Author: Leigh Singleton
What a whirlwind! Although our days were long, they flew by as we roamed from one side of SEMA to another talking with vendors, participating in challenging activities, taking photos, and meeting people in the industry. One evening, while we were hanging out in Charlene’s room chatting before hitting the bed, Charlene asked, “Do you remember what we did this morning?” Kristie and I looked at each other with puzzled expressions as our brains waded through the dozens of activities since climbing out of bed that morning. When Charlene reminded us, we simultaneously responded, “That was today?” Our days were so action-packed with activities, what we did that morning seemed eons ago!
Day one kicked off with a bang when we were picked up at the Phoenix airport in Frankie, the amazing green BFGoodrich Tires Jeep. Check that off my bucket list! He was just as awesome as I’d imagined. The finale to our scenic drive from Mesa, Arizona to Las Vegas was a beautiful view from the Hoover Dam. And surprise of all surprises when we checked into the Las Vegas hotel, I discovered it was much better than the sketchy picture Charlene had painted in my head.
We began our first official day at SEMA getting the lay of the land before the crowds hit and learning how to take good media photos. Lesson number one: always check to see what is in the background of the amazing vehicle you’re about to snap a photo of to be sure the vendor’s signage is captured and no one is picking their nose. The biggest photography challenge proved to be getting a photo without twelve people blocking the view. Wait for it, wait for it . . . snap! Got it! A media-worthy photo was a coveted prize.
Our first evening at SEMA was a formal event. The air was alive and buzzing at the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame banquet. Charlene introduced us to friends, industry colleagues, and several Hall of Fame inductees. The food was incredible, the attire was stunning, the awards were touching, and the whipped cream on the evening was hearing Charlene’s name called as the recipient of the Industry Rising Star Award. As a forever souvenir, my vehicle, Hyper Hopper, is rather proud of the Offroad Industry Award’s decal she now wears on her backside.
SEMA looks easy from the outside, but a week of being in the midst of it gave me a glimpse of all the work that goes on to make it the grandiose affair that it is. Hearing vendors discuss the techniques of setting up an attractive booth, actually positioning that awesome rig on a ramp in tight quarters, and wearing a smile amid long schedules and tired feet day after day gave me a great appreciation for booth exhibitors. Many people think it would be “fun” to be out attending event after event, but it is hard work.
Our mission was to meet vendors and introduce them to the Ladies Offroad Network. Although “cold-calling” is far outside my comfort zone, after two or three interactions, I found it enjoyable. I was thrilled with the response from the vendors. Nearly every vendor I spoke with was very aware of the ladies offroad market and wanted to know how they could tap into it.
We had many new experiences at SEMA, from attending vendor parties, to watching drift racing and the Baja 1000 Qualifying Races, to competing in the BFGoodrich Tires Pit Crew Challenge, to ogling amazing offroad vehicles.
But of all the exciting things we did, what stands out in my mind the most are the people we met. We met professional racers, the President of SEMA, offroad company executives, and other ladies involved in the Ladies Offroad Network and the Rebelle Rally. Meeting new people was exciting, but it was also nice to run into a few people I knew, such as the Offroad Addiction crew who built my Jeep, Tony Pellegrino, who I shared a booth with at an event in my hometown, and of course, the ladies I spent that incredible Ladies Co-Driver Challenge training weekend with in May.
Charlene’s parents, Ben and Deanna, made us feel at home and like part of the family. Back in May, Deanna served as “mom” to all of us who attended the Ladies Co-Driver Challenge training event, so it was wonderful to see her again. And Ben…well, he is just a hoot to be around, and we have video to prove it!
Much love to my co-winner and 24-hour SEMA partner, Kristie, for her encouragement and support, and many thanks to Charlene for making this dream possible. The Ladies Co-driver Challenge was an important part of my 2016. I encourage everyone to participate in 2017.
Video on Facebook: CLICK HERE
Author: Leigh Singleton