Niles council rejects application for downtown car show

Published 9:35 am Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Leader file photo Cars are parked on Main Street during a past Bring It Cruise In Car Show.

Leader file photo
Cars are parked on Main Street during a past Bring It Cruise In Car Show.

The Niles City Council rejected an event application request from a Niles resident who wants to put on a weekly car show in downtown Niles this summer.

At Monday’s regular meeting, Rex Carpenter said he was seeking approval to organize Forever Young Car Cruisers each Wednesday on Main Street from June 1 to Aug. 24.

The show would replace the popular Bring It Cruise In, which was held each Wednesday in Niles, normally on Main Street, the past several years.

Marc Milhander, the organizer of Bring It Cruise In, said he was not going to produce the show this year.

Carpenter, who was heavily involved in the Bring It Cruise In shows in the past, said he wanted to continue the tradition of having a weekly car show downtown.

“It is not something I want to see die,” he said. “It is a nice car show and it brings in a lot people and a lot of dollars into the downtown area.”

The council rejected the request by a 7 to 1 vote, with Dan VandenHeede being the only councilman to vote in favor of the request.

Several council members said before they could approve the request, they would need proof that downtown merchants are in support of the car show.

While Carpenter said he has received sponsorships for the show from five downtown businesses, none of those merchants showed up to the meeting to indicate their support.

Councilwoman Gretchen Bertschy asked Carpenter to get a letter of support from merchants.

“Hard copy talks,” she said, adding that some downtown business owners have complained to her that some events detract from foot traffic. “I’d feel a lot better if I had a hard copy or some kind of statement in writing.”

Other council members expressed concerns about the cost of putting on such an event.

The city’s department of public works estimates it would cost nearly $10,000 for the city to close down the street and put up the necessary state-mandated barricades and road signs for the proposed 13 weeks of closure on Wednesdays.

Carpenter was requesting that the city waive the closure fees for Forever Young Car Cruisers, meaning the city would have to bear that expense.

“I don’t think the city should have to incur a $10,000 cost for a festival like this,” said Councilman David Mann. “I think it should be the responsibility of the business owners.”

Some council members suggested that the show be offered in Riverfront Park, where the cost of barricading is much less because it is not located on a state highway.

VandenHeede, who voted in favor of the event request, said the car show “put Niles on the map,” attracting people from all around the area.

“I’d hate to see it go away, but obviously we have some concerns that need to be addressed,” he said.

After the meeting Carpenter said he was disappointed in the council’s decision, but that he would work to address some of the concerns. He said he would bring a modified plan before the council at its April 25 meeting in addition to getting written support from downtown merchants.

“Not having it is a slap in the face of the business community,” he said.

Carpenter estimated that 1,500 to 1,800 people attended the car shows each week.