Tisbury selectman push car show back to satisfy merchants

The event, which closes Main Street, will be held later in the afternoon.

The Tisbury Fire Fighters Association car show from 2013. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

Tisbury selectmen Tuesday voted to push back the annual Firefighters’ Association Car Show scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 6, from 12 noon to 4 pm to 4 pm to 7 pm in response to complaints from Main Street merchants who said closing Main Street in the middle of the day hurts their businesses.

More than 100 cars on display park the length of Main Street. The event is a fundraiser for an account that provides money to fallen or injured firefighters.

Selectman Tristan Israel recused himself from the discussion because his band plays at the event.

In an effort to address past issues, firefighter association representative Ken Maciel outlined two solutions. He said a free shuttle from the Tisbury School down to Main Street would provide more parking and ease traffic congestion. And shoppers who purchased an item in a Main Street business would be entered in a “merchant raffle,” with an opportunity to win $100 worth of gasoline. That wasn’t enough to convince some business owners.

“We’re paying high top dollar rent for these places and then on the pinnacle afternoon of our last weekend, we’re shut down,” Lisa Brown, a representative of Night Heron Gallery, said. “To handcuff us on that weekend seems inequitable. We value you incredibly and we hope that we can make this a win-win instead of a conflict.”

Peter Simon, owner of The Simon Gallery, said he loses 90 percent of his business on that day “because of old cars and all the noise,” adding, “this is our big weekend. We count on it for our livelihood.”

Charles Downing, owner of Off Main, said he did not wish to argue against the firefighters’ association, but that he’s been in business for 16 years and “there’s no question that it has not been good for us.”

“I can’t believe I’m arguing to keep the streets open on the day before Labor Day,” he said. “My wife and I work seven days a week and this kills us, it kills our business.”

Some business owners, however, attended the meeting in support of the car show.

Seth Gambino, owner of La Choza Burritos, said in his experience Labor Day is the weekend his business drops. “I do much better when the car show comes,” he said.

Doug Johnson, owner of Kennedy Studios, said people discover his store as a result of attending the car show. “That day is not about us,” he said. “It’s about the car show. They give up 24/7, they give up their days, they give up their lives. We can’t we give them half a day?”

Selectmen proceeded cautiously. “This is a terrible dilemma because what I’m hearing is one set of the town people against another,” selectmen Melinda Loberg said. “Who has the wisdom to decide such a thing?”

She asked Mr. Maciel whether changing the date, time, or location of the event would be easiest.

He said the event has already outgrown many venues within the town. He said they hold the event that weekend so the rain date can be held on the holiday Monday. He said if they were to move it to another weekend they would have to hold the event on a Saturday and have the rain date on Sunday. He was concerned there would be less participation on a Saturday.

“We make most of our money on participating cars,” he said.

The compromise was the time change. Selectmen said they will take more time next year to consider alternatives.