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Thirty Years and Growing
With the exception of one year, the Canton Car Show (now called the Canton Area Car Show) has been a must attend for area auto enthusiasts. Started by Randy Ludwig and his wife Deanna in 1980, the show continues to attract attendees from a four state area and beyond.
Randy and Deanna together with their children Dean, Rod, Scott, and Vicki and their families ran the show. Enthusiasm for automobiles runs in the family as all four of the children and their families enjoy cars as well.
Randy moved to Canton in ’79 and worked for MidAmerica Energy Company. He owned a body shop in the Iowa town he moved from. The first year the event was held in June, at the same time as another local event, the Corn Carnival. “We had about 70 cars that first year,” recalls Ludwig. “However, we had a problem because the carnival owner said the show conflicted with the carnival.” Rather than move an existing event the family decided to move the date to later in July.
In the early days the family did all the work. They received a lot of help from Rich and Joyce Scholle and Garry and Cheryl Johnson. The show began in the city parking lot behind the old Wheel. The next year it was moved to the county maintenance shed and grounds. The date was also moved to May. “The patrons liked the indoor and outdoor feel of the show,” remembers Ludwig. The show continued there for two years before it was moved to the county fairgrounds (behind the hospital). The show continued to grow and grow and soon ran out of room. They had hundreds of cars by then and needed the room. “Mike Broderick was the state representative and helped us close Hwy 18 to accommodate the growing crowds. This made a complete show around the courthouse square.” The main hub was the band shell. The atmosphere was great and helped to attract even more cars to the show.
“The ticket price initially was a couple of bucks…not a bad deal for family entertainment. Over the years we had custom cars from as far away as Kansas City. We always had a feature car from outside the area to draw people to the show. We promoted the show by attending other car shows.” Another reason the show grew was the large number of trophies awarded to the entrants (several hundred trophies). The cars were judged by professional judges and with help from some volunteers. Randy judges at car shows today but never judged his own show. “It was a conflict of interest.” “As the show continued to grow we became more and more known in car circles. When attending an event and asked where we were from, we replied Canton and they would reply, “Oh that’s where that car show is.”
The show grew to a two day event in the seventh year (when they moved the show back downtown)… adding a cruise night on Saturday and a street dance. “We had flea markets, craft booths, and food vendors at the show. We always had a band. For years and years it was ‘The Troublemakers’. Mike Pfeil was the band leader and a friend of mine.” The street dance was always held at the VFW and was always a nice fundraiser for them.
Over the years the number of vehicles grew with the show as did attendance. “The first years we had some local cars and friends from street rod clubs in the surrounding areas in the show. If I saw a neat looking car in a driveway, I would go knock on their door and ask them to bring it to the show. The show was more about showing cars than winning trophies. We had a lot of Rapid City cars, plus many Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota vehicles. We would even have a few cars from as far away as Colorado, Missouri, and Wisconsin. “I was very busy growing the show throughout the year. I would go to a lot of the car clubs and let them know they were welcome at our show. Most people that showed their cars came back the following year with their friends . Newton Hills was a favorite spot for many attendees as were hotels in Sioux Falls. The biggest show had a record 732 cars and the show averaged around 650.
The show grew and grew and it got harder to get volunteers. After 25 years of organizing the show, in 2006, the family wanted to slow down and step back from the show. At the time, no one stepped up to take over the show and there was no show in 2007. The city and Chamber of Commerce received requests to bring back the car show. The next year the local car club wanted to pick up the show again and the name was changed to Canton Area Car Show. Deanna passed away in 2008. In her memory, Randy offered to help get the show going again and requested a memorial to his wife on the Sunday morning of the show. Deanna was a car nut also. “Both of us worked for Barrett- Jackson Auction for 20 years. We would check in the cars. I was the field marshall and made sure that they were ready to go to auction and they got to the right place at the right time. We both loved cars. Today his daughter works with him at Barrett-Jackson. Randy also works for Mecum Auction these days. “Where else can you get paid to see some really nice cars,” says Randy with a smile.