Organizers look at revamping car shows | April 11, 2008 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Newsfront - April 11, 2008

Organizers look at revamping car shows

Danville evaluating two vs. four Hot Summer Nights

by Meghan Neal

The Town Council voted last week to reduce the number of Hot Summer Nights car shows from four to two this summer. Now the show's organizers are talking about how they can make it work with just two nights.

"(We're) hoping next year it will jump back to four," said Tony Carnemolla, one of the founders of the event.

Carnemolla said they're working on figuring out the financial aspects of the new schedule. All the pieces were in place for four shows, and now there's rearranging to do. They plan to approach the town in a couple of weeks with their conclusion.

He said if they do go ahead with two shows, they'll probably ask the town for a few changes, such as more space to display the cars.

Though concerns have been raised about the show's rowdy character, the reason for the change is primarily economic. Mainly, shop owners downtown are sick of losing four nights' worth of business because they're forced to close.

Some say the purpose of the Thursday night summer events is to stimulate Danville's downtown businesses. But Councilman Mike Shimansky pointed out that the car show is meant for residents' enjoyment, not shop owners' profits.

"I don't think we ought to be measuring our successes or failures by the amount of money," he said.

Jill Bergman, Danville's economic development coordinator, said the town has to consider how it can meet the needs of the entire community.

"Not all special events are going to benefit all merchants," she explained. "It's really trying to find a balance. That's what our goal is."

Scaling down to two shows was a way to balance retailers' needs while preserving a well-loved event.

There are a limited amount of resources to staff and run all the events planned for the summer, said Bergman. And a limited amount of street closures available. In order to add the Shop Local event, something had to be sacrificed.

Hot Summer Nights takes up its fair share of resources. Each show costs the town about $20,000 for policing alone.

It takes 15-18 police officers, plus reserve officers and volunteers, to staff each event. The other events usually require only one officer, costing closer to $500 for the evening, said Police Chief Chris Wenzel.

The overall economic impact of the car show, however, is harder to measure. Some say it costs the town far more money than it's worth. Others say by attracting about 60,000 visitors to Danville, the four shows help put the town on people's radar, a value you can't put a price tag on.

"It's very hard to measure except what we hear from merchants and retailers," said Bergman.

Tina Wong, owner of Molly's Pup-Purr-Ee on Hartz Avenue, admitted, after looking at past revenues, that closing for four Thursday evenings doesn't make a huge dent.

"I guess in the total scheme of it, yeah, it's a small percent," she said. "But I think bottom line is we're all still missing out on this. We're not gaining from it."

She said, to put it in perspective, that from 3-6 p.m. - the hours she closes during the event - the store normally does about 50 percent of the day's business. Plus, she added, it's simply not good customer service.

Restaurants are another story altogether; they're packed with customers throughout the evening. Mari Kennard, owner of the Crown on Hartz Avenue, said it's like adding four extra Friday nights worth of business.

Still, she said she understands it's different for retail boutiques.

"It may be good for the community but certainly not for us," said Judith Clark, owner of Design Elements. "And I don't believe in throwing the baby out with the bathwater. But something's gotta change."

Town Council members said they'd use this summer as an experiment to see if having two car shows and two Shop Local nights is successful. If not, they'll consider going back to four shows next year.