupe1988 Callaway B2K 35th Anniversary Coupe1991 Callaway IMSA Super Car Racer
Changes Planned for 2005No event is perfect, and Bloomington Gold 2004 is no exception. But just days after the 2004 show ended, CEO David Burroughs announced changes to address those complaints.
No. 1 was the long wait to enter the show, especially on Saturday. "Numerous remedies are already in the works for 2005," said Burroughs. "Gates will open early to avoid pent-up demand, at least two or three entrances will be utilized, the involvement of police and city officials will increase significantly, and on-grounds flow will be redesigned and re-routed."
The new Food Park was a great hit, but there were often long lines. "The number and quality of concessionaires will be increased as well as the seating in and around the Food Park in order to satisfy the demand," said Burroughs.
Finally, a broken water main in the resort rendered many restrooms useless during the show, but even when functioning, restrooms were difficult to find. "The number of restroom facilities [and signage to find them] will be increased as well," Burroughs remarked.
Perfection is Dave Burroughs' goal, nothing less.