Free Admission at This Concours d’Elegance

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The effect of the Des Moines Concours d’Elegance reducing the price of admission from $15 to zero in 2013 was a significant increase in the event’s annual donation to Children’s Cancer Connection. I learned this not in an official announcement, but in the comments section of a Hemmings blog post, where reader Robert Cunningham responded to someone suggesting the need for lower prices at concours events.

Here’s a synopsis of his reply:

… if you’re looking for a quality concours “… that the unwashed masses can easily afford”, you’ll want to check out the Des Moines Concours d’Elegance in September. The Iowa show has been growing steadily during the past 20 years, and it recently changed from a ticketed event to a free event.

As a result, attendance grew from 1,000 visitors in the early years to nearly 15,000 recently. Even the exhibitors [of the cars] pay no entry fee.

How do we do it? Sponsors pay for booth space where the throngs can view their wares, and the profits go to a local charity.

As for the quality of vehicles, we continue to attract Auburns, Cords, Duesenbergs, Cunninghams, Ferraris, and all  the high end classics… definitely something for everyone!

Could this be the concours business model of the future for other events?

Well, Robert, the future is now as both the Danville (CA) Concours d’Elegance and Geneva (IL) Concours d’Elegance are held on the public streets of their communities and The Boston Cup is conducted on the grounds of the historic Boston Common. All admit spectators free of charge. And new for 2020, the Greenbrier Concours d’Elegance has changed from a ticketed event to a free one.

The Des Moines Concours is held annually on the second Sunday of September on the streets adjacent to the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park in downtown Des Moines. More than 170 cars can be exhibited and there’s plenty of spectator parking nearby.