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Local businesses and organizers anticipate 'bigger crowds' for Iola Car Show's rebound

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Posted at 7:40 PM, Jun 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-18 23:50:32-04

IOLA, Wis. (NBC 26) -- After a year when the event was canceled due to COVID-19, the Iola Car Chow is back. And come this July, thousands of people will provide much-needed economic assistance to Northeast Wisconsin businesses.

"Of course it is the No. 1 money maker for us out of the year," Crystal Cafe owner Judy Bolier.

But last summer, the weekend that helps drive Bolier's restaurant took a wrong turn.

"We miss of course money, but that friendship," Bolier. "But we really thought for sure this would go on, because everything was so bad last year."

That money and thousands of those friends will be back at Bolier's cafe for the Iola Car Show. The festival brings in over 100,000 people and nearly 3,000 cars.

"Every event is seeing bigger crowds, bigger numbers than they've been accustomed to," Iola Car Show Executive Director Joe Opperman told NBC 26. "And we're really expecting the same."

After organizers called off 2020's gathering, they say this year's event will provide a boost to area businesses with more swap meet vendors scheduled than ever before.

"Following a cancellation and people being locked down for as long as they have been, people are just itching to get out," Opperman said. "There's a lot of secondary commerce that happens here and the economic impact is impossible to measure.

It's an economic impact organizers say touches five different Wisconsin counties.

"This small town of 1,300 people being completely alive and vibrant, filled with people... that's what we're really looking forward to" Opperman said.

Bolier has served customers every single Iola Car Show. And while she's happy this year's business will keep the wheels turning, the owner is more excited to see her friends from around the world.

"I can even remember what some of them order, that roast pork and kraut," Bolier said. "So I really look forward to seeing all those people."

Organizers of the car show say they’re expecting 'bigger crowds and bigger numbers' than previous years.

Camping space requests have also gone up 150 percent from 2019. The car show goes from July 8-10.