At the risk of sounding like one of those TV columnists/curmudgeons going on about the old days, remember when the Society of Automotive Engineers' annual World Congress in Detroit was a big deal?
Like, a really big deal? With product unveilings and lights and glitz and glamour that filled Detroit's Cobo Hall for a full week? Fifteen years ago, SAE was practically a mini-auto show.
By comparison, check out the chart from our sister publication Crain's Detroit Business listing 10 upcoming conventions in downtown Detroit. Scan all the way to the bottom, after the Baptists and the Lutherans and the Evangelicals.
Even after volleyball and something called the American Society of Association Executives. At 10th place on the list and the smallest spending budget is SAE's annual event, set for April 14-26.
The anticipated spending, at $4.1 million, is still a healthy figure. And the papers presented during World Congress still typically cover some high profile problems and solutions.
This year's event is expected to draw 12,000 people to downtown Detroit, according to the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau.
But in 2000, SAE World Congress had a record 49,200 attendees.
Soon after hitting that height, things began to change.