Letter writer addresses downtown car show controversy: ‘It’s as if we do not want them’

Published 10:51 am Friday, March 3, 2023

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To the Editor:
Once again we have controversy over our popular and long-standing downtown car show. This raises many concerns and questions for myself and others I have spoken with.
Do we ever wonder how many towns in our region have people around the breakfast table in diners and in city halls and chambers of commerces that are wondering “what could we do to get more people downtown on a weekend?” Here in Elizabethton we have something that automatically brings 100s and 1000s to our downtown. It is the Saturday night car show. Some visitors would not have known or cared where Elizabethton was until they came to a car show and saw the historic buildings in three blocks with a variety of goods and services and restaurants with many choices of good food. They often return with their friends and family. We also see that window shopping on a Saturday night can result in purchases later in the week. And, we act as if WE DO NOT WANT THEM!
Can you recall the rare cars we have seen? They range from 1915 to the present and include vehicles from Detroit, Italy, German, England, Japan, and Canada. We see roadsters, convertibles, station wagons, muscle cars, vans, and trucks that can be original or custom. Many have styling and colors that make them works of art. There are cars here that would get high bids at any collector car auction. Some vacationers would drive 100s of miles hoping to see in museums what we see on a nice Saturday night. One of many great cars seen last year was a 1948 Lincoln Continental with the V-12 engine in original condition. A similar Continental can be seen in the classic movie The Caine Mutiny. We saw it and many more on the streets of Elizabethton, and we act as if WE DO NOT WANT THEM.
We sometimes hear concerns if our younger generation can make a living without moving away. We may forget that the collector car hobby and business has many opportunities for jobs and careers. This could include service and restoration of many types of mechanical systems as well as upholstery, body and glass work, and even finance, insurance, and truck drivers.
Does it seem as if the very people who are paid, elected, and entrusted to promote our community and move forward can be taking a step backward? Why not use our time and energy to invite sports car clubs such as those for BMW, Miata, and Porsche to drive the roads of Carter County as I have seen at Little Switzerland, N.C.? Why not work with city, county, and technical schools to have talented students and their instructors at the car show meeting car owners to explore job opportunities?
There are many reasons to visit Carter County and Elizabethton. I feel that if a real survey was taken the car show would be in the top five. I also feel that everyone at City Hall and the Chamber should be 100 percent in support of the car show just as they should be 100 percent in support of the Bonnie Kate, the ballfields at Cat Island, the outdoor drama at Sycamore Shoals, the lighted Christmas tree, music at Covered Bridge Park, and all that goes together to make our community a place that people want to visit and return to.
There is an old saying from the 60s when IBM punch cards were in widespread use – “Do not fold, spindle or mutilate.” It seems that once again a few want to go beyond reasonable change and “fold, spindle or mutilate” the car show to the point that many are made to feel like third class citizens who are not wanted or needed. If this starts and continues the day may come that it will be the people at the breakfast table at the Southern and in our local city hall and chamber who may wonder “what could we do to get more people downtown on weekends?”

Jimmy Martin
Bookworm Books

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