Over the course of the past number of days, I have been thinking about the Hot Rod and Hatters Car Show that came to town.
I have heard all sorts of comments on the event and have been asked numerous times what I thought about it. I have thought about it a lot, and I have a diverse set of opinions on the event.
Upon reflection, I guess I would compare it to the title of a classic Clint Eastwood movie, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
Let’s start with the good, which was what this event really was in its totality. 372 cars were registered for the event, although not that many were actually here or on the squares at the same time. I believe that was a good turnout in spite of the bad weather that plagued the event on Friday and Saturday. If the weather had been better, I suspect we would have had over 600 or 700 classics on the squares and lining St. Paul and St. George Streets.
The car show brought a lot of people into town on a historically slow weekend, and that was a definite plus for our local economy. Gas stations, car washes, grocery and convenience stores along with other businesses on Sarah Dewitt all claimed an increase in business over the weekend.
There was a lot of great foot traffic downtown, and the restaurants and collateral businesses that I talked to said they had a good weekend. Some of them even said it was just as busy as a Come and Take It weekend.
In the final analysis, it is my opinion that even in spite of Mother Nature, the event was a good thing for Gonzales and should be brought back for 2020. I think it will only get bigger and better—weather permitting.
However, not all was perfect with the weekend. Let’s talk about the bad that some people are wagging their tongues about. Yes, the weather was not good from a precipitation point of view. There is nothing we can do about that—not now nor ever. Planning the rally at this time of year will always be a gamble with the weather. We had great temperatures, but the drizzle and cloudy skies kept the participation and numbers low. So that is a downer for the weekend. Get over it.
There was also another issue with the event that I am wrestling with, but it’s minor in comparison with the overall value of having the event here. When the event was proposed for the city, car counts of 1200 to 1500 were freely bandied about, as were crowd expectations of up to 10,000 people in town. Those figures created a level of expectation in the minds of some that this event would be bigger, better attended, and have more of a positive economic impact on the community. When the actual numbers were only a 1/3 of the expectations, some people were not happy.
I get that. The numbers were disappointing, but I believe most of it was due to the weather which the community cannot control. However, it did bring in a couple of hundred cars, lots of people downtown, increased retail and hotel volumes and was great exposure for the city of Gonzales and surrounding area. In the final analysis the promoters and ourselves have to temper expectations with the reality of the situation. In the final analysis, the good more than outweighed any of the bad or negativity that some people are talking about. I think we need to let that part go.
Then there was the ugly. After sunset, no one attended the concerts in the evening in spite of warm temperatures. Part of the problem on Saturday was due to a mistake when event organizers cleared the square before the Trevino concert and then wanted to charge everyone to come back in. Most of the people left, and only around 100 people attended the concert. Ouch. Not only did this create miniscule attendance on the square, but the businesses on the squares said their business completely fell off the table after the sun went down. That’s too bad.
However, this is a problem that can be and will be fixed for next year. Gonzales--this was an ugly turnout in the evening. If we want to keep this event, we are going to have to do a better job of supporting this next year because the city and the tourism bouncil are on record as saying they are not going to provide the whopping support they gave the car show this year. I agree with that position.
But I also think that we as a community can do more to make this event a larger success. Show up and support the vendors and the concerts and come downtown and look at the great cars. You will have a lot of fun.
And now to quote Forrest Gump: “That’s all I’ve got to say about that.”