It was to be called the St. Patrick's Day Car Show until its founder, Joel Carmona, died in a fire while trying to save his four-year-old son just before the event's premiere in 1996. Helen, Carmona's widow, overcame the tragedy and, at the insistence of others who said Joel would have wanted it that way, went ahead with the show, now renamed in the founder's honor.

This year the CCS makes the move from the relatively cozy Astrohall to the wide open spaces of the George R. Brown Convention Center.

The event displays eye candy to car lovers from as far away as California, and a prize is given to whoever drives the farthest to get here. Other trophies and cash prizes are awarded to more than 350 participating rides, in categories like "best paint" or "best hydraulics." Some of these same rides have also graced the Art Car Parade, "Houston's other car show."

Coy Entertainment will trot out hip-hop acts like South Park Mexican, Nas, Ja Rule and UGK. In the old days, the CCS hosted both Tejano and rap acts, but according to Helen, followers of the two genres did not mix well. Since then, because of the rising popularity of hip-hop, rap has prevailed.

So, it seems, has the legacy of Joel Carmona.

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