SAN BERNARDINO — Two months after the annual Route 66 Rendezvous car show stalled out, one of its organizers said she’s jump-started the show – and is moving it to Ontario under a new name.
Shelly McNaul, who previously served as the director of special events for the San Bernardino Convention and Visitors Bureau, announced the move Saturday on the Route 66 Rendezvous Facebook page.
“I will be continuing under another name called the ‘Route 66 Reunion’ that will be a three-day car show modeled after the Route 66 Rendezvous scheduled for the same weekend, Sept. 20 to 22, 2013,” her post read in part.
The event, which pays tribute to classic cars, hotrods and the famous Mother Road itself, has been huge in San Bernardino for more than two decades, drawing thousands of visitors from outside of the city, filling local hotel rooms and filling local businesses with customers.
Jim Gerstenslager, chairman of the board for the San Bernardino Convention and Visitors Bureau – which stopped day-to-day operations in March – said the Route 66 Rendezvous is San Bernardino’s signature event and nobody ever talked to him about it.
“We can’t stop people from having their own event as long as they don’t infringe on our trademark,” Gerstenslager said. “Our Convention and Visitors Bureau owns the name and Stater Bros., as title sponsor, owns Stater Bros. Route 66 Rendezvous. We’re sticking to it and it’s absolute. “
In Ontario, which is actually a few miles south of the original Route 66, Gerstenslager’s counterpart was already gearing up for the launch of an Ontario event, which the city sees as its own way to attract visitors.
“We’re finalizing details on bringing it to Ontario under a different name,” said Michael Krouse, president and CEO of the Ontario Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Krouse went on to say, “It’s a great opportunity to bring visitors to our city, and the goal is to make it bigger and better. “
McNaul had hoped to move the event – which attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors to San Bernardino each summer – to Glen Helen Regional Park, she wrote, but will instead be moving it to Euclid Avenue in Ontario. McNaul has been hired by the Ontario Convention Center and Visitors Bureau, she said. The San Bernardino convention center announced in February that, after 22 years, this year’s Route 66 Rendezvous was canceled because of a lack of funding. In early 2012, Gov. Jerry Brown shut down redevelopment agencies around the state, and redevelopment funds had previously been used to help cover clean-up and security at the event. Several months later, the city declared bankruptcy.
“The challenges with doing the car show on the downtown streets of San Bernardino became greater with an unpleasant element at night,” McNaul said. “We want to give the car enthusiast back the freedom they once had to relax and enjoy the reunion of family and friends while sitting next to their babe. “
Public safety staffing has been an issue in the city.
Between declaring bankruptcy in July 2012 and March 2013, the city lost 285 employees, nearly one in four, including dozens of police officers. Police emergency response time has risen 30 seconds, to 5.4 minutes, and non-emergency calls now average a 30-minute response time.
That hasn’t stopped San Bernardino organizers from organizing something.
Meanwhile, an alternative car show, Rendezvous Back to Route 66, is scheduled for the same weekend at San Manuel Baseball Stadium in San Bernardino. The car show is being planned by the San Bernardino Area Chamber of Commerce and car clubs, including Over the Hill Gang, according to chamber president and CEO Judi Penman.
“It’s already on the car club calendar,” Penman said. “We’ve had a great response so far, with people coming forward to participate.”
Ontario organizers are keeping the spirit of the original Rendezvous.
In her post, McNaul wrote that the Route 66 Reunion will have the same “elements” as the Rendezvous, with vendors, entertainment and a continuous three-mile cruise route looping around Euclid Avenue, from Holt Boulevard to 6th Street.
She added that the surroundings are ideal, with Euclid having three lanes to park cars on both sides and cruise down the middle. Businesses, historic homes and a grass median provide trees for shade for the crowd.
“It really has a great feel, and I think it would be a perfect location for the car participants,” she wrote.
McNaul will be mailing out vehicle entry forms in May, she wrote.
By Beua Yarbrough and Michel Nolan – The Sun