Car swap meet founder’s grown children take over management of events

08/14/2014 7:26 PM

08/14/2014 7:27 PM

Atwater-Winton residents Ryan Roberts and sister Shauna Bado have taken over management of spring and fall automotive swap meets at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds, but their father continues as owner and promises to stay involved for at least the next five years.

Rich Roberts, 67, of Winton, has been producing spring and fall swap meets at the sprawling Turlock fairground since 1986; he confesses he has always been a swap-meetaholic and continues to look for bargains when it comes to old cars and trucks, and their parts.

“I will be involved for at least the next five years, overseeing things,” Rich Roberts said. “But I’m getting tired. I always patronize my own meets, and I want my sellers to go home as happy as they can.”

Ryan Roberts, 40, has been involved with the family swap meets for nearly 30 years. He said the spring-fall swap meets have been “growing like a weed” and the last two shows have grown by 25 percent.

He doesn’t have any collector cars now but wants to build a 1963 or 1964 Cadillac. He said the spring-fall meets take about six months’ preparation time each year. He also has launched a full-time carpet and tile cleaning business.

The swap meets are not just guys cleaning out their garages of old, rusty parts anymore, Ryan Roberts said. There are considerably more aftermarket parts vendors selling brand-new merchandise for cars old and new.

Ryan Roberts started his own summer swap meet at the fairground 18 years ago but sold it a couple of years ago.

“It takes more time than people think to put on an event,” he said. “We are considering in the next year or so going to two days for our meets. For the most part it’s auto parts only but we are allowing motorcycles and boats. ... We don’t allow flea market items.”

The next show will be Oct. 5 at the Turlock fairground. About 750 vendors are expected, some coming from the Southern California area and others from Nevada and Arizona, along with about 7,000 shoppers.

Ryan Roberts knows several guys who come to his swap meets every year from Australia and England, shipping old cars and trucks back home.

Bado, 38, lives in Atwater and has been involved in the swap meets since she was a child. She doesn’t have a collector car or an interest in old car parts but has taken a liking to the people who do. She handles registration for swap meet vendors.

“I grew up around swap meets and started at the age of 12. I really enjoy talking to the vendors and spectators and haven’t had a bad experience,” Bado said. “I love it and am so honored that my dad has confidence in us helping him out. I have met some really nice guys so far. They are just good guys who have a passion for cars. It brings me back to the old days.”

She stressed that she and her brother aren’t taking over ownership of the events, saying her father remains very much involved with the direction of the swap meets.

Ryan Roberts said new innovations have included oldies music, raffles, and more food and beverages. People can even get their pictures taken with pin-up girls.

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