Photo courtesy National Corvette Homecoming.
Founded in 1981, the same year Corvette production moved from St. Louis, Missouri, to Bowling Green, Kentucky, the National Corvette Homecoming (NCH) is an annual celebration centered around Chevrolet’s premier sports car. Held in Bowling Green, the three-day event features car shows, a road tour, guest speakers, seminars, vendors, and exhibits, but as Corvette Blogger reports, unless current owners Joe and Vera Pruitt can find a new buyer for the show, NCH will be no more.
NCH has had several owners over the years, beginning with founders Tom Hill and Sam Hall. The Pruitts, along with a trio of partners, purchased the NCH in December of 2001, but as Joe explained to us, the other partners stepped down by 2004. Since then, putting on the annual show has fallen squarely on the Pruitts and an army of volunteers, but after 16 years of hard work, age and health issues have forced the couple to reconsider the future.
Joe’s goal for the NCH was to create a premier event for Corvette enthusiasts, and the variety of show categories reflect this ideal. Drive and Shine is dedicated to cars driven regularly; Show and Shine is for cars (often restored) trailered to the event; a Reunion Class focuses on cars at least 20 years old; a Custom Class is dedicated to cars with altered appearance or enhanced performance; the Race Car class is for track-driven cars; and Sans Pareil (“Without Equal”) pits the finest Corvettes with the strictest of judging. In 2014, an Ultra Original class was also added, giving owners of cars 30 years and older (and 85 percent or more original) a chance to compete on equal footing.
The Pruitts have experimented with expanding the show over the years to include other automobiles. The Chevy Invitational was added in 2015, but as Joe explained, “all that did was anger the Corvette owners.” For 2018, Joe would have returned the show to its original Corvette-only focus.
While the NCH has been held in Bowling Green since 1981, the move to the National Corvette Museum was a recent one, taking place in 2017. With it came a change in dates, moving the show from its traditional July weekend to one in late May and early June. Joe was optimistic that the museum tie-in would boost traffic, but attendance has remained essentially flat over the past several years.
“In 2008, before the economy crashed, we drew about 500 cars,” Joe explained, “But since then, we’ve averaged around 300 to 350 cars each year.” He attributes this to a variety of causes, including higher fuel prices, less disposable income, and an economy that still struggles to recover to pre-crash prosperity.
His inability to grow attendance in recent years has been his biggest disappointment, but much of that is beyond his control. Those that do attend have a good time, and Joe says that negative feedback letters and emails are few and far between. Following the awards at this year’s show, the NCH staff received a standing ovation from those in attendance, a clear indicator of the effort put into it.
As of now, the outlook for the show’s future looks good. Joe is in dialogue with four prospective buyers, and a quick sale would enable the 2018 show to maintain the current late May, early June dates at the National Corvette Museum. It would also give Joe and Vera the chance to enjoy the hobby they’ve invested so much in over the years.
“I’d like to visit some of the larger Corvette shows as a tourist, while I still can,” Joe said. If all goes as planned, he may soon have his chance.