The roar of nearly 500 Buick engines echoed through the streets of Rochester, Minn. last July as the Buick Club of America (BCA) made its return to the state after almost three decades for their annual National Meet. Held at the Mayo Civic Center, the 2006 Meet delivered the second largest attendance in the club's 44-year history and was said to be one of the best ever by the nearly 1,300 Buick lovers who made the trip. The Rochester Convention & Visitors Bureau (RCVB) was a big part of the success, providing unique services to organizers.

Held in a different city each year, the BCA National Meet brings together aficionados of the Buick automobile brand to display their cars, discuss restoration and build camaraderie among members. The 2006 Meet welcomed 1,300 registered participants and almost 500 automobiles on display, according to Director of the BCA's Minnesota Fireball Chapter Jim Jaeger. An additional few thousand spectators came to see the car exhibition. The last time the BCA convened in Minnesota was 1979.

According to Jaeger and other organizers, the RCVB was a big part of the 2006 Meet's success. From site selection at the beginning of the two-year planning process to activities planned for attendees, RCVB staff worked with BCA organizers to develop a Meet to exceed expectations.

"Much of the BCA National Meet's structure stays the same year to year," said Tracey Austin, Director of Bureau Services, from the RCVB. "Therefore, it was our goal to add special touches to make 2006 special. We developed fun member activities, scouted unique locations and developed value-added services to go above and beyond."

SPAM Museum and Junkyard Tours Were Highlights

Austin recommended and planned an eclectic agenda for Meet organizers, including tours of the nearby SPAM Museum and Hormel House, as well as a visit to the Mall of America. An attendee favorite was the planned trip to a local junkyard, where BCA members rummaged for old Buick parts for their own vehicles or to sell at the BCA's annual swap meet.

"Participants really enjoyed the activities planned by the RCVB," said Jaeger. "Their work stood out even more compared to the previous year in New York, where no non-expo events were planned. RCVB really raised the bar."

Car Show Complemented by Park Display

The culmination of the annual Meet is the car show, which includes the restored Buicks collected and cared for by club members. Some participants brought as many as twelve cars to the show. Buick Headquarters in Flint, Mich. donated three semi-truck loads of vintage autos to the show for display, as well as Steve Shannon, general manager of General Motors Headquarters, to field questions about the rare vehicles.

RCVB staff set out to complement the car show, the gem of the National Meet, with an outdoor display to generate local interest. A park right behind the Mayo Civic Center in downtown Rochester was filled with nearly 500 Buicks. Locals couldn't help but stop and take a look. This may have helped generate additional attendance to the car show.

Bureau Prepares With Local Mechanics

The RCVB provides a variety of complimentary services to groups that choose to meet in Rochester. Not only do RCVB staffers plan events and agendas with organizers, they also serve as a liaison between groups and the Rochester community.

"When there is a large group of people driving vintage cars in from all across the country, there is always risk that something can go wrong," said Austin. "We contacted local automotive companies and mechanics in advance to ask for their support during the meet and prepare them for an influx of business."

"It was nice to have the local support when problems did arise," said Jaeger. "We've never received that kind of service before."

The RCVB also worked with the local service industry and city officials to ensure the best treatment of attendees and ample parking.

These and other RCVB convention services, such as site inspections, rooms management and expo consultation, helped make Rochester a favorite for attendees and organizers alike. The success of the 2006 BCA National Meet has put Rochester back into consideration for future years.

"We're excited to get brainstorming on how to top ourselves in the future!" said Austin.