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World of Wheels set to roll Jan. 8-10 at University Plaza

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by Karen E. Culp

SBJ Staff

World of Wheels is rolling into town, bringing as many as 20,000 people with it.

The 22nd hot rod event will be Jan. 8-10 at University Plaza, and promoters expect to draw people within a 100-mile radius of Springfield to the event, which is a showcase of all kinds of vehicles, from antique roadsters to lawn mowers, said Roger Bergei, who with his wife, Carla, purchased the show from the International Show Car Association, a national association that promotes several World of Wheels shows each year.

The Bergeis, who also own A/C Motorcycles, a custom Harley Davidson motorcycle store, purchased the Springfield show in 1995; their first show was in 1997.

Though last year's show had only 10,000 attendees, Roger Bergei said he hopes to double that number this year.

"Last year we had a bad ice storm on Saturday, so that set us back a little bit, but in previous years there were anywhere from 15,000 to 18,000 in attendance," Roger Bergei said.

To promote the show, the Bergeis have increased the amount of advertising, using everything from hot-air balloon billboards to radio and television ads. Roger Bergei said the event has some major sponsors: Git-n-Go, Coca-Cola and O'Reilly Auto Parts among them, and is also working on some cross-promotion activities. One such cross-promotion is between World of Wheels and World Legion Wrestling, a Springfield-based wrestling organization.

The WLW will have some of its wrestlers attend the World of Wheels show, so attendees can meet them and the wrestlers can promote the WLW's Jan. 10 show at Remington's.

The three-day show will also have vendors from all over the area selling everything from snack foods to car accessories, Roger Bergei said.

The show may generate as much as $80,000 to $100,000, but its expenses add up to about $70,000, Roger Bergei said.

"Nobody's getting rich off of these things, but the main thing is they bring in lots of revenue to people in the area, vendors at the show. Some of those vendors generate a customer base at the show. ... The people who come to the shows are eating and sleeping in town while they're here, so that's generating revenue for local businesses just through the promotion of the show," Roger Bergei said.

About 20 people from the area will make up the show's staff and provide support services, such as taking tickets and handling security, Bergei said.

Carla Bergei said the World of Wheels show will feature everything from "low-riders to lawn mowers."

Customizing lawn mowers for racing has recently become a popular sport, she added. A group in Aurora is getting into geared up grass-cutters, and they will probably feature their racing machines at the show. Area car clubs will also be represented, as will a range of customized automobiles.

"You'll see vehicles that are anywhere from a $30,000 to a $500,000 investment for the owner," Roger Bergei said.

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