So Gleason got creative. One year the entry gifts were oversized screen-printed golf umbrellas in the event colors. For the 20th she gave away stadium blankets embroidered with the event logo. "I spend the better half of their entry fee just buying something wonderful for them," she said. "They always look at us and ask, 'This is ours?' The next year we did a bag so everybody would have something to put all their stuff in."

The trophies are also unique. The first ones were literally unique; she attached various car parts-a '53 Chevy glovebox lid, a hood ornament, and a hubcap-to wooden plaques. Availability led her to simpler trophies over the years, but when an unappreciative attendee threw his plaque back in protest, she started looking. "We wanted people to feel like they were rock stars," she said. "Well I found a guy who makes gold records for the real people. I buy the frames and cut the mat and glue the records in myself." First place gets a gold record. Second and third get a gold 45 (the records are platinum for the 25th anniversary next year, by the way). "Those are just the little twisted things in your brain that make you ask, 'How can we be different than everybody else,'" she admitted.

When you consider the formal dance that repeats itself on Saturday night and the Aspirin Rally the following morning, Lost in the '50s starts to look like quite a lot of work. And it is, according to Gleason.

Whether it's the city fathers, the sheriff, or even the governor, "Every year they try to throw a brick wall in my way," she continued. For example, when the sheriff joked that it would be safer if she just closed the whole town for the weekend, Gleason and her crew appealed to the local businesses, filed the appropriate paperwork, and got the whole downtown area for the show. "They tell me I can't do something," she said. "Well don't tell me I can't do something." For another example of her fortitude, consider that a major highway splits the town. For that evening, though, heavy trucks and all conceded to the show traffic.

It's not money that makes that sort of thing possible; it's a labor of love. Nor is it money that makes people return year after year. If there's a single component that makes Lost in the '50s successful, it's hospitality. This little town of 7,000 practically doubles every third weekend of May. And for those four days, everybody is a local.