GONZALES — The 8th Annual Hot Rods and Hatters Car Show skidded into town last weekend, a mere 40 days after burning out of Lockhart, its home the previous seven years. Attendees and participants were treated to slick classics, rare antiques, and even a few rust bucket rat rods. The end result: a happy crowd despite attendance numbers that were considerably off from initial predictions.
When promoter Joel Gammage met with Gonzales Convention and Visitors Bureau heads on Dec. 13 asking for $17,000 in hotel/motel occupancy tax funds, he predicted 10,000-30,000 spectators for the event based on previous attendance numbers up in Lockhart, a town some 40 minutes north that he said was no longer suitable for his car show's size, which he dubbed the second largest in Texas. Gammage assured that he could sway his participants to make the late-game switch to Gonzales, who would bring upwards of 1,200 cars to display in his show.
In reality, just 372 cars made the trek to Gonzales, with 380 pre-registrations online, Gammage said. He also counted 82 vendors that showcased their wares.
“Considering that there was 50-60 percent chance of rain marked for all day Saturday, I'm very happy with the turnout for a move less than 40 days out,” Gammage said. “It's all about quality over quantity for us.”
As for attendance, the prediction of 10,000-30,000 spectators seemed to fall way short of expectations. Gonzales Police Chief Tim Crow said that he didn't believe that there were 10,000 visitors at the car show, but, “I also didn't count.” He also reported a peaceful crowd with no arrests.
Gammage was correct in predicting that local hotels would be full, which is one intended result of allocating hotel/motel occupancy tax (HOT) funds for events. For a snapshot of what local lodging houses dealt with, the La Quinta on Hwy. 183 reported 37 rooms booked for the show and was at capacity, the Microtel Inn and Suites was sold out of their 53 rooms, the Holiday Inn Express and Suites were full at 57 rooms, and the Best Western Regency Inn and Suites on the other side of town reported the majority of its guests were car show related.
“It definitely brought in some business for us,” a Best Western representative said.
Downtown, cars occupied the inner and outer squares with stages of live music positioned within each. The Gonzales Chamber of Commerce operated a beer booth and reported 1,400 beverages sold. Gonzales City Councilman Tommy Schurig was holding court in front of the one-day-only reopening of the Templin Saloon, greeting out-of-towners and distributing “Come and Take It” lapel pins. He was extremely delighted in what he saw.
As for exact numbers on the economic impact the car show brought to town, Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Clint Hille said that he did not have that data yet, but in all said that feedback was extremely positive. He said that he would get with Gammage “hopefully next week” to get some better numbers.
As for missing the mark on expected attendance by both cars and visitors, Gammage said that he would prefer to not speculate on what that might mean should council members question why they were not given what they voted for in regards to promised attendance numbers.