The Roots of Bloomington Gold
As word spread about the show, in 1974 it was expanded to two days, Saturday and Sunday, and a gymkhana event was added. Attendance for the show tripled and 82 vendor spaces were sold at $5.00 each. The number of Corvettes grew to 684, and judging classes for restored, original, custom, and semi-custom cars were added.
The Bloomington Corvette Corral continued to gather momentum, adding an all-Corvette auction in 1975 with over 100 cars entered. Other Corvettes were offered for sale in the Show & Sell event, while 300 cars were pre-registered to compete in the concours. Over 1200 Corvettes were on hand with several thousand enthusiasts in attendance.
By 1977, the Bloomington Corral had grown to be the biggest Corvette event in the country, with people attending from across the nation and around the world. The show was expanded to three days this year, and both attendance and Corvette numbers again grew considerably.
Introduction of Certification Judging
Prior to 1978, judging at Bloomington was based on "car versus car" competition. There were class winners and best of show winners, and, of course, there were losers. All that changed for the Corvette and collector car hobby when, in 1978, Bloomington Gold unveiled Gold Certification judging.
Bloomington Gold’s plan was to enable any Corvette to be a winner if it met high standards of authenticity. Gold Certification would require Corvettes to be judged not against one another, but as to the car's level of accuracy compared to the day it left the factory. A Corvette would earn a Gold Certification if its condition was within 95 to 100 percent of the way it rolled off the assembly line - no better, no worse. Being 100 percent factory authentic, though, did not mean the car was 100 percent perfect, because Corvettes weren't perfect when new. A group of judges were assembled from the nation's most knowledgeable Corvette experts and the National Corvette Certification Board was born The Gold Certification judging procedures thus established became the benchmark for judging of all types of automobiles.
In 1984, the event became officially known as Bloomington Gold Corvettes USA and three prestigious new events were added -- the Special Collection, the Restoration Workshops and the Silver Salute.
The Special Collection began as a showcase of the rare and most significant Corvettes ever gathered together, with each year's presentation of cars following a different and distinct theme. The Special Collection was always a must-see for Bloomington Gold participants, since some of the Corvettes displayed there that will never be seen anywhere else. It's the automotive equivalent of an assemblage of the greatest works of art all in one museum.
The Restoration Workshops have proven to be one of the most popular programs ever offered by Bloomington Gold. In the first year, just ten instructors offered eight classes, and 175 students attended. Today there are over 20 classes taught by the most knowledgeable Corvette experts in the country. Classes cover all aspects of Corvette restoration, from buying a car and researching its history, to troubleshooting, mechanical repairs, bodywork, and paint.
The Silver Salute became a favorite and well-attended event from the start. The event centered on a special area to display the year's twenty-five year old Corvette. Very often enough Silver Salute cars attended so that all colors and equipment offerings made that year are represented at this one place and time. The Silver Salute has now evolved into the GoldYear.
The 1984 show premiered the Road Tour (now called GoldTour) event with a handful of Corvettes taking to the Illinois highways and back roads for a "Corvette ride through the countryside." In recent years, participation has grown to several thousand Corvettes comprising an incredible twenty-mile long parade.
For 1990, Bloomington Gold added another milestone judging event to the ever-growing Bloomington Gold event - Survivor judging for unrestored Corvettes. "Worn In, But Not Worn Out" became the theme as Corvettes at least twenty years old are judged in four categories for their originality and to determine whether or not they should best be left unrestored. As in Gold Certification judging, these original Corvettes are not judged against other cars, but against a factory standard.
In 1991, the Show introduced the ultimate and most difficult judging category to Bloomington Gold, the Benchmark award. To achieve Benchmark status, an unrestored Corvette must attain Gold Certification and excel in all four categories of Survivor during the same weekend to become a Benchmark Corvette. To this date approximately 100 Corvettes have received the prestigious Benchmark award.
Bloomington Gold marked its twentieth birthday in 1992 and held a celebration for the show combined with a tremendous gathering of 1967 Corvettes for their twenty-fifth birthday. Besides being the feature of the Silver Salute, the 1967s were the stars of the Special Collection, and an unprecedented number of 1967s were judged in all three of the judging events.
The Move To Springfield
By 1993, Bloomington Gold had outgrown the old county fairgrounds location in Bloomington, and moved to the Illinois State Fairgrounds at Springfield, Illinois. This was to be the show's site for the next five years, and Bloomington Gold enjoyed growth in virtually every area of participation. The Show & Sell area was renamed the GoldMine and continued to attract several hundred Corvettes for sale by owner each year. Also initiated for 1993 was the Glass Pack, which became a favorite event for Corvette clubs, with a special place to gather and fly their club banners.
The next three years at Springfield two new driving events were introduced. The Ride, which was a tour of Route 66, starting in Chicago at the Navy Pier and ending at the State Fairgrounds in Springfield; The second was The Parade to the Block Party, which led to a get-together in downtown Springfield for an evening dance and refreshments. The Road Tour now had nearly 2000 Corvettes participate each year for the 40-mile romp through the countryside. All but the Road Tour were to be short lived.
The Special Collection added a new feature for 1997, the Bloomington Gold Hall of Fame. The induction of thirty-three Corvettes from past Special Collections to the Hall of Fame initiated this elite group of distinguished Corvettes.
A New Era Begins
Bloomington Gold went through a change of ownership at the end of 1997. The Mecum family of Marengo, IL became the show's new caretaker, and a whole new era of Bloomington Gold was to begin in 1998.
The theme for 1998 was "Return to Bloomington, and get back to Normal" to celebrate both the return of the event to Bloomington/Normal, Illinois, and the input of the new management team. The sale of the old county fairground on the east side of Bloomington necessitated the building of an all-new fairground on the far west side of town, and this became the new site of the show. While most of the traditional events remained part of the show, there were a few new additions and changes made for this return to Bloomington.
The 1998 Special Collection featured the Corvette L88s, an exhibit of those rare and valuable 1967 through 1969s equipped with one of the most powerful engines ever offered by Chevrolet. The 1998 poster theme showed two L88 Corvettes at a Steak n Shake drive-in, very appropriate since, like Bloomington Gold, Steak n Shake was another old-time Bloomington institution.
Corvette auctions were to receive added emphasis to Bloomington Gold as Mecum Auctioneers conducted auctions each day of the show. All types of Corvettes were offered at the Mecum auction, from entry level and restorable cars to everyday drivers to the creme de la creme, which included Bloomington Gold Certified, extremely low mileage, special production and rare option Corvettes.
The show theme for 1999 was "Roar to Zora," a tribute to Zora Arkus-Duntov and the performance Corvettes he created and influenced. Duntov's widow, Elfi, was honored in the tribute and was Grand Marshal for the GoldTour.
The GoldTour was the theme for Bloomington Gold 2000, with an attempt to set a world record for the largest number of single-make cars in a continuous line to pass a given point. The record was set, even though inclement weather kept many people from GoldTour participation. The Special Collection this year would consist entirely of Benchmark cars, the upper echelon of pristine, unrestored Corvettes which serve as a textbook for a restorer.
A New Home And A Renewed Dedication
In 2002, Bloomington Gold's 30th anniversary was marked by the show's relocation to then magnificent Pheasant Run Resort and Spa in St. Charles, IL. While leaving our "roots" (Bloomington/Normal) was not an easy decision, the magnificent Pheasant Run Resort and its 18-hole championship golf course, featuring tree-lined fairways, pristine lakes and carefully manicured greens, created a spectacular display venue for America's Sportscar.
Bloomington Gold celebrated the Corvette's 50th anniversary in 2003 with special displays and a record crowd. Several new records were set at the GoldRush auction, lead by a 1967 L88 Corvette that fetched $640,000. There was another significant event in 2003 that would shape the show's destiny.
For 2004, "The New GoldField" was introduced and the Corvette's heritage promoted through the GoldYear. Kicked off in 2003 with the 1953, for 2006 the GoldYear is 1956 and Corvettes of this vintage will lead the GoldTour. Redesigned for 2007 will be the GoldSchool and an entirely new approach to Corvette education.
Bloomington Gold has rededicated itself to the high standards of quality, organization and innovation that made it the benchmark by which all other shows are judged.
Forty years after that first gathering of Corvette owners in a dusty fairground field, Bloomington Gold has not lost sight of its heritage of Corvette judging, history, education and family entertainment. It is this unique formula that has made Bloomington Gold "The Granddaddy of Corvette Shows."
2010 Bloomington Gold Event - A Year of Firsts
In 2010 Bloomington Gold introduced The Great Hall, celebrating 10 people and 10 Corvettes that shaped the Corvette phenomenon.
In 2010, 87% of the Corvettes in Gold Certification judging earned Gold, 90% of the possible Corvettes earned SURVIVOR Certified, and there were 27 Corvettes that won the prestigious BENCHMARK award. SURVIVOR Collector Car Sunday began with torrential downpours. But 68 of the most beautiful, unrestored and original cars shone on a very wet judging field. Of these, 13 of them earned the highly regarded ZZenith award.
Bloomington Gold in 2012 Has New Leadership and Returns to Central Illinois in 2013
Long time “Corvette Guy” purchased Bloomington Gold from the Mecum family. Guy Larsen, from Palos Park, IL, will lead Bloomington Gold into its fifth decade as America’s premiere Corvette event. He has already played a significant role in other changes recently announced—the move back to Central Illinois in 2013 as well as the new Certification standards. More improvements are envisioned.
At age 13, Larsen tried getting hired by a restaurant in order to buy a new car by the time he was 16. Foiled by his parents who made him spend the money first on college tuition, Larsen finally got his car. At age 22, he purchased his first Corvette and has had one ever since. Although Larsen continuously improved his collection with more collectible and authentic Corvettes, he has never strayed from his original philosophy, “Corvettes are meant to be driven.”
“Guy is uniquely suited for this leadership role”, said David Burroughs, Founder. “He can relate to all our customer segments because he has first hand experience with so many aspects of the Corvette hobby/industry. He’s personally done frame off restorations, had Corvettes Gold Certified, served as Director of all Bloomington Gold judges, owns a (non-automotive) national trade show business serving exhibitors and vendors, and drives a C6 ZR-1 for the fun of it! Guy not only has a great business mind, he also has good common sense, even temperament, and is a true reflection of the customers and enthusiasts Bloomington Gold has served for 40 years. He’s a true “Corvette Guy”.