Temecula has rolled out a pair of big changes – a youth fun zone and a key parking restriction – for the first Rod Run to be operated by the city.
Planning for the annual Rod Run, which will turn Old Town into a sea of chrome and color on March 7-8, is heading down the home stretch. City officials have jumped into the driver’s seat for the first time, but it remains uncertain whether the trial run will be extended beyond this year.
“Honestly, I have no idea as to what that (future structure) is going to be,” said Dawn Adamiak, the city’s recreation supervisor. That recommendation, she said, will be in the hands of the same committee that last year pressed for the vintage car show to shift to city control for at least one time.
The changes – as well as the uncertainty over the future – are unfolding as the popularity of the signature city event continues to mushroom.
“I think it’s getting more popular,” Alice Sullivan, Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce president and chief executive, said in a recent telephone interview. “It’s just a great family event.”
Sullivan said the appeal of antique and vintage autos remains high, and that enthusiasm is on display at Temecula’s annual show as well as a similar annual event that is held in Murrieta on Father’s Day.
The family-oriented appeal is expected to increase this year as the city, for the first time, has set aside a large area for air-filled jump houses, face painting, slot-car and pinewood derby races and other youth activities.
Sullivan said the Rod Run measures up as one of the city’s most popular community events. It is hard to say, she said, whether it attracts more visitors than the city’s July 4th festivities or some other large-scale events. In some years, especially during sunny weekends, the Rod Run has attracted more than 70,000 visitors to Old Town streets.
Sullivan said the city has extensive experience planning small and large community events, and this process has rendered a solid working group of Old Town merchants and vintage vehicle buffs.
“I think it’s been positive,” Sullivan said. “I haven’t heard anything negative.”
Since its loose-knit beginning more than 25 years ago, the annual car show has been sponsored by a coalition of business and community leaders as well as a nonprofit group formed mostly of vintage car and truck owners and enthusiasts.
That nonprofit group fragmented after one of its leaders moved out of state. The city initially fielded proposals from four organizations, including a founder of the group that operated the Rod Run beginning in 1999.
But a city committee shifted gears and recommended that Temecula, rather than any of the four applicants, run the event for one year or more.
Some council members and staff cited other key city events – including popular parades and Old Town gatherings – as examples of Temecula’s ability to organize and produce major functions. They also noted that the city has played a key role in past Rod Runs by reviewing permit applications and ensuring that operating conditions were met.
In July, the City Council voted to place the signature event in Temecula’s hands. Some council members said Temecula’s oversight would just be for this Rod Run, but they left the door open for possibly keeping it under the city’s control indefinitely.
The event annually attracts baby boomers, families and vintage car enthusiasts from a swath of inland and coastal communities. Food booths and vendors add to the appeal as visitors and vehicles jam the closed roadways and sidewalks.
The event, which for many years was also held every fall, is seen as an economic development jewel for the city and its historic business district.
Temecula has typically paid the law enforcement costs of the event as well as the public works, fire protection and other municipal expenses. That cost is expected to total about $63,000 this year, according to a city staff report prepared in July. Adamiak said the city is on track to spend about that much this year.
Past events have often generated surplus funds that are typically distributed to nonprofit groups as well as service clubs that assist with parking and other Rod Run tasks.
City staff has estimated that a potential financial windfall of about $35,000 might be generated this year. Such a surplus would be diverted into an existing pool of city funds that are annually distributed to local nonprofit groups that undergo a detailed application and review process.
In preparation for city operations, Temecula staff created an outline detailing the roles of the city, an Old Town merchants group and car club liaisons before and during the Rod Run. Most of the key tasks are being done by city staff, Adamiak said, but volunteers are issuing parking passes and performing other duties.
Issuing parking passes for the city’s parking structure has been delegated to the Old Town merchants group, she said. That structure, which is connected to Temecula’s landmark Civic Center complex, has been used for past Rod Runs and numerous other Old Town events since it opened in December 2010.
Temecula’s 95,500-square-foot Civic Center complex cost about $73 million in land, infrastructure and construction costs. The facility at Mercedes and Main streets includes a parking garage, conference center, city offices, outdoor amphitheater and satellite police and tourism promotion offices.
Adamiak said a consensus was reached this year to limit parking in the garage to Old Town residents and business owners and employees. She said that decision was reached, in part, because of the parking crunch that can grip Old Town when it is jammed by visitors from Southern California and beyond.
“There weren’t a lot of (parking) options for them,” she said.
As in the past, shuttles on Saturday will ferry Rod Run visitors to and from the three large parking areas that have been designated as free locations. Those lots are at the former city hall along Business Park Drive, the south end of Old Town Front Street and the corner of Ynez and Santiago roads.
Adamiak said the planning process is “running very smoothly,” and many visitors may not realize that the city has taken the lead role in this year’s Rod Run.
“For us, it’s been fantastic,” she said.
Get your motor runnin’
Temecula’s Rod Run, which for the first year will be operated by the city, will be held Friday (March 7) and Saturday (March 8). Past events have attracted as many as 70,000 people who look on as 700 or more antique or vintage cars and trucks are displayed or driven in Old Town Temecula. Vendors, food booths, a youth fun zone and other attractions will also be featured. Below is a synopsis of the free event and some suggestions.
FRIDAY: An antique and vintage vehicle cruise will take place from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. Vehicle access will be closed between the pair of metal Old Town arches. The city’s multi-story parking garage will be open along Mercedes Street.
SATURDAY: An antique and vintage vehicle “Show and Shine” will jam Old Town streets and sidewalks from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. Vehicle access will be closed between the pair of metal Old Town arches. Due to the amount of pedestrian congestion, organizers discourage visitors from bringing dogs, scooters or skateboards. The city’s multi-story parking garage will be closed to the public and available only to Old Town residents, merchants and workers. Shuttles will run between three free parking areas designated by the city.
• City park and ride area at Interstate 15 exit at Temecula Parkway.
• Dirt lot at the intersection of Santiago and Ynez roads east of I-15.
• The former city hall building at Business Park Drive and Rancho Way.