Meets and show and shine events have held special places in the hearts of hardcore motor heads ever since the hot-rod scene took over the streets of SoCal after World War II. Such venues offer enthusiasts ways to discuss their common passions face to face while showing off their handiwork-it's a vital facet for any growing community, and imports are no exception. With the power of the Internet, organizing meets has become commonplace for just about every type of car on the road. From Miatas to Denalis, it seems that just about everyone is proud to show their loyalty toward their favorite brand.
I remember attending a few small Honda meets in Southern California, but not really "getting it" because most were poorly organized and felt more like staring contests than places to chat about swaps and parts. A few years later I attended a Shine Street meet organized by Ryan Hoegner. This one was different because it was much more organized and well thought-out. Everyone was talking to one another, sharing, and learning about each other's money pits. After attending another Hoegner-thrown event in nearby Corona, after he'd been hired on as a sales guy at Eibach Springs, I knew he was on to something. I offered to help Hoegner with the following year's event, as did Ben Howard, and together the three of us attempted to put together a large-scale event catering only to the Honda community. It proved successful and brought so many attendees that we actually had to turn some away despite Eibach's enormous parking lot. This of course led to what is now known as the yearly Eibach meet. Here are a few scenarios that can be expected when planning your own meet.
What day should we have it?
Obviously, the day a meet is held is one of its most important aspects yet it is often overlooked. Time and time again I see organizers disappointed with turnouts all the while ignoring the fact that they made a poor choice in date selection. Look over the calendar, make sure there are no holidays anywhere near your weekend of choice, also ensure that there are no large track events or cars shows that weekend, since those will severely cut into attendance figures. There's only so much you can do to predict the weather, but holding events during the warmer, dryer months is always a good idea.
Location, Location, Location
One of the reasons cops and security teams harass so many meet attendees is because organizers don't have permission to be there. When outsiders see large numbers of Hondas crowded in a Starbucks parking lot all they see is a potential street race being set up. Choose a central, easy-to-find spot that's accommodating to the number of cars you think will be there. A private lot like the Eibach facility is your best bet, but with permission of course. Eibach is taken though, so find your own lot.
Getting The Word Out
The first event is always the toughest because there's no history to refer to for those hesitant to attend. However, if you're going to hold yours in a city with plenty of modified Hondas, and you have access to the forums, there's a good chance you can make your event successful with a simple thread and positive word-of-mouth advertising. It also might be a good idea to list potential attendees' names on the thread by having your friends who plan on being there post. Just get the ball rolling because people may be hesitant to sign up, but once they see they're not the only ones interested, the names will start adding up. This will also give you a good ballpark attendance figure.
The Good, The Bad ...
Once word got out about the first Eibach event, everyone there was asking, "When is the next one?" Of course, this is good. It's proof that people had a good time and were willing to come back. You can pat yourself on the back but beware because as word spreads size limitations become painfully apparent at the worst possible times. At our peak, the event was open to all makes and models, and was so large that we hit capacity before the sun was up, which left massive numbers of cars on the road and resulted in more than a few expensive illegal parking and U-turn violations. We would love to have an event featuring all makes and models but simply don't have the room for it. We'd need a larger lot, a bigger staff, more food, more water, more everything to ensure success.
... And The Ugly
After taking a moment to breathe, it was obvious that in order to cut down on attendees, a Honda-only guideline would need to be set. This seemed to be the perfect solution. The date was set for May and orders were given for a 9 a.m. arrival time. As we approached the area the morning of the meet, the streets were jam-packed with wall-to-wall Hondas elbowing their way through the sea of cars in order to pick "a good spot" once the gates opened, some arriving as early as 4 a.m. This nightmare once again angered local authorities because the streets were congested with Hondas hours before the gates were set to open. The aftermath prompted complaints of misguided organization and a lack of leadership when in reality the mess was caused by people simply ignoring the guidelines in order to get there first, or pick what was their idea of the best spot.
Time To Pay The Piper
To fix all of this and weed out the people who couldn't care less from the people who actually wanted to attend and enjoy the event, a parking fee was implemented. This keeps the event free to anyone who would like to be there, but if they want to park inside the gates and show off their masterpieces, they'd have to buy a spot. This allowed for an exact car count and the ability to predetermine the parking options as well as set specific times for attendees to roll in and control traffic. It's proven to be invaluable the last two years.
Let The Hating Begin
So you've put your best efforts forth, done everything you can to offer an organized, well thought-out event, and you're happy with the results. You head home and log on to your favorite forum only to find various posts ripping the event apart. What gives? Though some post positively, showing support and how happy they were to attend, others complain and insult the event based on them not getting a prime parking spot, not getting anything for free, not having their car's picture taken, or perhaps the weather just being too hot for them. If you've been on the forums for more than a few weeks you've probably noticed that no matter what, you simply can't please everyone. Take it with a grain of salt and keep striving to improve your events.
Take this for what it's worth: This is what's worked for us. All of this may or may not help you throw the ultimate Honda meet in your own town, but it's certainly worth a shot. Don't complain about an event like Eibach never happening in your own backyard. Get out there and make it a reality.