51st annual Iola Car Show runs through Saturday

For many attendees, coming to the show and the swap meet is a longstanding tradition
Published: Jul. 6, 2023 at 5:26 PM CDT
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IOLA, Wis. (WBAY) - Organizers say it is the largest car show and swap meet in the nation.

Every year, the Iola Car Show turns the tiny village into a booming economic metropolis.

“It is such a peaceful, pleasant vibe that happens here, everybody can find something to love here,” said Joe Opperman, Iola Car Show executive director.

The three-day event kicked off on Thursday, July 6, and organizers claim it brings in $30 million in revenue to Central Wisconsin annually.

“We’ve got neighbors who pay their taxes with the parking that they do on their yards this week. We’ve got neighbors who have put their kids and grandkids through college with the proceeds of private parking operations next to the show. It’s a tremendous economic generator for the entire central part of the state,” Opperman noted.

More than 2,000 volunteers also bring in funds to benefit about 130 civic groups.

“This is the absolute magic of Iola. Cars are the medium, cars are what we promote but these people don’t come here for cars. Some of them do, but there’s something deeper here and that’s the camaraderie and the friendships,” Opperman explained.

This is Don Snyder’s 36th straight appearance, where he brings his 1948 Chevy.

“My youngest boy drove it up with me 80 miles per hour all the way up from Janesville,” Snyder exclaimed.

For Snyder, it’s a tradition to attend the show, like for so many other attendees: “Just have a good time, I’ve got ten guys that come with me for a bunch of years. I do all the hotel arrangements and we just all have a good time.”

“We’ve got people that come to the campgrounds and never venture over here except maybe to eat because for them it’s not about the cars or the parts, it’s about the tradition of spending time with mom and dad or grandma and grandpa and coming here as a kid and they want to bring that forward with their families,” Opperman added.

The Iola Car Show runs through Saturday, July 8, and organizers expect it to be the largest one yet with an estimated 120,000 people coming to this town of just about 1,300 people.