Reader notes the many pluses of weekly car show downtown

Published 2:56 pm Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Reader notes the many pluses of weekly car show downtown

To the Editor:
An open letter to any concerning the Saturday Night Car Show:
Just as many things in our lives could be returning to normal WE find we have controversy over the Elizabethton car show. I would like to look at the REASONS involved, the CAR SHOW and some of the PEOPLE who enjoy it as well as ATTITUDE and CHANGE.
We have been told that a delivery truck had a problem parking and unloading yet trucks deliver throughout downtown on a daily basis by parking in one of three lanes with 4-way flashers causing no problem to anyone.
We hear that the car show is only the same cars and same people when nothing could be further from the truth. There are always different cars and people from nearby counties and states. I have spoken to a visitor who brought his family from Illinois at least twice, once in an Avanti and again in a Riviera.
We have been told that the wrong cars park in the wrong spaces for a portion of Saturday afternoon and yet many business owners and downtown employees often park in prime spaces all day throughout the week. (If a car comes into downtown Elizabethton with a legal registration and a licensed driver who can park between the lines should we demand to know, or follow these people to see if they: buy a plant — enjoy a meal — buy new or antique merchandise — get a haircut — visit the visitors center — get frozen yogurt — check events at the Bonnie Kate — visit Covered Bridge Park — feed the ducks — or engage in any other approved activity.)
We have been told that an unnamed national corporation will not locate in downtown Elizabethton because of the cars that are here on a Saturday night and yet the message I get from talking to HUNDREDS of visitors over five years is: “This looks like the downtown where I grew up years ago,” and “We love the shops and restaurants here because they are NOT national chains.”
Some things can have a reason and a real reason. Incredibly, there seems to be a real ATTITUDE among a few that “car show people” are not “good enough” for our downtown. As a book store owner I often hear the old saying, “Do not judge a book by its cover.” This can also apply to people.
We may have no understanding of where car show people have shopped and dined.
We may have no understanding of the auctions car show people have attended in the Midwest, southwest and elsewhere, both buying and selling, or the value of these cars.
Some car show people I have seen recently include:
— A mother, daughter and grandbaby who said they came to the car show, enjoyed it, took pictures of many cars and after seeing our downtown planned to come back. As they did the next Wednesday, having lunch at the Coffee Company, buying books from me and making an appointment at the dog groomer.
— A lady who bought books for a granddaughter on a weekday and told how she enjoyed coming to the car show with her 16-year-old grandson. As she said, “He knows about Mustangs but when I am with him I can show him much more that I remember. We also try a different restaurant each time.”
— Overheard on the sidewalk on Saturday evening from one visitor to another: “I like little towns like this.”
— Overheard from one friend to another after parking Hot Rods on a Saturday afternoon: “Let’s go get something to eat.” (Meaning at a downtown restaurant.)
The above are real people, real stories and when multiplied by dozens and hundreds we can begin to understand to not judge a book (or person) by its cover.
There is another old saying that: “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Our car show is nationally known, brings thousands of people downtown some of whom may not have previously known where Elizabethton was and raises thousands of dollars for charity. If anyone thinks that is a truckload of lemons and cannot find a recipe for lemonade, lemon pie or lemon cookies whose fault is that?
If the Chamber would like to make “lemonade out of lemons” I have a positive suggestion. After the success of the foot and bicycle races perhaps it is time for a sports car rally or tour. BMW and Porsche owners love the western North Carolina roads. Maybe it is time to invite them to East Tennessee. Imagine the possibilities — sports cars and owners stay on Roan Mountain Friday night — come to Elizabethton Saturday — breakfast at the Southern — up Stoney Creek — over to Shady Valley — on to Mountain City — by Watauga Lake — stop at the Captain’s Table — back to Elizabethton to join and enjoy the car show.
There have been many CHANGES since the car show started at the shopping center near Ingles and then moved downtown where many of the local cars would have often been seen. We no longer have iron rails behind downtown but a trail enjoyed by hikers and bicyclists every day. The Bonnie Kate no longer shows movies as in the ‘90s but has many live shows that are sold out. (I still hear comments of how good the jazz show was.) At Covered Bridge Park you can no longer drive across the bridge but can hear talented regional musicians from the bandstand.
In many ways the car show can be a symbol of our downtown. Some cars are original and others are restored. Some of our downtown buildings are original and others including a beautiful beauty shop, the visitors center at the chamber and the new police building have had amazing renovations. The goods and services downtown can be as historic as a ’32 Ford, ’57 Chevy or ’68 Dodge Charger as with the variety of soft drinks and Black Jack chewing gum at Simple Blessings or as up to date as the new Corvette or  Bronco as with the latest room decor at Cannon’s or Ritchie’s. If you drive downtown in a Tesla you can stop at the modern charging station and then enjoy meals at Dino’s from the 1963 recipes.
And now we hear that a few want more CHANGE. That desired change seems to be something like this:
Old cars can only enter downtown at 4:59 on very limited Saturdays (It is important to remember that reasons to have the car show every Saturday include: 1. You do not have to wonder if it is this week, next week or did we miss it last week. 2. If there is bad weather one Saturday you know to come next week. 3. If there is a car event in the area such as the Bristol racetrack many there will include Elizabethton in their Saturday plans.) Old cars could drive past shops and restaurants but COULD NOT STOP, having to turn over one block to a street with NO evening restaurant, NO shops and NO canopy. I feel this would be very similar to asking Rosa Parks to go to the back of the bus and the message from this could be: “We don’t care if you come back next time or not.” If the few are allowed to cause this change I and many, many others feel it would be a huge mistake.
I welcome and eagerly await any comment on the above.

Jimmy Martin
Bookworm Books
431 East Elk Ave.
423-268-4841