It started off small 10 years ago, like the company that organizes and sponsors it did nearly two decades earlier. And like Mid America Designs, Funfest, MAD's annual customer appreciation celebration, has grown phenomenally.

The first Funfest I attended was in September 1999, and I was awed (at that time) by an event that drew 5,100 Corvettes and 30,000 people. A new record was set the following September when 8,230 Corvettes and over 35,000 owners and aficionados poured into Effingham, Illinois for the 7th annual bash.

The 2001 Funfest almost didn't happen as the September 11 terrorist attacks occurred just a few days before. Ultimately, Funfest 8 went on as scheduled, and although there were some somber moments, it became an affirmation of America's unbeatable spirit and the place America's Sports Car holds for close to 28,000 devotees who showed up with around 6,500 Vettes.

Attendance was up slightly in 2002 (6,800 Corvettes and 30,000 spectators), and undoubtedly back on track in 2003, with approximately 8,200 Corvettes and 34,250 people on hand. Seeing that many Corvettes in one location is unforgettable!

The 10th Annual Funfest was fashioned as a finale for the year-long Corvette 50th Anniversary celebrations. As always, there was the now-expected Fun Display car show with celebrity choice judges picking their favorite Vettes each day, a wide array of tech seminars, special car and product displays, and Saturday evening entertainment (at no charge to entrants, just like the show itself!)-this time a concert by 1964, the Tribute to the Beatles. These guys sounded enough like the Fab Four to make you think you'd fallen into a time-warp back nearly four decades. There was also a special display area reserved for 50th Anniversary Edition Vettes and tours of MAD's newly opened Performance Choice interior products manufacturing facility.

There were Corvettes on hand from 42 states. Rob and I thought we might've driven the longest distance (2,043 miles from our home in Whittier, California to Effingham) until we met up with racing legend and NCM Hall of Famer Dick Guldstrand, who, with publicist Chuck Koch, had clocked about 35 additional miles one way during their trip in one of Dick's fabulous 50th Anniversary 7.0-liter Z06s! Dick and Chuck also topped our average speed (73.6 mph) with an average of slightly over 75 mph. Way to go! And there was no competition whatsoever for ultimate long-distance honors, which went to the 40 members of the Corvette Club Belgium, who made the trans-Atlantic trek specifically to attend Funfest. Wow, that's enthusiasm!

Funfest 2004, scheduled for September 18th and 19th, will commemorate Mid America's 30th anniversary. Mark your calendars-it should be the biggest and best one yet.

(For more information about Funfest 2004, log onto www.madirect.com)