Carrie Rengers

Automobilia Moonlight Car Show & Street Party has new owner

Joshua Blick, left, is the new owner of the Automobilia Moonlight Car Show & Street Party, which Gary Carpenter, right, started in 1995.
Joshua Blick, left, is the new owner of the Automobilia Moonlight Car Show & Street Party, which Gary Carpenter, right, started in 1995. The Wichita Eagle

Classic car collectors are known for buying more vehicles, not selling the ones they have. They say it’s too painful.

So imagine what car aficionado and Automobilia owner Gary Carpenter is going through.

For the first time since he started the Automobilia Moonlight Car Show & Street Party in 1995, the show is out of his hands.

“It’s been my baby for 23 years,” Carpenter says.

What started as a one-time customer appreciation party turned into an annual event that has drawn hundreds of thousands of people over the years.

Wichita Tire Store owner Joshua Blick purchased it with less than a month to go before this year’s July 8 show.

He says friends are teasing him about the impending date.

“I can’t even look at the calendar. … It’s my enemy.”

Blick is in charge of this year’s show, but Carpenter is still involved. He’d already done a lot of the planning and permitting before Blick took over.

“I wanted to keep Gary on board,” Blick says. “He’s still taking entry forms at his business. We still want people to come down there and share that love back to him.”

That’s also part of Carpenter’s payment for the show. He’ll keep all the money from the car entries up until the show starts.

It’s leading to some confusion, though.

“There’s a lot of turmoil right now,” Carpenter says. “People don’t know what’s going on.”

Blick says, “A lot of this is because change is different.”

He’s making a number of changes.

The show has a new website: www.kansascarshows.com. It is also now on Facebook and is accepting credit cards in addition to cash.

Blick says he’s trying to create an easier, more accessible experience.

There will be about 20 food trucks at the show in addition to the traditional four or so food vendors it normally has.

Blick is adding more activities for children and hopes to have some crossover appeal with a nearby carnival that will happen at the same time.

He also wants to join with city birthday and flag celebrations.

Blick says he’s also looking at bringing in car designers to the show.

“We’re just going to have more things going on.”

He says he knows it must be a difficult position for Carpenter.

“I was very sympathetic,” Blick says. “There’s a lot of feelings that were there. You have that emotional tie to it.”

Blick says his own passion for cars and the show is an emotional thing. He says his parents met dragging Douglas.

“I might have been conceived in a classic car,” he jokes.

He met his wife cruising Seneca.

Blick bought his first classic car about a decade ago and started going to the Automobilia show.

“I thought it was an amazing show.”

Then Blick put his own car in the show and eventually began volunteering for Carpenter.

“He built a great foundation,” Blick says. “As long as we’re able to provide an amazing event for years to come … that’s the most important thing.”

This year’s show will happen with the support of a lot of old and new volunteers, Blick says.

“The outpouring has just been amazing.”

Carpenter says it might be nice for him to walk around the show this year and actually have time to visit with the exhibitors.

“I’m grateful for all of the support,” Carpenter says. “We’ve had the biggest crowds in the whole city one night after another.”

Though it’s clearly a hard break for him, Carpenter says it’s time to move on.

“I’m ready to walk away from this,” he says. “I’ve got a life to live, and I’d like to get going.”

Blick says he has a lot of respect for what Carpenter created.

“We’re just proud and excited to be able to have this show and then be able to carry on Gary’s legacy.”

Carrie Rengers: 316-268-6340, @CarrieRengers

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