Niles council approves weekly car show on second try

Published 9:18 am Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Leader file photo — A weekly summer car show will return to downtown Niles.

Leader file photo — A weekly summer car show will return to downtown Niles.

Gentlemen, start your engines.

A weekly automobile show will return this summer to downtown Niles after the city council approved an application from a Niles man to host the show at Monday’s regular meeting by a 5 to 1 vote.

The council rejected the same application at its meeting two weeks ago, citing concerns over cost and a lack of documented support from downtown business owners.

Rex Carpenter, the man in charge of the Main Street auto show, brought with him letters of support from 17 of the 21 downtown businesses — enough backing to change the minds of most council members.

Gail Hanchar, owner of Crumb Crossing Bakery on Main Street, said she stayed open later on car show evenings because they were so great for her business. When the show moved

to Riverfront Park last year due to a construction project on the Main Street Bridge, Hanchar said sales plummeted on car show nights.

She was one of several people in the audience who applauded when the council voted to bring the show back to Main Street.

“It was a waste of my time to be there (when the car show wasn’t downtown),” she said. “I love having the cars downtown. I am all for the car show.”

Three others spoke in favor of having the car show downtown during public comment, including Richard Smith, owner of Rusty Hooks Bait and Tackle on Main Street.

Dan VandenHeede was the only councilman to vote in favor of the application two weeks ago. He did so again Monday.

“I do think it is a good thing to have downtown,” he said. “I know people from all over that came to it when it was downtown. It was really unique to have that setting of it there. Obviously, we saw how business owners are by and large in support of it.”

Multiple council members advised Carpenter to start the process of registering Forever Young Cruisers as a non-profit and to be transparent when it comes to financial records since the council agreed to wave the cost of closing the streets, approximately $9,000 — a cost that will ultimately be born by taxpayers.

Councilman Tim Skalla also urged Carpenter to try and get the show funded by the Niles DDA/Main Street.

“It is the type of thing that is the perfect funding for the DDA as far as cost benefit,” he said.

Carpenter said he would work on registering Forever Young Cruisers as a non-profit in addition to being transparent and attempting to get on the DDA’s budget in the future.

VandenHeede, Skalla, Gretchen Bertschy, Georgia Boggs and John DiCostanzo voted in favor of the application.

Councilmen David Mann and Robert Durm were absent from the meeting and did not vote.

Bill Weimer was the only councilman to vote against the application, saying while he is not against car shows, he is against the amount of money the city has to absorb by waving costs associated with shutting down Main Street.

“I don’t think that is proper,” he said. “That is my opinion but I guess I am an old Mustang.”

The car show, called Forever Young Cruisers, will take place each Wednesday evening on Main Street from June 1 to Aug. 24.

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

Carpenter said the show brings in an estimated 1,500 to 1,800 visitors to Niles each week, depending on weather.