TV host hangs out in Iola
By Greg Seubert
Courtney Hansen doesn’t have a household name, but plenty of people who showed up at the Iola Old Car Show know who she is.
Hansen spent July 7 at the 44th annual show signing autographs for fans and enjoying the opening day of three-day event that attracts more than 100,000 people to Iola, a village of 1,300 residents.
“What makes it special is Midwestern people are the nicest on the planet,” said Hansen, who grew up in northern Minnesota and has hosted and been featured on a number of automotive-related TV shows.
“The swap meet is so fabulous and massive,” she said. “Everybody can find something at the swap meet. It makes this show and Iola really unique.”
Hansen’s family owned Brainerd International Raceway from 1973-2006 near her hometown of Orono, Minn.
“Cars are in my blood,” she said while taking a break from signing autographs in the show’s Team to Learn Exhibit Tent. “I grew up in a racing family, so I became an enthusiast along the way. I learned a lot about cars and watched the mechanics that work in the garage. I hung out at the racetrack, so I was a pit kid. All of that helped build my enthusiasm for everything automotive.
“I became a car girl the day I was born, but the enthusiasm built over the years,” she added. “I feel like the passion is there. I was able to parlay that into a TV hosting career.”
Hansen eventually left Minnesota and graduated with a marketing degree from Florida State University. After a short stint in the corporate world, she headed to California, where she eventually found her niche as a TV host.
“The first big gig I booked was ‘Overhaulin,’” she said. “From there, I went to ‘Powerblock,’ which became ‘PowerNation.’ I hosted some nonautomotive stuff like ‘Destination Wild’ for Fox Sports. Now I’m working on a new hot rod build show.”
Hansen also wrote The Garage Girl’s Guide to Everything You Need to Know About Your Car, a book that gives women and first-time car buyers advice on how to care for their car.
“I think it’s one of the most beautiful parts of American heritage,” she said when asked about people’s fascination with cars. “There’s such camaraderie within the automotive industry. Everybody’s nice, it’s like a big family. I also think it’s because cars were for so many years – and still are – an outlet for people. They go to their garage and escape daily life. It’s entertainment and an incredible hobby. That’s what makes it so appealing to people of all ages.”
Hansen makes it a point to visit car shows such as Iola’s as often as she can.
“I take a golf cart and cruise for miles,” she said. “People stop me a lot, so the easiest way for me to really see the cars is to do it on a golf cart. If I see what I really like or I’m looking for something or shopping for a car, then I’ll stop and check it out.
“We can go a car show and not only show off our rides, but check out what everybody else is driving,” she said. “Maybe you don’t even have a car, but you’re here to see all these beautiful pieces of rolling art that are a big part of our history.”
Although Hansen only spent a day in Iola, she hopes make a return visit.
“The show is beautiful and the cars are impressive,” she said. “I’m having an absolute blast and I hope to be invited back.”