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A smoldering topic… City Council hears more response concerning car show

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com
The Elizabethton City Council met at City Hall on Thursday for their regularly scheduled June meeting and for the most part the agenda flowed smoothly through like a cool evening rafting trip on the Watauga River.

However, one item that wasn’t even on the agenda to discuss became one that was discussed the most during the public time to speak as the downtown car show continues to be a hot topic.

The can was cracked open as Elizabethton-Carter County Chamber of Commerce Director Joy McCray updated the Council on the recent Carter County Omnium and Music and Miles events and proceeded to share with the Council about reports from two new businesses that were considering locating in downtown Elizabethton.

“Two more notable anchor businesses have reached out with interest to locating to downtown Elizabethton and seemingly have walked away due to the 27 Saturday nights – that’s more than half of the Saturday nights of the entire year being occupied by the car show,” McCray stated. “Their issue was due to the parking problem that we have and I explained to them that we don’t have a parking problem, it’s just a parking perception.

“But when you are a new business looking to come here, all you see is the parking downtown and the other problem was the skepticism of the business traffic they would have during the car show. Some businesses do great and some businesses don’t.

“And both said the recent hostility they have seen all over social media. And I can understand that.”

McCray explained her responsibilities at the Chamber and also told the Council that she wanted to be very clear in a statement that she wanted to make.

“The Chamber has not and will not make a comment on social media platforms or any interview on the car show because we think it is counterproductive. We will only speak here publicly because this is where change and compromise begin.”

McCray also went on to make a personal statement saying, “I would like to make a clarification on my last visit here when I was here last month. I never said the words to cancel the car show. I never said the words, “run the car show out of town,”.

“I never said these words but these words have been put in my mouth. I spoke only about compromise where we all win.”

With the lid now pulled back, others approached the podium to share their viewpoints on the car show.

Dan Britt, the owner of Big Dan’s Bar-B-Que, spoke to the council in support of the car show saying that five cars park in the three spots he has in front of his business

“They pay the whole payroll from those five cars parked in front of my business,” said Britt. “How 1000’s of people coming to town raising money for children’s charities is a problem – I want to know?”

Another business owner, Janie Mullins, of the Peddler’s Cart, also addressed the council in regard to the car show.

“The car show attracts at least 2,000 people on Saturday night,” Mullins shared. “It increases revenue for everyone in town and brings in a lot of tourists and returning tourists.

“Every single merchant I have talked to but one love the car show. If we only have one car show, that eliminates 6,000 people a month out of town. Why anyone would want to get rid of it, I don’t understand.

“People bring their families to town and this helps to keep kids off the street. We have to get this under control.”

One more business owner spoke during the time allotted and that was John ‘Bull’ Malone who owns Jiggy Rays.

“The car show is a blessing,” said Malone. “My business has increased 29 percent since the car show started. What else can be offered to bring that many people by my business?”

Mayor Curt Alexander told those in attendance that the Council is well aware of the issues and problems.

“The car show has been approved through the month of October,” Alexander reminded the audience. “The Chamber, car show organizers and businesses need to get together and bring a solution to us.

“We need to focus our effort on working together.”

The most passionate words of the night in regard to the car show issue came from City Councilman Jeff Treadway who normally is mild-mannered and soft-spoken.

“We have worked so hard in Elizabethton to change our image and we have to stop putting all that crap on social media,” Treadway stated emphatically referring to social media as sometimes being the Devil using as an example what has been posted concerning the car show.

“We have to make it a win-win for everybody.”

Treadway even went as far as making a bold statement that resonated throughout the gallery.

“If your number one love is not Elizabethton, then I don’t want to hear what you have to say! It’s not one group – it’s everybody!”