In television, as with the movies, the award season seems to roll around at the same time every year. Invariably, you'll find someone who has won a statue or a trophy and when they have a chance to say something to a crowd it usually goes like this: "It was great just to be nominated ..."

It's probably the most genuine emotion expressed at one of these functions, as being included in a group of your peers who are considered to be the best at what they do might actually be a career highlight. That's how each and every one of the thousands of people feel who have gotten a personal invitation from Blackie Gejeian to attend his Fresno Autorama through the years. Now in his 84th year, Gejeian has spent the past five decades culling the best of the best show cars from different venues around the country to make up the guest list for the Fresno Autorama. The first 38 years of the California-based event were held at a local fairground before the city built a new convention center downtown. Gejeian immediately set up shop and the annual event has been there ever since (he's only missed one year-when the center's construction wasn't finished and wasn't ready to open to the public).

Most folks consider it an honor just to be asked to display their ride at the Fresno Autorama because, as those who have experienced it knows, Gejeian puts an enormous amount of time, effort, thought, and sweat into each and every show, which is mostly due to the deep respect he has for the car owners and builders. Gejeian goes all out for the folks who bring cars to the Autorama and, in return, people really go out of their way for him.

One example of this mutual admiration is with Doug Weigel, who brought a custom '16 C-cab milk truck to the show from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Placed up front in the Nostalgia Room (which people pass through on their way into the main hall), most people would think it a fine example of an all-out show car, but upon closer examination they'd find it was built from nothing in just 90 days! It was only after a confirmation from Gejeian that there would be a spot for such a special car that Weigel started working on it, which not only included building the body from scratch but some of the wood found inside the vehicle was cut, hewn, and shaped from trees found on his property!

As it generally happens, there is a mad dash when a car is set to debut somewhere and the time for the builder gets tight. But when Gejeian says yes, they work that much harder to get their cars done because they know he's going all out for them, too. Only if you attend every show in the country would you have the chance to see the list of impressive show winners who attend the Fresno show. It's not uncommon to see the current America's Most Beautiful Roadster winner across the aisle from this year's Ridler recipient, which is shown just a few feet from a top show contender from the Midwest. Some folks use the Fresno Autorama as a place to debut their vehicles, too, because it's the only opportunity to see this high a caliber of cars all gathered in one place at one time, and yet somehow Gejeian manages to pull it off year after year.

But even Gejeian says, he "was surprised this year by the quality of workmanship," and that's saying something considering his 50th show last year was a high watermark for him. But the dedication he sees in today's builders reminds him of his own days when he built and drove his cars all around the San Joaquin Valley in the '40s and '50s. Gejeian was so impressed with a few of the folks who took the time to restore their shop and/or push trucks from decades ago that he gave four of them a special spot in the middle of the Nostalgia Room. Only a former dirt track owner and racer like Gejeian would think of showcasing those types of hot rods in a high-end indoor car show.