Celebrating 50 years
Study shows how Iola Car Show impacts local economy
The Iola Car Show is celebrating its 50th year in 2022 and its impact and success continue to grow.
The Central Wisconsin Economy, a regional economic development organization in central Wisconsin, calculated a total economic impact of up to $30 million for Waupaca, Marathon, Outagamie, Portage, Shawano, Waushara and Winnebago counties.
The show’s 2020 cancellation and record-breaking 2021 event highlighted the importance of that impact to the state economy, according to Joe Oppperman, the show’s executive director.
“Our absence was felt not only by the community organizations who rely on us for direct funding, but this study really demonstrates the larger picture of the importance of this operation to all of central Wisconsin,” he said. “Our organization and all those who contribute to it are a major factor in a healthy state.”
The economic impact study completed for the show focused on three sources: organizational spending, visitor spending and out-of-area investment on the Iola Car Show grounds.
The bill of goods approach looks at organizational spending by sector to obtain a refined set of measurements. Visitors were surveyed and spending data was collected and analyzed to estimate average visitor spending within 50 miles of the Iola Car Show grounds.
Finally, Iola Car Show Grounds construction expenses by other organizations were tallied from the previous five years (2017-2021).
According to the study, 70% of the survey respondents reside from outside the region (beyond a 50-mile radius from Iola) and 69% of those out-of-region visitors would not have come to the area for recreation if not for the show.
This speaks directly to the volume of tourism dollars the event brings to the regional economy that would otherwise not exist. That visitor spending supports an estimated 227 to 261 jobs in the region each year.
“Each Iola Car Show visitor brings to the region an average economic impact of $250,” said Jerome Segura III from The Central Wisconsin Economy. “Although smaller in magnitude, the estimates are consistent with the economic impacts attributed to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh Air Show.”
The Iola Car Show and Swap Meet began in 1972 at Olson Park near Lake Iola with just a handful of cars. In the span of five decades, it has grown to more than 2,500 show cars with 4,000 swap spaces, 1,600 camping spaces and 700 car corral spots and is considered a bucket-list national event.