OUR FOUNDING FATHERS

Elliott "Chip" Miller and Bill Miller, Jr.

A Retrospective by Bill Miller, Jr.

Chip and Bill Miller late 70s.
Chip and Bill Miller late 70's.

At the Hershey show in 1973 Chip Miller and I, two car crazy guys, were asked to bring a car to the Milestone Car Society booth as an attraction for this fledgling car club to attract people to their booth. Chip owned a 1954 Corvette that he wanted to sell so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to sell the car. We were eventually told by officials of the event that the car was not old enough to sell and that we had to remove it from the grounds. We were shocked that an almost-20-year-old car was not considerd an old car. We did not know that at that time an antique car was to be 35 years old or older. We were not even that old at the time so we had a hard time relating to a car that was made before we were born. As the Hershey show was our favorite thing to do all year, we were disappointed that we could not particapate with what we considered to be an old car.

Carlisle Events Fairgrounds (1975)
Carlisle Events Fairgrounds (1975)

As we removed the car from the grounds, we discussed the fact that it was a shame that there was not a place to take old cars - at least ones that we thought were old - to show and sell. The more we talked about it, the more excited we became about having an event like that. As time went on we decided to each put up $500 and give the car show for newer cars a try. We checked out many venues and decided that the Carlisle Fairgrounds was the perfect location because of the central location in the state and the fact that three major highways intersected close by. Postwar '74 was born the week before the Hershey meet, and everyone came to see what it was all about. We had no restrictions as to what you could show or sell and the event took off from the start. We not only got the late model hobbyist but everyone who liked cars came as well.


The Growth of Carlisle Events

Carlisle Events Vendor Services (1975)
Carlisle Events Vendor Services (1975)

By the following year no one called it Postwar '74 anymore; it just became known as Carlisle. Carlisle '75 and '76 grew by leaps and bounds and the idea came to us to duplicate the show for the spring season too. Spring Carlisle '77 worked as well as the previous fall event so we were on our way to another show. In 1980 the shows became sellouts and, as a result, we started another event in the summer to take vendors who could not get into the spring or fall shows. This time we rented another location to hold the event as the price of the Carlisle Fairgrounds was continually going up. Summer Carlisle '80 was held at the Pennsylvania State Farm Show facility in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The show drew a different vendor and spectator than we had at the fairgrounds thus creating a new market for the entire family, not just the man and occasional lady friend, but men, women and children.

Fairground Facilities (2007)
Fairground Facilities (2007)

The following year was a turning point for the Fleamarketeers (as were known then) because we were able to purchase the Carlisle Fairgrounds. From this time on we were able to design the fairgrounds for the car shows since we no longer had to comply with the previous owners' wishes. We took over the Carlisle Fair for the next three years and finally gave it to the local agriculture extension office who eventually moved it to another location. This was the final step in the process to make the fairgrounds the perfect facility for car shows. Over the next few years buildings were built, roads were paved, electricity was updated and permanent bathroom facilities were enhanced and built. A food court was added and food vendors expanded their menus. We have continuously tried to make this facility better for the shows.

Corvettes at Carlisle(1983)
Corvettes at Carlisle(1983)

Chip was always "Mr. Corvette" so the addition of the next event was Corvettes at Carlisle '82. This show grew at an amazing rate as the world was ready for a huge Corvette event. It soon became the world's largest Corvette event and still holds that title today. Chip was the master at knowing the Corvette world inside and out and always added new and exciting features to the show.

It was only natural since spring and fall were always sellouts that other shows would follow. Soon there was Import, Chrysler,Truck, Ford, Performance and Style, and GM. The summer show always had a lot of motorcycle vendors and it eventually became Carlisle Bike Fest.


The Passing of a Best Friend and Partner

Chip Miller Racing
Chip Miller Racing

As you can see, many changes took place at Carlisle from our first event in 1974 though the addition of Bike Fest in 2002. Sadly my best friend and partner Chip passed away in 2004. He loved cars and most of all he loved the people that the cars brought together. Chip's love for the Corvette enhanced the Corvette world more than he ever could have imagined. As Chip expanded the Corvette show, he got his son Lance involved, and he too became as fascinated with the Corvette as Chip was. There were big shoes to fill when Chip passed away but Lance jumped right in and promised to carry on where his dad left off. The Corvette show still grows each and every year with Lance at the helm.


A New Beginning

Lance Miller and Bill Miller III (2007)
Lance and Bill III (2007)

Lance and my son Bill III were employees of the fairgrounds for many years in their younger lives but each of them went their own way and were successful in different careers. When Chip passed away Lance came back to the fairgrounds immediately to step in and help me with all the duties of Carlisle Events. When our CEO left the company, I asked Bill III if he would be interested in becoming a senior manager with Lance. They would be overseeing the day-to-day operations of the company along with me thus giving me more time to spend with many of the non-profit operations that Carlisle Events feels are so important to our community. Bill jumped at the chance and they are now adding the excitement of younger, enthusiastic car guys who want to take the shows to the next level.

Every day they are putting their past show knowledge, along with the experience they gained while pursuring their own careers, to work to make Carlisle the best it can be. New people have been added, ideas are flowing, and this can only be the beginning of the new Carlisle Events.

Thanks for being such loyal participants in Carlisle shows. Be assured that the best is yet to come; you have my word on that!

Bill Miller, Jr.
Co-Owner, Carlisle Events

 

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