SPRING HILL, TN - Saturn Homecoming was a hot time both figuratively and literally.
Homecoming '99, the automaker's sec-ond national owner appreciation event, featured main-event entertainment, a celebration of American heroes and activities for participants of every age.
It also was 110 degrees (including heat index) as the central region of the country was gripped in a record- setting heat wave in late July.
Most events, thankfully, took place in air-conditioned tents. Indoors, participants could eat and view exhibits from Saturn's suppliers. They also could watch presentations by Saturn President Cynthia Trudell, Saturn engineers, and Gemini and Apollo astronauts Jim Lovell and Gene Cernan.
Those willing to brave the heat heard concerts by Blood, Sweat & Tears, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw and Hootie and the Blowfish. Daily parades and near-constant entertainment on smaller stages helped keep Homecoming participants from thinking about how hot it was in Spring Hill, which is the site of the original Saturn factory.
Approximately 30,000 people att-ended the event on Friday July 30. More than 36,000 showed up the next day when Hootie and the Blowfish were the featured entertainment.
"We're pretty happy with that," says Saturn spokesman Tom Wilkinson, who adds that some 20,000 tickets for the event were pre-sold to Saturn owners.
Several Saturn owners arrived in Spring Hill in caravans initiating in Boston, Miami, Minneapolis, Seattle and Los Angeles. The caravans stopped along the way at Saturn retailers, who usually fed and entertained the travelers.
Other owners journeyed to Tennessee on their own, each with different reasons for attending the event.
Robert Menefee of Mt. Crawford, VA, a Saturn owner since 1996, says he was inspired to attend Homecoming because of the service he receives at the retailer closest to his home, which is 100 miles away in Roanoke.
"It all starts from the time you walk in the dealership," reports Mr. Menefee. "They treat you nice. That impressed me. The service experience was just as nice. They make you feel at home and wash the car when it's done."
Rich and Gail Klawuan of Middletown, NJ brought their two young children to the Homecoming event.
Says Mr. Klawuan. "None of the other car companies would do something like this."