Sad news: Hershey is canceled

It’s a combination of Woodstock, the greatest flea market you’ve ever experienced and the entire sweep of automotive history stretching back for more than a century. In the automotive world, it’s got a one-word name: Hershey. It’s a decades-old rite of autumn in rolling central Pennsylvania, attracting some of the world’s finest historic motor vehicles of every imaginable stripe, literally anything for a collector car you could ever hope to buy, and an annual crowd over its multi-day run that often approaches a quarter of a million eager souls. And this year, it’s being canned due to COVID-19. The Antique Automobile Club of America, which presents the extravaganza each year, announced that health and regulatory realities associated with the pandemic will make it impossible to hold this October, at least in its traditional form.

This photo was grabbed by Web Editor Daniel Strohl of Hemmings Motor News, which has a big annual presence at Hershey, during last year’s gathering. Here’s what we can learn from this image: First, this vendor space likely represents about 1/1,000th of what’s available to shoppers, everything from complete cars to every imaginable part for them to collectibles such as vintage cans of lubricating oil, among countless other things. Secondly, if you’ve never been to it, Hershey sprawls across multiple color-coded fields adjacent to the Hersheypark theme attraction. I’ve never attempted to guess at the acreage involved, but it’s huge. According to AACA CEO Steve Moskowitz, Hershey was in jeopardy from the moment the first restrictions on gatherings in Pennsylvania were announced. Even under the most rosy possible rules during the pandemic, events in Dauphin County, where Hershey is located, crowds of more than 250 attendees would have been prohibited, even in October. Officially known as the Eastern Division Fall Meet, Hershey is presented entirely by AACA volunteers that nearly rivals an army for sheer size. The distancing restrictions, and the huge necessary workforce, left the AACA without options. This will mark the first time in its 65-year history that the old-car blowout, which has endured lousy weather, recessions and even the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in 1979, has been canceled outright. The AACA does still intend to present its annual Grand National up the road in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in July; a website has been established for announcing changes in the Hershey scheduled, since Steve said the week’s signature event, its annual car show on Hershey’s final day, might yet be salvaged. Regardless of all this, Hershey – and it will resume – should be experienced by every car enthusiasts at least once. At Hemmings, there’s a favorite phrase that captures exactly how unpredictable and vast the finds at this event can really be: “Only at Hershey.”

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