My father as an automotive journalist sometimes took the family along when he covered the National Automobile Dealers Association's conventions each year.

He'd hit the convention, and we kids would partake in the family activities and such without knowing (or at that age, caring) what he was doing in the convention hall.

I attended my first NADA Convention as a journalist after becoming editor of this magazine five years ago. I quickly learned there's a big difference between covering it and going along for the ride.

That first convention, in New Orleans in 1998, left me close to dizzy. There was so much to see, so many events to cover, so many people to meet — all squeezed into a few short days and here and there under the roof of a 1.3-mile-long convention center.

It was a tough gig, partly because of the utter scope of all that goes on, and partly because, as a first-time attendee, I was nearly overwhelmed.

Five conventions later, I'm better at it. It's familiar territory by now. I plan my work and work my plan. If you don't — whether you're a dealer, a reporter or whomever — the NADA convention can boggle your mind.

I'm not a convention veteran like retired dealer Nat Shulman, who's attended NADA's annual big show for decades and writes about some of those experience this month in his End Game column at the back of the magazine. But these days I get a lot out of it, even enjoy myself now and then, and return home merely exhausted rather than exhausted and befuddled.

Interestingly, two of the biggest annual auto industry events are both dealer-sponsored and are back-to-back — the Detroit auto show in January and NADA's big to-do in February.

The Detroit Auto Dealers Association sponsors what's officially called the North American International Auto Show.

Being in Detroit, the epicenter of the auto industry, it's become an extravaganza with glitzy displays and 54 new-vehicle introductions this year.

Like the NADA convention, the Detroit auto show can be a challenge to cover as a reporter. Its press preview days attract 6,200 journalists from 43 countries. People attending the 45 press conferences usually outnumber available seats by about 10 to 1.

It's a mob scene. There's much scurrying about. Imponderables can mess up your schedule fast. There's so much to see and do in a short time, you can quickly approach sensory overload.

Sort of like an NADA convention.

Yet because the Detroit auto show and NADA convention are so significant is what makes them so daunting. That dealers stage both tells something about the importance of auto retailers.