Everyone can remember going to a great car show in their life. Sometimes it's a particular car that leaves an indelible impression in one's head, or perhaps it's just a time frame that someone can look back on fondly.
Well imagine being able to string 50 of those instances together and have them all in one show at one time. That's what Blackie Gejeian was able to do with his 50th Fresno Autorama: take the very best hot rods and customs from the past 50 years and put them all together in one mind-blowing show.
Gejeian is already an icon in the hot rod world, having participated in dirt track racing in its infancy as well as helping to pioneer the indoor car show formula. But he was also recently recognized for his generosity to the people of his hometown of Fresno, California, when city officials honored him by having a 4x6-foot black granite plaque permanently affixed to the exterior of the Fresno Convention Center in downtown.
Of course it was difficult to keep the secret of the dedication from Blackie, as he is a one-man show when it comes to organizing his three-day Autorama. So while folks gathered outside the building to witness the dedication, loyal Gejeian supporter Cathy Betz found him inside at the registration table and told him there was a fight going on outside near the ticket booth.
As anyone who knows Blackie could tell you, his reaction to the news is not something that is printable in this magazine, but it did succeed in getting him outside to investigate, which is where he found several hundred people (the police had to block off traffic) waiting for his appearance.
The city of Fresno, through the office of the Mayor, issued a proclamation declaring it Blackie Gejeian Day, and noted on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Fresno Autorama that ". . . we appreciate all of your hard work and dedication in providing the City of Fresno and the surrounding area with quality family entertainment, education, positive economic impact and national acclaim."
Blackie felt honored indeed--it's the same feeling each of the participants have felt through the years when he extends one of his personal invitations to bring a car to his show. Unlike most every other event in the country, only invitees can show their rides at the Fresno Autorama, and seldom is Blackie ever turned down. He travels to dozens of shows each year, picking the best cars from all over the United States to fill Fresno's Convention Center, and he normally never allows a car to be shown twice. But an exception was made for this landmark anniversary.
For this show he invited the best cars from the show's 50-year history and doubled the space to view them, too, which gave spectators a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the cream of the crop from the hot rod hobby from the past five decades. Winners of major awards were everywhere, and the show boasted over 20 former America's Most Beautiful Roadster and Ridler winners, too. Blackie also had a special section set aside for nine of his own vehicles--a collection that features several former AMBR winners including the Shish Kabob; the little black '27 roadster Gejeian won the AMBR with back in 1955.
With Blackie being 83 years old, people were also speculating the 50th might be his last one but Gejeian answered them in metaphor at the trophy presentation on Sunday night in typical Blackie fashion by remarking "Does a bear $%&! in the woods?" So even though there will be a 51st annual Fresno Autorama, rest assured, as there is only one Blackie Gejeian, and there will never be another one like him.
Blackie Gejeian at 83 years...
Blackie Gejeian at 83 years old, outside the Fresno Convention Center and next to the huge black granite plaque that was dedicated earlier in the day to commemorate 50 years of dedication to the city and its people.
Blackie won the America's...
Blackie won the America's Most Beautiful Roadster award at the 1955 (Grand) National Roadster Show, and he still owns the car today.
Tony Alamo, from Crows Landing,...
Tony Alamo, from Crows Landing, CA, owns this '59 Olds hardtop and it's about as stylish as it is aggressive--a delicate balance that he pulled off quite well.
Some folks feel Ken Reister's...
Some folks feel Ken Reister's Impression, which won both the Don Ridler Memorial Award (in 2005) as well as the America's Most Beautiful Roadster award (in 2006), might be the most well-executed design and street rod build to ever come down the road, and we'd have to agree. With 4,000 handcrafted, one-off parts, everything about this car is mind-boggling.
Some folks feel Ken Reister's...
Some folks feel Ken Reister's Impression, which won both the Don Ridler Memorial Award (in 2005) as well as the America's Most Beautiful Roadster award (in 2006), might be the most well-executed design and street rod build to ever come down the road, and we'd have to agree.