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Car show setup a lofty task

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The 2013 West Virginia International Auto Show is bringing flying cars to the Mountain State.

Unfortunately, it was just a part of the setup.

Crews were using a crane Wednesday morning to lift millions of dollars worth of vehicles onto the second floor of the Charleston Civic Center.

The Civic Center is playing host to the International Auto Show this Friday through Sunday. About 500 vehicles — from pre-owned to luxury models — will be on display during the three-day show.

Most of the vehicles going vertical Wednesday were part of the show's "Luxury Loft," a 15,000-square-foot section of the Civic Center's second floor.

Dozens of high-end models — including Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Volvo, Aston Martin and Maserati — will have spots in the loft.

Getting those vehicles in place is a tedious affair. After all, one small ding could drop a vehicle's price by tens of thousands of dollars.

Even though crews are professionals who have done this many times before, organizers still get a bit nervous when they see the pristine vehicles hoisted in the air.

State Automobile Dealers Association President Ruth Lemmon vividly remembers the first car picked up by crane. 

"The first car we ever did this with was a $150,000 Mercedes," Lemmon said. "We didn't know whether we could do it or not."

Lemmon said those watching that first test were saying prayers and biting lips, hoping nothing would happen to the high-dollar vehicle.

"I had more than my fingers crossed," she said. "I think I had my eyes crossed, too."

But the test went off without a hitch, and crews have repeated the deed countless times since.

Lemmon credits the staff of Motor Trend Auto Shows, which helps put on the annual fete, with bringing such a high-quality event to the Mountain State year after year.

"These folks are so professional," she said. "I call them my 'A Team;' they've been with me since the first show in 1999."

Backing up the Motor Trend team are several of the state's top auto dealers. They help organize the show and bring in many of the vehicles.

"This show is consistently rated one of the best regional shows in the country, and that's because our dealers are so involved," Lemmon said.

That has also helped the event draw an experienced group of organizers from around the country to set up the event year after year.

"We just have really, really good people that come to the show," Lemmon said. "They like it and they request to come to it."

Show employees work in four-hour rotating shifts. That means they will work four hours, take four off and then come back for another four hours.

In their down time, Lemmon said some of the workers will make a quick trip down to the New River Gorge bridge or check out some of the other attractions in the Charleston area.

"They've heard so much about the country roads type of West Virginia," she said. "This is an opportunity to really showcase West Virginia to them."

In addition to the workers, Lemmon said the show also has its regular visitors.

She said two groups from Fairmont and Clarksburg typically rent several limousines and travel to the show on Saturday.

Other people will come on Friday, take Saturday to enjoy attractions in and around Charleston and then come back to the show on Sunday. 

Doors open for the 2013 West Virginia International Auto Show at 10 a.m. Friday at the Charleston Civic Center. The show closes at 9 p.m. Friday and on Saturday again runs from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Admission, in cash only, is $8 for those 13 and older, $6 for seniors, $5 for children 7-12 and free for children 6 and younger. On Sunday, admission is free for children 12 and younger with a paying adult.

Join us for a chat about cool cars.

Contact writer Jared Hunt at jared.hunt@dailymail.com or 304-348-5148.


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