The 2008 All-British Show
by Don Danmeier
Remember Ed Sullivan? Back when his variety show was the hottest thing on television, he always opened with the promise of a "Rilly Big Shew" (not a typo, that was his pronunciation). Well, I think that this year's Clubman's Show scored as a Really Big Show, as it was perhaps one of our most successful.
While comparisons with other bike shows is a little like trying to match apples and oranges, some things are pretty clear. Ours may be one of the largest vintage shows in terms of entrants, with the exception of the Legends show in half Moon Bay. it is certainly the largest in display of British bikes (with the possible exception of the All-British Meet staged by our cousins in the BSAOCNE - I'll have to check with them on that one). Here's my notion of Britbike nirvana: about 160 show bikes glistening in rows, all the known west coast British one-make clubs staging displays, parts vendors up the wazoo, bikes for sale, and no sifting through piles of stuff that have nothing to do with English bikes. Now, every once in a while we get requests to open up our event a bit, to include at least other European bikes. But every time I've posed the question to the crowd during awards presentation, we get a resounding "NO!" So whether or not we win the quantity contest, its premise of "British only" confirms the success of the concept.
But the real payoff is seeing how the enjoyment gets spread around. Despite the state of the national economy, the price of gas, and the influence of the Internet, we loaded the hall with vendors who still maintain that the Show is their biggest sales day of the year. So if the vendors went away happy, presumably the folks who cleaned them out struck some good deals and went away happy, too. We had another bumper crop of show bikes - in spite of the rain that seems to discourage Concours exhibitors. Particularly successful was our featured marque display of something like 40 Greeves machines, something that we'd been told couldn't be done. Unsolicited remarks from people on the day and since have confirmed that the crowd was really impressed - and perhaps unexpectedly educated in the variety of models that the tiny Greeves concern cranked out. So the crowd was happy about that and so were the Greeves guys. I can vouch for the latter, because every Greeves owner who rolled his bike across the viewing platform during the awards presentation expresses his thanks for our having done this.
Additionally, I know that our raffle bike project was a success because our winner, Larry Gumbitza, is a deserving guy; a long-time Club member, he only owns one bike at a time and was between rides when he scored this one: no more borrowed rides for Larry! - our bike donor, Bill Verbiscio, nearly choked up when I showed him the machine when it was completed (he told me then how glad he was that he'd given that bike to the Club), and all of us who know Larry were elated that the bike had gone to him. Maybe there is something to that alignment of the stars business.
And when the dust settled after the show, something else was apparent: we're getting pretty good at this. The early morning setup went like clockwork, the judging panel completed their work in record time, we sold a passel of tickets for the raffle bike, and the awards ceremony finished at 3:45, fifteen (15) minutes early - a new record. The Show Committee and all of our volunteers did a hell of a job, thanks partly to years of experience, but also to the organizational and managerial dedication that our past and current Show Committee chairmen have brought to the job - Jim Tomich and Barry Porter, respectively. We really have to hand it to those guys.
We made it a point this year to honor someone who made a significant contribution to the British biking scene here in northern California. When we tried to tie that idea to the theme provided by the featured marque, one man's name cropped up immediately: Mr. Frank Conley. Nobody, but nobody, has had a bigger influence on the vintage bike show/swap meet culture around here than Frank. Back in the 1970's, he initiated rallies under the banner of the Classic and Antique Motorcycle Association (CAMA) that were the predecessors of what is know today as the Hanford show and swap met. They took place in Visalia, and before one-make clubs proliferated, "Visalia" was the one event everyone attended. It had no peer. Due to loss of venue, the shows later moved to Reedley, Lancaster, and eventually, Hanford. Besides providing the only substantial vintage bike rally at the time (swap meet and show on Saturday, ride on Sunday), he laid out a logical order of show classes based on age and displacement categories that became the basis of our own Clubman's Show judging system, one that we use to this day. With his acquisition of ex-factory parts stock, he has been the worlds leading source of Greeves spares for years; and his staging of Greeves Days each winter keeps the flame of the old Greeves owners and Breeders alive. Frank's always nailed down a spot at the Clubman's Shows to fly the flag for the marque, in spite if the fact that Greeves owners are traditionally a reluctant lot when it comes to show displays. For all of those reasons, and the fact that he's a real gent besides, the BSAOCNC was thrilled to bestow it's Special Recognition award to Frank.
I do believe he went away happy, too. I know I did.
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Frank Conley's Greeves