Carlisle FAQ

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Carlisle is different things to different people.   In a nutshell, the Carlisle Ford Nationals is an excellently run car show held at Carlisle, PA on a purpose-built facility.  It's not a Pebble Beach type show.  A lot of the cars on display are daily drivers and are far from 'garage-queens'.  Along with the show, Carlisle Events has over 2,000 vendors on the 82 acre facility.  These range from the big names like Meguiars, Eastwood, Roush & Ford to vendors with NOS parts, Ford/Merkur memorabilia and individual enthusiasts selling off parts after a garage clean-out. 

Along with the show there is a drag race at a local 1/8 mile strip, the latest Ford concept cars, guest speakers, seminars, burn-out demonstrations and special events for the ladies and the kids.
The basics:
  • When:  June 2- 4th, 2017 (Friday - Sunday)
    The majority of people arrive on Friday afternoon/evening and leave mid-afternoon on Sunday
  • Where:  The Carlisle Fairgrounds in Carlisle , PA
    Carlisle is about 15 miles south-west of Harrisburg, near the center of the state.  The fairgrounds are accessible from I-76 & I-81.  See the Directions Page for detailed maps.

Questions about directions?
Click here to visit the directions section of the Carlisle Website

Who can attend?:   Anyone!
There are no restrictions on the age, condition or level of modification of your car.  Similarly, there are no restrictions on the age or condition of any family members you may bring!  The showgrounds are cris-crossed with gravel pathways, which makes pushchair & wheelchair access easy.  There are plentiful clean bathrooms (and Portajohns if you prefer them!)

How much does it cost?:  
t depends where you stay and for how long.  If you stay with the majority of Merkur owners at the Camp Hill Radisson for two nights it will cost you around $300 (most of that being the hotel).  That of course assumes that you are not tempted to buy shirts and other merchandise on the showfield!
If you are looking to save some money:

  • Buddy up with other Merkur Owners and share the cost of a hotel room. 
  • Camp out at the showgrounds.  That's right, several Merkur owners camp at the showgrounds every year.  Carlisle Events charges $15 for the weekend and bathhouses, water and waste disposal is available.  Space is limited and must be reserved on the Carlisle Events registration form.
  • There is an excellent convenience store on the route to the showground.  Stop there in the morning and stock your cooler with ice, water, soda, snacks and a sandwich.
How do I go about attending?
  • Follow the simple three-steps process:
    • Register with Carlisle Events
    • Reserve a hotel room
    • Sign Up/Renew your MCA membership to recieve your goody bag and be eligible for prizes and awards
  • What if you decided to attend at the last moment?
    No problem.  You can just show up at the gate on the day of the show and register, albeit at a slightly higher cost.  Bear in mind however, local hotel rooms are sold out in advance, and MCA membership can ONLY be purchased/renewed PRIOR to the event (no sign-ups at the show-field).

What does the registration fee cover?
  • Your registration fee allows you onto the showfield from Friday morning (gates open each day at 7am) until Sunday evening.
  • Up to two people per car.
  • A 'goody-bag' from Carlisle Events.
  • Entry to the drawing for the give-away car. 
  • Participation in the 'Fun Field' judging and awards.

Registration lets Carlisle know you are coming.  If you fail to register, they may not have enough goody bags and the registration process will take longer.

  If you have pre-registered by May 1, 2017 you will receive your registration sticker in the mail before the event.  Apply this sticker to the upper-right corner of your windshield before leaving home and you will be able to drive right through Gate 3 and onto the show-field upon arrival at the fairgrounds.


Can I leave the showgrounds during the day?

  • Yes, at times traffic can be congested, but you can leave the showgrounds and return during the day.
  • The other side of this question is 'Can I leave my car on the showgrounds over night?'  Yes, Carlisle Events provides 24 hour security and many owners leave there cars on the show field.
I've heard about the awards.  What are they?
  • Good question. This can be a little confusing. Carlisle Events awards a plaque for first, second and third places in each of the Merkur classes - there are classes broken down by models and years as well as for stock and modified vehicles. These winners are decided by all attendees on a ballot system.
    • Everyone who attends Carlisle gets a voting form listing all the car classes.  A lot of people don't realize they have this until they sit down in their hotel room on Saturday night and go through the 'goody bag' they got when they checked in at Gate 3.  By then it's too late!
    • Every car gets a sign, which must be displayed in the front window of all cars on the show field.  On this sign is a unique entry number.
    • Attendees (exhibitors and the public) fill in their choice against each judging category.
    • The forms must be submitted by a deadline (normally 4pm) on Saturday
    • Carlisle Events tallies the votes and announces winners at 9am on Sunday morning.
    • Voting starts as soon as people arrive around 9:00 to 9:30am.  This is when the showfield starts to fill up.  PLEASE aim to arrive around 9:30 and no later than 10:30.   Otherwise, your parking spot may be taken by a Ford Probe or F-250 truck!

    Further details can be found on the Awards page.

  • What happens if you are lucky enough to win a fun field award?  Winners are posted at around 9am.  Someone will copy this list and post it at the Merkur tent.  It is the winner's responsibility to then go to the Carlisle Events award tent and tell them if you will be driving through the grandstand area to pick up the award.  If you choose not to, you can normally pick your award up.

If you do choose to drive through, you must follow the Carlisle rules which involve picking up a line-up number and getting on the line-up by around noon.  We will not be chasing you around making sure you do this!  Cars are lined up and drive in procession past the award stand.  Each car and driver gets announced over the PA and Bill Miller hands the award to each driver in turn.  It's a great feeling!  

  • In addition to this, a team of MCA judges has been assembled, headed up by Saul Rivkin.  This team will be judging MCA member's Merkurs and we will be awarding our own plaques based on the judge's decisions.  The award categories are listed on the Awards page.  These awards will be handed out at the reception on Saturday evening.
 What are the showgrounds?
  • The 82 acre purpose built complex is host to a series of auto shows through the year including the All-Truck National, Import Nationals, Corvettes at Carlisle and Chryslers at Carlisle.  The folks at Carlisle Events are some of the most professional in the business and really know how to make all owners feel welcome. 
  • The showgrounds houses space for 2,200 vendors and a wide selection of show cars.  In addition you will find covered areas for the Invitational Display and car corral. 

Click here to download a vendor map

Click here to download a map of the showgrounds

Elsewhere on the showgrounds can be found a dyno (how much does that Merkur really make?!), ATM, seminars, emergency services, a kids entertainment area and an above-average food court and outside dining area.
For those that want to prep their cars, there is a car washing and cleaning area with hose pipes and buckets.
What do I need to bring?

Here's a starter list.  Everyone has a different travel kit - this does not include the standard Merkur travel kit of plug wires, hoses, oil, TFI etc. etc.

  • Cooler, water, soda and snacks.
  • Sun tan lotion and hat.  It's amazing how easy it is to get burnt when you are standing around talking cars.
  • Car cleaning rags, polish etc.
  • Chairs or a blanket
  • Carlisle can get a little breezy in the afternoon.  If you have caught some sun, this can make it cool so bring a sweater or jacket.  Just in case we do get a shower, it's best to bring a waterproof jacket.
  • Money for all those cheap tools and Merkur parts in the expansive flea market.

May I camp at Carlisle?

Yes, there are campgrounds, run by Carlisle Events, adjacent to the showgrounds.  In addition there are showers, toilets and water points.  Carlisle charges $30 for the weekend camping, in addition to the show registration fee.  Camping lots (10' x 30') are limited and must be reserved on the Carlisle registration form, which is step 1 of our three step registration process.

What happens on Sunday?

l'll expand this question by breaking down what happens on each day of the weekend:

  • Friday
    • Arrival day.  Those that arrive in the afternoon often go to the showgrounds to get first picks at the flea market.  People just somehow never have time on Saturday!  Registration is open at Gate 3 on Thursday 12pm to 7pm, and Friday 7am to 9pm.  It's easier to register and pick up your car pass on Thursday or Friday rather than Saturday morning.
      If you cannot get there before Saturday, don't worry.  The efficient, helpful Carlisle staff keep the line moving and picking up your show credentials, rarely takes more than 30 minutes.
    • Drag Racing at South Mountain Drag Strip.  Anyone can participate.  Starts at 4pm.  Eliminations at 6pm.
      Free round-trip shuttle busses available from Showgrounds
  • Saturday
    • It's showtime!  Most people arrive around 9am and all day is spent at the showgrounds.  There will be more cars at the showfield on Saturday than on Sunday.  All judging takes place by 4pm on Saturday.  Arrive late and you may not have a place to park and your car may not be judged!
    • Cocktail hour with awards and prizes at the hotel in the evening
  • Sunday
    • The showfield is open and in full swing at 8am.
    • AutoX is held on the fairgrounds - a great opportunity to try your car on a road course!  
    • 'Fun Field' judging results announced around 9am
    • Good day to walk the trade tents and flea market.
    • Award drive-by starts at around 1pm (Exact time to be announced)

If you cannot make it on Saturday, is it worth coming on Sunday?  Definitely!

What car preparation is necessary?

Some will spend a few months prepping the car, some will just arrive in their daily driver.  Make sure however that the car is free of all the normal road grime.  There is a car cleaning facility just inside Gate 3 on the left and several car washes in the area.  Make sure you have cleaning supplies and rags.

We plan to have a preparation guide online before the show, but in the mean time Meguiars offers an excellent selection of how-to videos and some great products.  Meguiars is one of our major sponsors and we hope to have a special car care seminar on the showfield.

If you have any questions not addressed here, please post them on the Carlisle Web Planning Forum

Return to Carlisle Planning HomePage

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