Chamber officials call revamped Antique Auto Festival a success

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

With a new location and schedule, this year’s Antique Auto Festival looked a lot different from the events of previous years.

The event was moved to the Great Passion Play, and the Antique Auto Parade took place in the late afternoon. Paul Miller, president of the Greater Eureka Springs Chamber of Commerce, said these changes were based on feedback from car clubs that attended last year’s event. According to a press release from the chamber, the festival’s attendance has been dwindling for the past few years. In its peak years, the release says, the festival brought in 450 cars. Last year, it attracted 150 cars.

“We were really kind of in jeopardy of losing the event. We had to accommodate to the standards they’re used to,” Miller said.

To save the event, Miller said, the chamber extended the judging time and moved it to an area where more cars could spread out. With the longer judging time, Miller said, the parade and the bank robbery re-enactment were affected.

“That obviously played into when the parade can start. That was the primary factor … accommodating those people to that schedule and addressing their concerns,” he said.

The bank robbery re-enactment almost didn’t happen, Miller said, because the schedule changed so much. Miller explained that the chamber contracts with an acting troupe to put on the re-enactment.

“We had been in negotiations with them for a few months. We were trying to accommodate their schedule and our schedule, and it just ended up being a conflict of times for their troupe,” Miller said. “When we were informed we were running out of options, we didn’t know if there were other troupes available. At that time, we were anticipating it wouldn’t be performed this year.”

Luckily, Miller said, several dedicated citizens stepped in to make the re-enactment happen.

“They went out and purchased the props and the costumes. Even though scheduling conflicts looked like it was not going to let that happen this year, a lot of people stepped up, and we appreciate that,” Miller said.

That’s just the type of community Eureka Springs is, Miller said.

“It shows how our town can pull together and how passionate some people are, that they want to see traditions continue,” Miller said. “From the mayor’s office down to our shop owners and our attraction people to step up like that … that is amazing, and it shows how our community does pull together.”

Miller said he has heard the criticisms from the community concerning the revamped festival.

“We appreciate all comments, both positive and critical. We don’t always feel like we have the best mousetrap,” Miller said. “We realize this is a first-time event for us in a different venue with a different schedule, so we’re listening to all the comments so we can apply those concerns and kudos to the way we continue.”

There were many positive aspects of the festival, Miller said. There were 247 cars registered and judged, with more than 170 cars participating in the parade. Already, Miller said, three car clubs have expressed interest in returning next year. The best part of the festival, he said, is that some of its proceeds will benefit the ECHO Clinic. Miller said that’s something that will continue next year, saying he hopes the attendance continues increasing.

“It looks like our participation next year will increase based on the general feedback we’ve had,” Miller said. “The car clubs say everything was very positive. They appreciated the venue being spread out. I think we’ll take what we’ve learned this year and apply that to next year.”

Miller thanked all the volunteers who helped make the event possible, especially Morris Dillow, Rusty Windle and Eric Studer.

“They really stepped up and got a lot of participation from these car clubs and sponsorships,” Miller said. “It is their passion, and that’s one thing we really love. If we’re going to do an event, we always feel we want to do it right.”

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