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Massena chamber pulls plug on car, truck, motorcycle show

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MASSENA - The Greater Massena Chamber of Commerce is pulling the plug on their annual car, truck and motorcycle show, opting instead to merge it with their annual block dance in downtown Massena and look for other events to fill in the gap.

But Mayor James F. Hidy told members of the chamber’s board of directors Thursday that it would be easier to draw in events if they had some help from neighbors.

“Funding is an issue, no question. The biggest corporation that could fund (events) refuses to do,” Mr. Hidy said, referring to the New York Power Authority.

In the case of the annual car, truck and motorcycle show, which would have been held for the 16th year on Aug. 19, chamber Executive Director Michael J. Gleason said they lost $350 last year.

In 2011 the chamber took a financial hit by having to purchase trophies for the event. The show had been held in the past with the assistance of the former GM Powertrain and the Massena Olde Car Club, which folded last year.

A rainy event day also dampened their financial picture for the event.

But, Mr. Gleason said, their biggest concern is the number of competing shows in the area over the summer. Among them is a show that’s scheduled to be held in conjunction with an Elvis Festival Aug. 4 at the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino. That show will include vehicles from Massena, Malone and other areas, he said.

“Having an event at the casino on Aug. 4 and ours on Aug. 19 is kind of tough, and there are other shows in that two-week time period. Everyone’s doing it,” he said. “This will give us a good opportunity to feel out the event at the casino.”

The casino’s plan led the chamber’s Executive Board to discuss the future of Massena’s car, truck and motorcycle show during their recent meeting, and the consensus was to bring it to the chamber’s full board to vote on whether to continue it.

Chamber board member Susan E. Stiles, who also served as president of the Massena Olde Car Club, said that the number of shows has led to a downturn in vehicle numbers for those events. In Ogdensburg, for example, Ms. Stiles said they once drew a couple of hundred vehicles and now they’re below 100.

“They don’t want to sit down for six to eight hours. They want to drive around,” she said.

Ms. Stiles said when the Massena Olde Car Club was working with the chamber on the August show they cut some of the costs by seeking sponsors for trophies that were awarded during the event.

“It’s a lot of work to go around and get sponsors,” she said.

The trophies won’t go away with the cancellation of the car, truck and motorcycle show, according to Mr. Gleason. He said they could award them during the July 7 block dance in downtown Massena.

Chamber board members agreed that the block dance might provide a better venue for owners to display their vehicles and receive awards. Tina R. Corcoran said the event was open to families and individuals of all ages, and Ms. Stiles said it was free for the vehicles and free for visitors.

There could be other ways to generate revenue during the day, according to chamber officials. Mr. Gleason noted that the Massena Volunteer Fire Department’s chicken barbecue held in conjunction with the block dance typically sells out in an hour or hour-and-a-half.

Ms. Stiles said there were also ways they could back on some of the event’s costs. For instance, she said, they could likely get a sponsor for the band that appears, cutting that cost for the chamber.

Meanwhile, chamber officials want to explore other activities they could help bring to the community. Mr. Hidy said he remembered events such as a visit by the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels that could be considered.

“I was talking to a guy from the Marine Corps band. He said if you put us up and feed us we’ll come,” he said.

“The airport may draw people in. Maybe we should look at that,” board member Chris Herrick said.

Ms. Corcoran suggested they could put feelers out in the community and, if people or groups were interested in developing events, the chamber could assist them.

“We can’t be the architect for the events,” she said.

That concept worked for the events held as part of Massena’s bicentennial, according to Ms. Corcoran, who served on the event’s planning committee.

She suggested that the Wings of Freedom, a visit by vintage airplanes to Massena that had been held several years ago, might be an opportunity for veteran’s groups to combine forces.

“They might want to get together. We can help them,” she said.

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