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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

SEMA Pasadena: Public Show in SoCal raises money for charity

The Pinewood Derby entries were fashioned to look like famous race cars--and were signed by the drivers.

Though we weren't at the very first SEMA show 42 years ago at the National Guard Armory in Los Angeles, the inaugural SEMA Cares Show and Shine last weekend must have been a lot like that first show four decades ago.

SEMA Cares was held in the Pasadena Convention Center in Southern California. Organizers sold out all 155 spots for cool cars and all 25 booth spaces for vendors. But it was this show's smaller-scale relaxed ambiance that stood in stark contrast to the weeklong madness of the SEMA show held 400 miles east in Las Vegas every November.

And, unlike the Las Vegas version, the Pasadena show was open to the public. For years, critics and supporters both have said that the Las Vegas SEMA show should be open to the public at least one day out of its very hectic week. Maybe something like the Pasadena show will be the perfect place for nonindustry car lovers to get parts, products and perspective all under one roof.

“Next year we need more space,” Peter MacGillivray, SEMA's vice president of sales, marketing and communications, said of the Pasadena venue. “The hope is turning it into something where tens of thousands of spectators can come.”

This year, they ran out of $5 wristbands after selling all 1,000 of the ones they brought. An estimated 500 or so attendees got in as various industry insiders.

In the convention center's Exhibit Halls A and B were cars from Roy Brizio, Chip Foose and West Coast Customs, as well as two solid rows of blinged-out Rolls-Royces, Lamborghinis and one forlorn-looking Smart car from SEMA mega-presence Giovanna Wheels.

The whole event raised funds for two children's charities, Childhelp and Victory Junction Gang Camp. Also helping the charities was SEMA's second annual Pinewood Derby Drag Race, held on a slick aluminum track set up outside the convention center. About 250 cars competed in three different categories.

Alongside the Pinewood Derby was another fundraiser, several long tables lined up with rows of pinewood derby cars painted by kids from the two charities. Each car was crafted to match a particular driver. Each driver signed his or her car. The names were pretty exhaustive, from Danica Patrick and Tony Stewart to Tiger Tom Pistone and Marvin Panch.

“It's easier to say who's not here,” said pinewood organizer Eric Saltrick of Steel Rubber Products in Denver, N.C.

On the evening of the car show, SEMA held its annual installation banquet and gala fundraiser, which pays tribute to Hall of Fame inductees as well as old and new SEMA board members.

Charity proceeds from the whole day totaled $75,000.

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