Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

March 2, 2013

Event has ‘WoWed’ car enthusiasts for 36 years

Kenneth Hart
The Independent

HUNTINGTON — A sure sign that spring is just around the corner is  Huntington’s Big Sandy Superstore Arena being packed with street rods, customs, muscle cars and all types of other fine four-wheeled machines.

The annual World of Wheels indoor auto show has been a Tri-State tradition for 36 years and draws automotive enthusiasts from all over the region and the country. The show kicked off on Friday and runs through Sunday.

The WoW was started by a Huntington car club, but later taken over by Richard and Jo Wheeler. The Huntington clouple have overseen it for the past 33 years.

Jo Wheeler said Friday that she thought the key to the show’s longevity was simple:

“It’s a family event,” she said. “It’s got something for everyone.”

Wheeler said this year’s show features more kid-oriented events than usual, including a coloring contest sponsored by RMS ProFinishes and a feature appearance by The Gotham Knight, a character portrayed by Huntington’s John Mark Buckland, a children’s motivational speaker who runs an organization known as Heroes-4-Higher.

The bid to bring in more youngsters seemed to have payed off in the form of increased opening-day attendance, Wheeler said.

“It’s been packed in here today,” she said, adding the show draws an average of about 7,000 a year.

In addition to being a family event, the WoW is a family affair for the Wheelers. Their son, Jon, and daughter, Kathy Chadwell, are both involved in running it.

This year’s show was somewhat bittersweet for the couple, though. It was the first one in which Richard Wheeler didn’t have a vehicle entered himself. He recently sold his 1950 Jeepster because of health issues, Jo Wheeler said.

Frank Mullens of Ironton said he has entered the WoW every year of its existence. If that wasn’t impressive enough, he has also never entered the same car twice.

One of this year’s entries made it in just under the wire, though. Work on Mullens’ bright-red 1949 Oldsmobile convertible wasn’t completed until late Wednesday, he said. Mullens said he did most of the work on the car himself, and his son applied the paint job.

In addition to the Olds, Mullens also has a custom Chevy pickup on display.Allen uses the show as a venue to promote his business, but, “it’s not about the money,” he said. “It’s about coming here and relaxing and seeing my friends and having a good time.”

Renowned automotive pinstriper Darin Allen of Flatwoods travels to car shows all over the country, but said the WoW is by far his favorite. He said he’d missed only one show since the event’s inception.

“This is my family,” he said. “I wouldn’t miss it it for nothing.”