Lots of good advice above, but here are a few more suggestions:
1. Finding entrants – First and foremost, you’ll need LOTS of lead time. This is especially true for a ‘new’ event. I consider two months to be the absolute minimum lead – three or four months is better. Most people who regularly attend these events plan in advance!
The traditional means of passing the word is to use printed flyers. Given today’s digital environment, you’d think that flyers would be old-hat, but they’re not. Many of the people who own and show cars are older and not computer savvy. Passing out flyers isn’t easy work. I always try to hit the most popular cruises and shows as far in advance as possible. You’ll also need a LOT of flyers (as in hundreds of them!).
This is not to say that the internet should be ignored. As much as I don’t like social media, Facebook and the like are very effective means of advertising. Club websites are also great advertising spots. If you can ‘sell’ your show as a charity event, most clubs will give you some space on their websites. And, don’t be afraid to ask local merchants to post a flyer. Again, if the show is for a good cause, many merchants will be glad to help.
2. What do I put on my flyer/ad? Try to worry less about art and color and more about information, and don’t be afraid of ‘white space’. All event advertising should carry: ***the name of the event, date, exact location, times (registration, judging, trophies), organizing body, entry fee, sponsors, prize descriptions, other activities (inflatables, music, handicap & restroom availability, etc.) and food availability. Also, you should list any special restrictions such as no pop-ups, no bicycles, etc.*** Since your event is for a great cause, make a big deal out of that. Many car owners are also community-oriented and will give preference to ‘charity’ events.
Ask people at shows and cruises if they receive any type of email announcements about upcoming shows in the area. Many areas have dedicated souls who compile lists of events and either send them out to their friends or post them on websites.
Unless you can get help from sponsors or others, printing for flyers is expensive. Multi-color flyers are great, but also come at a premium. Most car folks are a lot more interested in the content than in a slick format.
You can also contact local newspapers, radio and TV stations for Public Service Announcements. Have your information already typed-up so that you can hand a copy to the person you’re speaking with and also be ready to transmit your info via email, social media or to a website.
3. How do I find judges? Another tough question… The best way I’ve found is to go to shows and cruises, introduce yourself to the organizers and make your case. Unless you’re planning on a very strict format for judging, you should be looking for people who have experience with cars and shows and are fair-minded. Asking local officials (like the mayor…) doesn’t always work out well. It’s also a good idea to give your judges some small gift to show your appreciation – examples might be a small gift card or a free T-shirt.
4. What judging format should I use? If you get really lucky, one of the local car clubs may volunteer to help you with your event. If that’s the case, you should probably just let them handle the judging with the system that they’re accustomed to using. If, however, you find yourself on your own here, there’s an easy system that’s been gaining popularity lately. I refer to it as “Yes-Maybe-No”. This system only works for shows giving out, say, “Top 25” trophies without assigning classes. Each judge is handed sheets with car numbers and three boxes next to each number. Judges work alone and look over each vehicle entered. The decision is simply: “Does this car/truck/bike deserve a trophy, given the reason it exists?” This format can be scored easily on a laptop using a spreadsheet. “Yes” votes get 2 points, “Maybe” votes get 1 point and “No” votes get zeros. Each judge’s scores go into one column and the columns are totaled across on the right, then the totals are sorted. In our example, the 25 highest scores get trophies. If you’ve included special trophies like “Judges’ Favorites” and you don’t want to award more than one trophy to an entrant, you simply make those choices before the scores are compiled and take the winners of those awards out of the spreadsheet. One last note here: One of the other posters noted that using the term “Best” instead of “Favorite” isn’t a good idea. That person knows where-of he/she speaks. Telling one entrant that his/her vehicle is “best” is a big ego boost, but it leaves all the other entrants feeling a bit empty.
5. Finding sponsors is a good way to reduce your expenses. Getting a sponsor may be as easy as having your event at their location or maybe just listing them on your flyers/ads. If you’re really lucky, they may spring for printing costs or trophies! Car dealers are an easy choice, but so are retailers like auto parts chains. Municipalities are also good prospects if you can tie your event into some type of local celebration. It is important that your sponsor search be conducted as early as possible in the preparation process so that sponsor name(s) can be included in all the advertising.
You should also contact your local ‘convention and visitors’ or tourism office. They may be more help than you might imagine. I’ve seen them help with printing, provide ‘goodie bags' and act as go-betweens with sponsors who are on-the-fence about helping event organizers!
6. Choosing a date: First do your research. Another poster noted that scheduling your event on a date that’s already been chosen by another significant or near-by show or cruise is a good recipe for failure. That’s excellent advice. Also, from personal experience, I’ve noticed that both the first weekends of each month and holiday weekends don’t usually work as well as other times because those dates are so popular.
7. Last point – Door Prizes. Many entrants have come to expect door prizes as a form of ‘return’ on their entry fees. I’m not a fan of door prizes, but being able to list them on your advertising is almost certain to bring in SOME extra entries. If you’re lucky enough to find businesses or others willing to help by donating merchandise or gift certificates, it certainly won’t hurt your attendance!
In any case, good luck with organizing your show!! If you run into problems, this is a good forum for seeking advice, since there are quite a few of us here who have worked at lots of shows.