Summer approaches, and so does summer convention season in Bellevue! The team at Visit Bellevue Washington works to connect meeting planners with their perfect venue, hotels and activities, and while we love every season here at Visit Bellevue, we locals also know that the best time for an out-of-state convention attendee to experience the Pacific Northwest is during the summer months. The sun is out, the temperatures are perfect, the evergreens and the mountains are calling and Bellevue is bustling with outdoor entertainment and waterfront activities.
This summer, we are excited to welcome an especially fun crowd of attendees from around the nation to Bellevue for a convention that is sure to be a highlight: the 2016 GTOAA Nationals Convention. That is, GTO Association of America‘s celebration of the classic American muscle car coming to the West Coast this July for only the second time in 37 years.
To get the inside scoop on what is going to be a major event for GTO enthusiasts and Bellevue locals alike, we went to Ted Knapp, Northwest GTO Legends Club President (head of GTOAA’s local chapter). Ted represents these passionate, fun-loving car enthusiasts found among GTO owners, racers, and aficionados “to a T.” Hailing from our neighboring city of Woodinville, Washington, Ted has been a muscle car enthusiast since his high school days and has fond memories of driving his first GTO back to the Pacific Northwest from Nebraska with his mom and sister.
While Ted and his colleagues had their eye on the Pacific Northwest as their 2016 convention location from the start, multiple factors led them to choose Bellevue, Washington as their home base. “We toured the various venues in the Puget Sound Region.” Ted related, “We focused on hotel/convention facilities that had enough rooms, large enough convention facilities for registration, tech talks, banquets, etc. And most importantly, one that could handle both indoor parking for Concours cars and large enough parking for the Popular Vote cars. The Bellevue Hilton fit the bill.” On top of that, Ted noted Bellevue’s vibrant community and car and pedestrian-friendly streets as important selection factors.
When asked what the GTOAA Nationals Convention is all about, Ted can lay out the goals for the entire event for you pretty simply: “The GTOAA Convention is an annual event to celebrate the GTO and provide an opportunity for Pontiac enthusiasts to gather and talk cars.” Many attendees will be driving their prized GTOs to the event to participate in either the “Concours” cars competition judged by a skilled set of judges, or the Popular Vote cars competition judged by convention attendees.
The best part? The viewing of cars is open to the public throughout the convention. “We welcome and encourage the public to join us. We like to promote the hobby. The public is also welcome to stroll through the indoor vendor space and purchase items offered there.” Ted adds.
And the fun doesn’t end after the car competitions. GTOAA has worked with Visit Bellevue Washington to offer attendees all kinds of excursions around town and in neighboring cities as well. Attendees will have to opportunity to leave their prized Pontiacs at the car shows and get out and about in Bellevue by taking shuttles through downtown to experience local food, parks and shopping and the acclaimed Bellevue Arts Museum Wednesday through Sunday (July 13-17). For those attendees wanting to explore the region further, there will be special shuttles going to the Museum of Flight, The LeMay Car Museum, and even an Alaskan Ship Cruise after the convention ends!
We couldn’t be more thrilled for GTOAA’s 2016 Convention attendees. They’re going to have the time of their life, and the rest of Bellevue with them!
Written by – Rachel Burch
Photo Credits, Top to Bottom – GTO Closeup via Pixabay, Ted Knapp with his GTO via Ted Knapp, Bellevue Downtown Park Arial View via Merrill Images, Bellevue Hilton Exterior via the Bellevue Hilton, Diners on the Patio via Bake’s Place