Charging Exhibitors


Content Tools

The following comes from a recent topic on SmokStak, which can be found on the Internet at: As ever, various individuals started, commented on and concluded the following bulletin board thread.

What does everyone think of the practice of show committees charging the exhibitors an entrance fee? Does anyone else have a problem with this? We, as exhibitors, are the entire reason that the general public comes to the show. The spectators come to see the engines (for a dedicated engine show, anyway). Yet many events choose to charge US so that we can become the attraction of the show. Doesn't that kind of sound like the New York Yankees players each having to buy a ticket before every game? When I ATTEND a show, whether it's an antique car show, or an engine show, or any other spectator event, I expect to pay some form of an admission fee. But when I am an exhibitor, it just seems disingenuous on the part of the show committee. Am I out of line on this one? - Tim

The local show around here used to get a lot of engine people until they started charging entrance and camping fees and moved the campers into the shaded areas where they used to have the engines. Now most have left, as a matter of fact there was only one engine running there last year. Bums a guy out. - Randy

I totally agree with the previous posts. I attended a show about 20 years ago that started charging the exhibitors. It sure made a lot of exhibitors mad and they also had problems getting exhibitors to come to their show. I haven't been back. I think that the only reason that they continue to draw people is that it is the first show of the season. They also have a lot of steam. I noticed they have a half page ad in the April issue of GEM and in bold letters EXIB1TORS WELCOME. I think they finally got the message. -Dale

I agree to a point. There are some shows that charge a fee that makes me mad. But I don't mind donating to a club, like Dublin, N.H., which is put on by the club and the volunteer fire department. The two greatest type organizations, in my opinion, engines and volunteer fireman. I do know that some of that money does go to insurance, like if someone's five-year-old boy grabs your exhaust pipe gets burned and goes to the hospital. That's why we have insurance. - Justin

I have to agree 100 percent with not charging exhibitors to get on a show grounds. But in all fairness to some clubs, they have insurance, which requires that exhibitors be members. So at the very least be understanding and patient until you get the whole scoop. Remember the hard working club members who have good intentions, and feel the same as you, but can't govern every last decision made by their officers. I've seen a lot of big shows ruined (at least for the exhibitors) by just a few big shots with that little bit of power going to their head. On the other hand there are a certain number of exhibitors who want special treatment and they can be a pain also. - Ed

This has gone on pretty well! I'm the president of our club and there is NO WAY we would EVER charge an exhibitor, PERIOD! I know of shows that operate without insurance thereby saving at LEAST $900 annually. Our million-dollar policy costs our little show about $920 now after 9-11. That's up a little over $200, which I can understand. It costs a LOT of money to put on a show but we DO NOT NEED TO GET IT FROM THE EXHIBITORS. - Craig

G'Day you blokes, I've read a few of your messages, some mentioned insurance. We have a system out here in Australia to cover every insured club member at any sanctioned Rally. No ticket, but you pay an insurance premium of $8 Aus. Fifteen to 20 years ago there was a terrific rally at a place called Reedy Lake. It had everything, plowing, steam launches, engines, traction engines, and rollers. They also served an evening meal on the Saturday night, complete with a real old fashion singsong after the meal. BUT it was never a real success for the organizers, not a lot of public showed up. Now I would not hesitate to pay a fee to attend that rally because it was an ENGINE MANS RALLY. I also wholly agree with you in that if we are exhibiting at a successful rally we should be exempt from fees. -Phillip

I think that is a good idea of having the fee to pay for insurance. I don't even know if the shows I go to have insurance, but in today's world insurance is a must to cover you know what. -Tom

I'm sure this will be like throwing gas on a fire, but I'm well known for speaking my mind, so here it goes.

I don't think getting charged a small price to show my engines is out of line. When I attend a show, I walk around some, take in the sights and talk to as many people as I can. If you think you should get a free ride just because you brought something to show, maybe you should spend the entire time right next to your engine never leaving to see what else is out there. Now don't get me wrong. I spend a lot of time around my stuff making flour, ice cream, etc. But, if I feel like a walk-about I shut down and take one. - Brad

So, following that logic, should the judges, facilitators, emcees, security, food vendors, show committee members, etc, all pay that same admission? I mean, they DO get to see the show while they are there. - Tim

If a show wants me to join the club to display, that's not a problem, because I probably would join anyway just to support their efforts. It helps them grow, make improvements and keep on going. I appreciate them providing a place for me to show my rusty iron. It's better than keeping it hidden away like a lot of folks do, where no one else can see it. But if they want to charge me like a spectator with no benefit of membership, I just might never go back.

I remember when a place in Indiana did that a few years back. I never went back, and never renewed my membership. I'm not sure they miss me and the money I spent at the show and in the area - I bet they don't even know or much less care.

I belong to several engine clubs and just show up when I can to support the function.

Sometimes I don't show up, but they get my few dollars for membership anyway.

I don't particularly like freeloaders, those who won't even consider giving a few bucks to join or support a club's efforts to provide a place to display their old, mostly forgotten items of the past.

Now, to change the topic a bit, when going to a new show I call ahead and if I can't keep my engines on the trailer, and park my truck with it, I don't show up as a participant (several I like to go to in Pennsylvania are like this). Again, I may show up as a spectator and pay the entrance fee, and that's my choice. - Paul

Some random thoughts, almost guaranteed to annoy almost everybody - insurance: When you show your toys, are you fully self-insured? Do you expect the club to cover your sorry butt should some kid get hurt on your display? How much is that piece of mind worth?

Between Medina and 9-11, many clubs saw their premiums take a double hit last year (insurance companies don't lose money - ever). Also, more and more insurance companies are requiring that exhibitors be members for two reasons; one so that they know who (and how many) is to be covered liability wise; and two, because as a member you can't as easily sue yourself for stupid things like a flat tire or pinholes in a tarp.

Toilets: Can you hold your own for three to four days like a camel? Do you rent your own and bring it? How much is even that smelly blue thing worth? Camping space: When was the last time you priced a night at KOA or at the Roof? Does the club have security? Vendors: The fellow out in the flea market is usually paying $10 a day, or more, the guy next to you is mostly 'exhibiting' price tags. Or perhaps you just happened to bring along 'a few' pieces to unload while you're there - IS that really fair to the club?

I've heard the small engine lot at several shows referred to as 'flea market east.' In my opinion, someone should be rather ashamed of that. I do not include invited professional vendors in this category, they are obviously guests.

Labor: A lot of clubs are being pressed into 'hiring' the local Boy Scouts, 4-H, FFA, or firemen to do things that volunteers used to do (like park cars, run various refreshment stands, pickup trash, etc.) due to lack of people willing to help. These organizations usually expect a generous donation in return for their efforts.

And then there is the 'exhibitor' with one Maytag, a 42-foot motor home, a noisy generator that runs around the clock and his entire extended family along for the fun. Or the 'exhibitor' who brings his buddy and an engine that they never unload, never start and, in fact never even uncover. They just hauled it in to save $3 a head.

I don't know where to even start on these fine fellows, but the question is, where do you (as a reasonable show promoter) draw the line? At some point it's just easier to charge everybody a few shekels. My $.02, your mileage may vary. - Allen

I don't think getting charged a small price to show my engines is out of line.

SmokStak is an engine conversation bulletin board with over 15,000 messages on file and is part of the Old Engine series of web sites that started in 1995 as 'Harry's Old Engine.' Harry Matthews is a retired electronic engineer and gas engine collector from Oswego, N.Y., now residing in Sarasota, Fla.