Route 66 News

Will Route 66 Rendezvous leave or stay in downtown San Berdoo?

The annual Route 66 Rendezvous may depart or remain in downtown San Bernardino, Calif., according to somewhat contradictory reports Friday afternoon from two area newspapers.

The Press-Enterprise said the classic-car extravaganza may leave downtown because the city, which recently declared bankruptcy, may not have the money to pay for the event’s police patrols. A few hours later, a report in the San Bernardino County Sun quoted several officials saying the Rendezvous will stay in downtown as usual, contrary to rumors.

The Route 66 Rendezvous annually attracts 500,000 visitors to see hundreds of classic cars over a 35-block area. The 23rd edition of the event this year is scheduled for Sept. 13-16.

However, the City of San Bernardino declared bankruptcy earlier this month after being roiled by the bursting of the housing bubble, the recession, and alleged financial mismanagement. A report this week in the Los Angeles Times said San Berdoo will likely have to chop spending by a whopping 30 percent.

According to the P-E, San Bernardino Police Chief Robert Handy said Friday he couldn’t see how the cash-strapped city would be able to pay for police overtime required during the Rendezvous:

Handy said the department last year was reimbursed $65,000 to $70,000 for overtime to police the event.

But with the bankruptcy, unless money can be found elsewhere, the Police Department doesn’t have the resources to provide enough officers required for a safe event.

“I can’t put just 10 officers down there it during the day on weekends and evenings, with all the cuts. I can’t just carve it out of our normal staffing,” Handy said.

A county spokesman also confirmed to the P-E that the San Bernardino County regional parks department has been approached by organizers to possibly move the Route 66 Rendezvous to Glen Helen Regional Park in nearby Devore. The county board of supervisors would have to approve the park’s use for such an event. The park is 12 miles northwest of downtown.

Rendezvous organizers have publicly committed to keeping the event going. A message Thursday on the event’s Facebook page, responding to a question about whether the Rendezvous would be canceled, said: “We are moving forward! We will have some exciting news coming soon.”

In the Sun’s report, Handy was more conciliatory. And the San Bernardino Convention and Visitors Bureau also announced it was committed to the event in downtown:

“We’re working through that now,” Handy said. “We’re trying to get a handle on that now, for what we can pay. There’s discussions about whether it’s going to move. … We’ll find a way. It’s a signature event for the city.”

There were talks about moving, said SBCVB President Wayne Austin, but he’s confident the event is proceeding as usual.

“As far as I’m concerned, we’re still moving forward with the city, trying to figure out how to move forward,” he said. “We’re still focused on downtown, still focused on the same week in September. … Barring me being fired, it’s happening here.”

Mayor Pat Morris was more adamant to the Sun:

“It’s happening, and it’s happening downtown,” he said. “I don’t think (city support) is critical to it happening.”

Morris said the event was particularly important this year.

“Route 66 is our iconic celebration of our city and its history, with the Mother Road,” he said, “and in a time of depression, in a time of economic upheaval, continuing in some way to celebrate the dignity and the history of this great city is important for our constituents and those half million people who come celebrate with us.”

Rumors about the Rendezvous’ cancelation were fueled this week by emails purportedly from Shelly McNaul, events coordinator with the Convention and Visitors Bureau. One of the emails read, in part:

Downtown is canceled! With no support from the City we can’t fund the PD and City bills. […]

As you know from our meeting, if we don’t move the event, we will have to close our doors and we (the CVB, Route 66 Staff, and the Welcome Center) will have to close and we are in the unemployment line.  This is our last ditch effort to save the event and move it to Glen Helen.  We are trying to keep everything that we had in town intact with the cruise and the contests. […]

I suggest that you move your reservation, or you can keep it, it isn’t not that far to Glen Helen.  They also have a huge grass area for RV’s/Trailers.

Emails, phone calls, and direct messages from Route 66 News to the CVB and the Rendezvous were not returned.

Even with the Sun’s more-optimistic tone, it’s apparent the situation with the Rendezvous remains fluid. It may be prudent to move the Rendezvous so the event can be preserved. But such a move would prove economically damaging to nearby hotels and businesses that benefit from the downtown event.

San Bernardino has endured a lot of bad news in recent weeks. It doesn’t need more.

UPDATE 7/28/2012: An updated story by The Press-Enterprise contains some interesting quotes from Jack Brown, CEO of Stater Bros. Markets, the Rendezvous’ primary sponsor:

Brown does not support moving the Rendezvous to Glen Helen, a rural park north of the city, where the event was held in 1990, its first year.

“We are all aware of the bankruptcy of the city of San Bernardino, Brown said. “And should that bankruptcy entail reducing the quality and participation of the Stater Bros. Route 66 Rendezvous, then I believe it should be canceled for 2012, with the promise that we will all work hard to make the 2013 (event) the best ever.”

He was particularly disturbed to hear rumors that fees would be charged for admission and parking if the event moves to Glen Helen. “A major part of our sponsorship has been to ensure it was free,” he said.

Brown also said 60 of the supermarket chain’s suppliers participate in the Rendezvous downtown, and he couldn’t guarantee they would follow it to the park.

The suppliers pay for the fun zone with games and prizes, and also distribute samples of their products, food and drink. They also help pay for the entertainment, Brown said.

“If we can’t do it right, we should just cancel it for this year and I think everyone would understand,” Brown said.

MORE: An updated story by the Sun provides an inkling on why the city’s poor finances are endangering the event:

The city has historically supported the Rendezvous, which is celebrating its 23rd year, with money from its Economic Development Agency, said Mayor Pat Morris.

But the EDA was dissolved earlier this year, along with all redevelopment agencies in the state.

The council will have to decide whether it can make up that support with other money as it struggles through a bankruptcy filing, but the event should go on regardless, Morris said.

MORE: Cassie MacDuff, in a column for The Press-Enterprise, wrote Saturday:

I have it on good authority that a letter will land on the mayor’s desk Monday morning demanding that the city provide the same service to the popular classic car show/street fair as in past years.

That means extra policing for crowds of more than 500,000 and clean-up after the four-day event, which includes a cruise, burn-out, live entertainment and food booths.

(Image courtesy of the Route 66 Rendezvous)


8 thoughts on “Will Route 66 Rendezvous leave or stay in downtown San Berdoo?

  1. Jim Conkle

    We knew once this got out there would be more questions then answers. For those of us that have been involved with the event. many of us from the very first one, the current issues the city is facing do add to our concerns but let me assure everyone that the event will take place and as much fun as always.

    The event adds too much to the area to just die.

  2. Sal Paradise

    I don’t think this event has anything, at all, to do with Route 66. Most of the people who turn out probably don’t even know what 66 really is. It’s just anothe example of someone wringing a profit off the old road. The Route shouldn’t be used in this manner. I don’t want to be harsh here, but if the area is in some much trouble, maybe they should come up with some theme which can be exploited. And leave what little remains of the 66 legacy alone.

    Probably not a popular opinion, but it’s from the heart. I have problems with the hucksters out there trying to turn a dime on the Route. Angel in Arizona, Joe Campos in Santa Rosa, The Big Texan in Amarillo, the boys down at the Will Rogers Museum in Rogers County, Oklahoma; the hotels in Missouri; the late Tom Teague, and, now Ernie Edwards in Illinois. Those are icons of the Route. This event in California is nothing more than pimping the name for a buck.

    1. Jim Conkle

      Hi Sal, I am not sure who you are or what your connection to the Route 66 Community is but you are mistaken when you state “nothing more then pimping the name for a buck”.
      Have you ever attended the event, this year is our 22 year?
      There is no doubt the list you mention are all ICON’s of the road yet even some roadies will disagree with you on one or two of them. It is our own personal feelings as to who is and who isn’t an icon or what event is important and which isn’t.

      From your statement everyone that writes a song, does a book, sells a photo, makes a product are all just doing it for a buck. Well what is wrong with that? If no one was making money from the road there would be NO road.



    2. Ron Warnick Post author

      I’ve given this issue some thought over the years, so here goes …

      At one point early in my interest of Route 66, I probably would have agreed with you. I was much more of a purist. I saw Route 66 with much more of a black-and-white viewpoint regarding its icons and history.

      But, in recent years, I’ve seen more gray area in Route 66 as I’ve learned about its history. Michael Wallis, who’s got as much credibility as anyone, says Route 66 always was a commercial road and always will be. I’ve learned to appreciate things on Route 66 that others may view as unsightly or overcommercial — oil refineries, junkyards, and the so-called hucksters.

      One should remember that plenty of hucksters existed on the Mother Road during its heyday. I’m reminded of that as I peruse the current edition of Show-Me Route 66 magazine and read about Ozark Rock Curios and other places of its ilk in Missouri. Those tacky and touristy sites are mostly gone, but you’ll find many people who feel deeply nostalgic about them and are sorry they’re gone.

      I guess what I’m trying to say is I don’t begrudge anyone for trying to make money using Route 66. At the least, that means the ol’ Mother Road still has viability, which is a good vital sign for its long-term health.

      On a more substantive matters, this will be the 23rd edition of the Rendezvous. That means it dates to 1989 or 1990, years before Route 66’s renaissance began. If anything, Rendezvous organizers saw Route 66 as a marketing hook before many others did and deserve kudos for doing so. Also, the Rendezvous and the crowds it brings directly benefit restaurants and motels on Route 66 in that region. And, as the Rendezvous’ current T-shirt shows with its image of the Wigwam Motel, organizers aren’t afraid to pay tribute to one of its classic mom-and-pop businesses. If anything, the Rendezvous helps carry on and enhance Route 66’s legacy. It certainly doesn’t hurt it.

  3. RT

    WOW – I mean really Sal – WOW!!!

    The Route 66 Rendezvous is arguably the largest annual car event on Route 66 in all 8 states! It also supports such Route 66 icons as the Wigwam Motel, featured on this year’s event t-shirt.

    Using one of your examples, and truly not meaning to be harsh, as we love them too, but the Big Texan is nowhere near Route 66, it’s directly off Interstate 40. That was the original Big Texan that’s been long gone for many years now. Angel – love him to death, but there he is in his own shop, selling everything Route 66 labeled from hats to t-shirts, anything else he can and even made in Vietnam.

    Almost everyone else you mentioned, have pimped Route 66 in name, or there might not be a Route 66 left at all today? Pimping that name is what has brought it all back, whether it be Disney’s movie Cars, the Cars Land theme park, big route events like the festivals, museums, diners, motels, t-shirts, hats, maps, books, art or otherwise. Route 66 has always been about making a buck from day one, all the way back in 1926, with commerce and trade as it’s primary purpose!

    Now you might argue the differences in how others go about making that buck, how many bucks they actually make, whether they’re breaking even or losing money, even what they decide to do with those bucks or how they might support Route 66 today. But you’re either open for business and making some form of a buck, or you’re slowly dying or closed because you didn’t make one – that’s just plain old fashioned simple arithmetic!

    So keep the tourism coming, and pimp it up! We owe them all a great debt of gratitude for helping to save our beloved road and many of it’s businesses today. Rock On Route 66 Rendezvous, and hopefully remain in your original home, which could certainly use the extra income right now…

    1. jim conkle

      Well said RT.
      This has been an issue, making money, for a number of people. NO profit NO road!

  4. RT

    San Bernardino Officials – I don’t know if you look on here or not, but here’s one of the most important things you need to consider?

    Tax Revenues are what pays for your operations, whether Police Department or otherwise. The taxes generated from over 500,000 visitors to this event, far exceed any costs for security or clean up, you just have to learn to budget properly. With 500,000 visitors for the event, you’re talking about over $1 million in tax revenues, and more than that spent on the local economy! Lodger’s Tax, Gross Receipts Tax, etc.

    Police Chief – if all else fails, you should consider volunteering time for the event if that’s what it takes, and figure out how to get paid later? This isn’t a union matter, it’s a financial survival matter.

    Your choices are to either make millions in revenue, or nothing and still have your budget problems. How in your right minds do you purposely make the decision to make nothing, when you need so much? If you look at the past revenues generated from the event, it’s a no brainer, do it and make some money!

  5. bonedaddy32

    so,, im guessing that all of us who pre register for route 66 every year will not be getting our money back if its cancled?? lol

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