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ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — If you could have picked an ideal year to organize an industry, 1984 would have been the best. The economy roared, tax cuts blossomed, Apple computers emerged, Wall Street partied hard, and a beloved pro-business President won in a landslide.
Into this era stepped the first ever limousine industry trade show, on Dec. 9, 1984, at Caesars in Atlantic City. The advantage of being a first is there are no rules and no guides — just a hope and vision to succeed. And by the second year, the Limousine & Chauffer Show, now the International Limousine Charter & Tour Show, bested itself many times over. Thirty years later, the Show is an institution, a sophisticated, hyper-connected fulcrum of networking, selling and educating for a global luxury transportation sector.
Some of those industry businesspeople who were there in 1984 are still coming today, a testament to an event that knows what traditions to keep and what changes to embrace. That first show started with about 25 stretch limousines on display with an expected crowd of 200. Founders Ed and Ty Bobit, the father-son team that ran Bobit Publishing and now run Bobit Business Media, ignited a novelty event that took off from day one. About 500 people came, as did local TV news crews from nearby Philadelphia.
“The place was mobbed,” recalls Frank Di Giacomo, who was a sales manager for Limousine & Chauffeur Magazine and other magazines owned by Bobit Publishing. “Most of the exhibitors showing limos had ropes around them, like at a regular car show. We had to tell them this is a different type of show; ‘You have to take those down, people want to see the limos.’ They were used to auto shows and didn’t want people in cars because they were afraid they would steal,” adds Di Giacomo, now the vice president of Bobit Business Media’s Bus & Rail Group, which includes Metro Magazine and School Bus Fleet. But limousine operators are a different crowd; the coachbuilders learned quickly that allowing them to sit, sample and touch the vehicles could lead to lots of sales, he says.
Just one year later, the show drew 100 vehicles and enough attendance to warrant moving to the Atlantic City Convention Center on the Boardwalk instead of at the smaller Caesars ballroom. An industry institution was in the making. “We had no idea it was going to have the attendance it had and be as well received it was,” Di Giacomo says.