The Gonzales Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) met Monday morning to discuss funding a request in the amount of $17,000 for a car show that will be here in just over seven weeks. The funds would go toward advertising and logistics reimbursements for the event.
The Gonzales CVB's mission is to promote tourism in the city with a goal of putting “heads in beds” at local hotels. The rationale is that events bring people to town that will stay here overnight, and the longer they stay, the more money they are likely to spend here. There is a detailed form that hopefuls must submit to be considered, and the money distributed is from hotel/motel occupancy taxes (HOT) generated here. Any requests over $5,000 must be cleared by the CVB and then passed along to the Gonzales city council for final approval.
Hat Rod Productions is the applicant behind the $17,000. It is helmed by Joel Gammage, formerly of Lockhart. He intends to move his successful “Hot Rods and Hatters” car show from the downtown square of Lockhart to Gonzales — if city council will agree to the plan tonight.
Gammage held two successful car shows here a few years back before he transplanted to Seattle.
At Monday's meeting, CVB Director Clint Hille addressed the board on the matter, many of whom had already been informed of the potential deal.
“We've been working with Joel to bring this production here,” Hille said. “I know the request is large, but it is in line with other funding amounts that we've done for groups that have filled up hotels and brought this many people to town.”
In the official application submitted to the CVB, Gammage predicts 10,000-30,000 spectators for the event, with upwards of 100 percent capacity at local hotels over the weekend, scheduled for Jan. 31-Feb. 2. He points to the success seen at his Lockhart show over the years, and Hille confirmed this by mentioning an uptick in state sales tax receipts in Lockhart over past years during February that showed a significant spike in revenue. He said that he and Gammage had held many conversations on the topic and potential for Gonzales.
“I think that their request requires some due diligence and consideration,” Hille said. “I have made it very clear to Joel that he's coming to us with a pretty sizable request to get this function moved here, but in keeping with the way we have handled all other functions, he should expect over the next three years — as his event becomes successful here — that the amount of funding from HOT tax dollars be reduced accordingly. He is aware of that.”
Board member Barbara Crozier chimed in, recalling a conversation she had with a Lockhart city council member about the incentives they had given to Gammage in the past. Because Lockhart does not generate the same amount of HOT funds that Gonzales does, they dedicated a percentage of funds to be reimbursed to him, which equaled to roughly $8,000, she said. Additionally, that city contributed in-kind services to the car show, such as trash pick-up and “quite a few city services.” That amount was in the range of $25,000.
Gonzales City Manager Tim Patek joined the meeting. He and Hille said that in-kind services here would be in the $26,000-28,000 ballpark. Gammage recently requested $17,000 of Lockhart HOT funds for this year's show prior to his Gonzales discussions.
Patek said that the Lockhart city council is set to meet on that proposal on Dec. 18. Gonzales is set for the 13th, tonight. Because of that, Hille said that he had wondered if Gammage was using Gonzales to get a better deal with Lockhart. He said that he was told that wasn't the case, rather the car show had run out of room downtown and needed a larger area in which to expand. Lockhart is hemmed in by a railroad, residential areas, U.S. 183, and State Hwy. 142, which they cannot close, which was a sticker for Gammage. Gonzales, Hille said, offers two squares and room to roam all the way up to Apache Field on one side and Riverside Center on the other.
“I wish he were asking for $10,000,” said board member Ken Morrow. “[It] would be a no-brainer to me. I'm stretched at $17,000.” He recalled giving a similar amount to the established Come and Take It Celebration a few years ago in order for them to book bands for a more successful event. Crozier clarified that it was $30,000, “when we were flush and oil revenues were coming in.”
“But we also have to consider that this is a new event for us,” said CVB president Dawn O'Donnell. “We're not piggybacking an existing event. So it's something to consider. It's something that we can grow and nurture.”
Hille explained that the CVB's budget for special events was already set for the year by city council in the amount of $30,000. If another event wanted a large piece of the pie once that amount is extinguished, such as the Main Street Concert Series or Come and Take It, CVB would have to appear before city council for a budget amendment, or increase. The car show would extinguish over 50 percent of their yearly allotment before the year gets started.
“Whatever your recommendation is, if you go forward with this, make sure you put that in your recommendation [to city council] that you would have to look at a budget amendment,” Patek said. “Because you've got other events that are coming up and you're going to go over that amount, so that way [council] is aware as well.”
Morrow wondered about the Texas Independence Festival that the board created last month as a new springtime event for the city, and how it would get funded, and in what amount. Hille said that they do not yet have cost estimates for the fledgeling fest, and Crozier said that they could probably get it done with $5,000. No additional comments were made on the matter.
Morrow made a motion to accept Gammage's request, with the addendum that council be made aware that they will be looking for more money for events that pop up later in the year. The request passed unanimously.
“One thought,” Morrow added. “Please include the local car club in asking them to join this event. They didn't get asked last time.”
“Yes they did,” stated Rob Brown, who was a guest in attendance. “Absolutely they did, both times. Both years. And they said no. The answer was no.”
Hille said that he would be happy to contact them.
Editor's note: For more analysis on the potential car show, click here.