A First Timer’s Guide to SEMA

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A First Timer’s Guide to SEMA

SEMA 2022 was my first. It’s long been a goal to get to the show, and when the opportunity presented itself to cover the event for the Collector Car Network, of course, I jumped at the chance. SEMA, for those that haven’t attended, is shrouded in mystery. How do you get in? Is it really for industry-only folks? What happens in the convention center over those four VERY busy days?

First off, take your expectations and double them. This event is HUGE! The numbers I heard were 1.2 million square feet of indoor display area, and another 1 million square feet outside that is normally used as parking lots. How many people you ask?  All the people. Historically over 160,000 of them; media members you know from magazines, blogs and YouTube, buyers looking for the latest and greatest tech and trends, exhibitors showing their wares and those who are just there for the spectacle of it all. Custom cars, OEM vehicles, A/M parts, celebrities, and folks from all walks of life. When I tell you it’s overwhelming, I am not kidding.

SEMA, A First Timer’s Guide to SEMA, ClassicCars.com Journal
Photo by Brad DeSantis

Thankfully, SEMA is not a new event and they have been perfecting the experience over the years. Maps, guides and even a downloadable app all help lead you to the things you want to see. Are you interested in the latest tire tech?  The app and guides show you where the tire company booths are. Looking more for the latest in auto body repair? There is a whole section for that as well. Seriously, anything you can think of related to cars and the culture that surrounds them is here, in fact probably twice over.

As a first timer be prepared for a few things. One, you are going to be walking…A LOT.  Over the span of four days Dustin, Jeff and I logged over 50 miles on foot according to our various fitness tracking devices. In fact, by Wednesday night, I needed to make a pitstop at Target to grab new insoles for my shoes. Wear comfortable footwear!

SEMA, A First Timer’s Guide to SEMA, ClassicCars.com Journal
Photo by Brad DeSantis

Secondly, water, bring plenty. It’s pricey to buy in the convention center and we were allowed to carry it in a backpack. After not having enough on day one, that was a mistake I was not willing to make again.

Thirdly, do not be afraid to talk to people. This is why they are here; they built the car to show off new parts or their skills. Those that are in product booths are there to explain to you what the company they represent is building. When it comes to talking to various people, you never know who it might be, on more than one occasion we found ourselves face to face with the CEO or namesakes behind some of the biggest names in aftermarket parts.  

SEMA, A First Timer’s Guide to SEMA, ClassicCars.com Journal
Photo by Brad DeSantis

On top of all of this, there are three large areas dedicated to cars in motion. SEMA is not only about the static display, but also about showing off some of the cars and parts in action.  This year there was a burnout/donut pit presented by Hoonigan called the “Burn Yard.” Toyota was taking passengers for drift rides in new Supras around a figure-eight course and Optima Batteries had a truncated version of their “Search for the Ultimate Street Car” competition. These sites all had scheduled times and thanks to the aforementioned apps you could plan you day around being in the right place at the right time to catch some of the action. The Hoonigan Burn Yard is the wildest with car doing donuts and burnouts until the tires literally come off. Lots of tire smoke and rubber is inhaled, but what an epic scene to take in.

SEMA, A First Timer’s Guide to SEMA, ClassicCars.com Journal
Photo by Brad DeSantis

If you get a chance to go to attend show, just go. It’s an eye-opening experience, and I have never seen anything comparable to it. It’s not as much of an enigma as it seems, go to their website and apply to get a ticket. At the end of the day, they want you to be there. More people means more exposure and more coverage. Put on your comfortable shoes, grab your camera, and enjoy!

SEMA, A First Timer’s Guide to SEMA, ClassicCars.com Journal
Photo by Brad DeSantis

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