We were there most of the weekend EXCEPT for Saturday as we took a drive out to Santa Monica (via Route 66 of course) – but the attendance on Friday was very low…
VICTORVILLE • The Route 66 International Festival 2012 attracted a little more than 5,000 people during this past weekend, disappointing organizers and businesses who expected a much bigger turnout.
Some of them blamed the above-100-degree heat for low attendance, while others criticized a lack of organization and marketing.
The festival attracted about 800 paid visitors Friday and 4,000 on Saturday at the San Bernardino County Fairgrounds, where a gourmet food-truck show, a classic car show, live entertainment and military vehicle exhibits took place, according to Vince Sapina, the festival’s media and PR chair. About 350 people attended a mixer and tours in Barstow on Thursday.
After the Daily Press ran an article in April stating that Sapina’s co-chair estimated 6,500 visitors and 40 vendors, Sapina asked for a correction saying he was expecting 30,000 attendees and 90 vendors.
Marc Melloul, general manager of the Green Tree Inn, which hosted banquets during the weekend, said his hotel saw a 30-percent increase in the number of reservations.
Paul Chassey, a volunteer at the California Route 66 Museum in Old Town, said the museum saw more visitors during the weekend than usual.
“I had a great time,” Chassey said. “I was really impressed by the food trucks.”
But Carmen Andalon, sales and catering manager at the Ambassador Hotel in Victorville, said she didn’t feel any positive impact from the festival despite offering coupons and special rates. She thinks the festival should have been publicized more.
“I was looking forward to this event, to get more business from it,” Andalon said. “I get more revenue from a small wedding in town.”
People involved in the festival gave conflicting accounts as to how Victorville was chosen among other Route 66 California cities to host this event in the middle of August. The festival is held each year in one of eight states the Mother Road runs through.
The festival committee initially announced in December that the Green Tree Inn was chosen to host a classic car show during the festival with food and merchandise vendors. But after going through a few leadership changes, Sapina took over in March.
“Maybe we could have moved it down the hill, but we thought Victorville needed this,” Sapina said. “I think we built a good event. I just think that the heat wave and local demographics made it difficult. I think we did a great job and want to thank all the volunteers.”
The festival hosted the first gourmet food-truck show in the Victor Valley.
Gourmet food trucks are different from traditional food trucks as onboard chefs cook and serve creative dishes such as a lobster corn dog. These trucks have gained popularity in recent years, especially in Los Angeles and Orange counties.
“The expectation was far greater than the turnout,” said Rick Singerman, who owns the Maui Wowi LA smoothie truck.
Maui Wowi was among 15 vendors that attended the festival on Friday when there was hardly any line at each truck. Singerman said he lost money that day driving up from Los Angeles County.
“I don’t know why it was scheduled for Friday and Saturday and not Saturday and Sunday,” Singerman said.
Sapina said he sat down with the vendors Friday night and told them he would cancel additional trucks coming Saturday to avoid competition. Singerman said he returned Saturday and barely made a profit.
Keith Kahn, president of Inland Empire Gourmet Food Trucks, which organized the gourmet food-truck show, said he booked too many trucks based on the organizers’ estimate. The Inland Empire Gourmet Food Trucks offered to refund booking fees for Friday to the gourmet food trucks.
“If we only had 10 trucks on Saturday, we probably would have had 10 happy trucks,” Kahn said.
Daniel Tate helped organize military vehicle exhibits, which he said attracted 2,500 visitors.
“I think what they should have done is work with local nonprofits and they could have made it more attractive to a lot more people. They have a huge following,” Tate said.
Tomoya Shimura, Staff Writer – Victorville Daily Press