The 2012 edition of the West Virginia International Auto Show left the starting line with an invitation-only charity preview gala that featured an appearance by "America's Got Talent" winner Landau Eugene Murphy Jr.
"I always used to go to auto shows when I was washing cars," Murphy joked to an appreciative crowd that was dressed to the nines.
Instead of a traditional ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday evening, Murphy and U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., opened the show by unbuckling a giant replica of a seatbelt.
The show at the Civic Center opens to the public at 10 a.m. today. Show hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. today and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for seniors and $4 for children. Admission is free for children 6 and under.
"This show is the rebirth of the auto industry," said Ruth Lemmon, president of the West Virginia Auto & Truck Dealers Association.
Indeed, Toyota - which suffered through parts shortages in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan last March and, more recently, flooding in Thailand - is among the manufacturers who have come to this year's show in full force.
Several company executives are in town, including Kim Menke, manager of external affairs and government relations for Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America Inc.
Menke said he and several associates spent Thursday meeting with state legislators "and what better way to top it off than to come to the auto show, help Hospice, and look at some cars?" He has owned two Toyota Highlander hybrids. It remains his vehicle of choice but Menke is also looking at a Camry hybrid and a Lexus hybrid.
The Camry hybrid XLE sedan on the show floor gets an estimated 40 miles per gallon in the city and 38 miles per gallon on the open road, with an impressively low average annual fuel cost of $1,400.
Honda also has a robust display at this year's show. One vehicle garnering a lot of stares is a 2012 Accord four-door with a V-6 engine and polished metal metallic paint job. State Delegate Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, let out an audible "Oooh," when he got in the driver's seat.