Editor’s Note: Updated to include email responses from Destination Osoyoos
A last-minute offer to help with the bills has the community’s very popular spring car show on track for another year.
Members of the Cactus Jalopies committee voted Wednesday evening to move forward with the annual desert wine tour later this spring — a reversal of a decision pondered just seven days earlier when members had considered cancelling the event.
Frustrating the event’s growth is reduced funding provided by the Town of Osoyoos and Destination Osoyoos, which in previous years had together come up with $11,000 in seed money.
This year, though, after the Town’s destination marketing organization last fall declined to provide any funding to the event and the Town came up with just $6,500, the four-day car event was left having to do more with less.
“We’ve been assured some support that will allow us to continue this year,” said a spokesperson for the Cactus Jalopies committee who asked for anonymity in order to speak for the entire board and was also reluctant to name the funding source.
“After being turned down from the community grant money, we found some other support. We’re going to have to make some adjustments to the show format to be able to continue but we’re going to work hard towards doing that.”
The event, now in its 15th year, was upping its game by bringing in not only a spectacular, vehicle — a 1958 Lincoln Continental affectionately known as Maybellene — but also car design celebrity Dave Kindig, who is featured on the popular TV show Bitchin’ Rides and was responsible for Maybellene.
Also headlining the show are the Rust Bros Crew, stars of History Channel’s Rust Valley Restorations.
“That’s ruffled some feathers in the town, that we’re paying someone (to attend),” said the spokesperson. “But how do you grow an event unless you offer something to draw people? Each year you look for another way.”
In the past, Cactus Jalopies has spent $6,500 bringing a motorcycle stunt show to town. This year, said the spokesperson, the group wanted to try something different.
“For the growth of the show, we needed the parking lot where the stunts were staged. That’s where the feature car’s going to be, the vendors are all going to be up there and if the fire department participates, they’re going to be up in that paved parking lot as well.
“Now we can put more cars down on the lawn and in the other areas where we used to have the vendors.”
While a decision was made Wednesday night to continue, there were expressions of concern about municipal support for the event — and fears funding partners don’t recognize how important the event is to the community’s shoulder-season health.
Committee discussion suggests the 500 cars entered into the show will bring with them 1,000 drivers and passengers. Putting them in at a minimum 400 hotel rooms — at a conservative rate of $150 — means about $60,000 in accommodation revenue each night. For four nights that’s about $240,000.
Participants also eat in restaurants, purchase food, gas and spend money in many other places during their stay.
One committee member recalled comments made by Kelley Glazer, Destination Osoyoos’s executive director, speaking about a golf tournament coming to the community in August.
“A recent study shows that in Osoyoos, a golfer visit represents approximately a $500 per day spent per couple (which goes) into our community restaurants, shops, golf courses, hotels, campgrounds and wineries,” Ms. Glazer was reported as saying.
Using that figure, the 500 cars would bring $250,000 in revenue each day.
The event also draws upwards of 5,000 spectators — many of them spending dollars in the Osoyoos community.
“They’re eating hamburgers and drinking beer and taking the kids out for ice cream,” the spokesperson said. “The restaurants and hotels should be upset with what DO’s done. They were on the verge tonight of not having a show, which was going to cost a half a million dollars.”
The show was gambling the addition of Maybellene and Dave Kindig this year would draw even more people to the weekend event.
“Lots of people watched (Maybellene) being built on television. There’s a connection there and it seemed to be working. The pre-registrations are bigger than they’ve ever been.”
But the hopes for a big show this season are being tempered with thoughts of what lies beyond.
The committee has a hard time understanding why there’s quibbling over an additional $4,500 in funding when the return on investment is so substantial.
“We were told in the past apply for so much from us, apply for so much from Destination Osoyoos. Before we would get RMI money and (community services) grant money. This year, with DO out of the picture, saying they had zero, we applied for $11,000 from the Town. Staff recommended we get the eleven; the councillors changed that. And when we applied for the grant, they gave us zero.”
Osoyoos CAO Barry Romanko said there are “opportunities to sit down” with the club and put it on a different funding model — including a Traditional Support stream that provides annual funding without application.
“We fund Fireworks and the Festival Society like that. They know how much money they’re going to receive so they can do long-term planning around it,” he said.
That, he added, would be a decision Council would have to make.
Similarly, the committee fears its relationship with Destination Osoyoos has also suffered.
“DO is out of the picture as far as we’re concerned,” said the spokesperson. “And they shouldn’t be because their role is to bring tourism to the town. They get the hotel tax money to do that.”
The strained relationship with Destination Osoyoos is unfortunate, committee members said. In the past, the destination marketer was very supportive.
“We originally started back with (former executive director) Gail Scott and for a couple of years we had a good relationship. Gail was the one who wrote us a five-year plan, wrote us sponsorship stuff. She came up with a plan to help us count attendees, made up little DO stickers and had their ambassadors hand them out to people at the show.
“They knew how many decals they gave out and they ran out at 5,000. So they knew that there was more than 5,000 attending. A lot more.”
OsoyoosToday reached out twice to Destination Osoyoos for comment. We received two email replies from its executive director, the first indicating DO had “another side of the story:”
“I can assure you that myself and the board have been trying to work with the CJ group and JF in haste has written something on FB that is not accurate.” the email read.
A second email indicated that “as per the direction of the chair of the board of Destination Osoyoos, this matter is being brought forward to the board of directors, there for (sic) I will not be making any statements until after that point, if instructed to do so.”
The Desert Wine Tour is scheduled for May 30 – June 2 and consists of community show-and-shines, a wine tour, garage visits, ladies poker walk and drag racing.
The big day is the June 1 show-and-shine at Gyro park, where the 500 cars are arranged in parking lawns and along the beach.
If you’re interested in participating, Cactus Jalopies is looking for volunteers. You can email your interest to email@example.com.