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EDITOR’S CORNER: The missing piece of the Hot Rods puzzle

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(Opinion by Miles Smith/LPR Editor)

Last year, I covered Hot Rods and Hatters for the first time.
The event exceeded my expectations, which isn’t hard to do because left to my own devices, I’m not a festival person.
Festivals are largely comprised of long lines, port-a-potties and funnel cake, three elements that could also be included in a simple elementary school word problem. If Johnny eats four funnel cakes and Bobby eats five funnel cakes, how long is the line to the port-a-potty?
I never really had much use for word problems, either.
Nonetheless, I thought Hot Rods was a pretty cool event. I love classic cars. I love Dale Watson. I love swing dancing and I enjoy seeing people cut a rug in the middle of the street.
And, above all these things, I love the atmosphere that downtown Lockhart provides for events like these. When people have fun here, they seem to really have fun, and it provides a family-friendly atmosphere that you just don’t really see in Zilker Park or on Dirty Sixth.
If it was half as much fun to purely be a part of as it was to photograph, I imagine a good time was had by most.
An enormous amount of planning goes into an event like Hot Rods and Hatters says frontman Joel Gammage, who began the event years ago as a birthday party in front of Texas Hatters, his family’s well-known haberdashery.
So it was no surprise to see him in front of the Lockhart City Council last week dotting the Is and crossing the Ts. Naturally, one can’t wait until the week of the event to start figuring out things like road closures and how the timing of it might mesh with other events that are going on at the same time.
But, wait. That’s the tricky part.
During Joel’s presentation, he made his case for a couple of specific requests. First, he asked council to consider closing San Antonio Street from US 183. San Antonio Street, also known as TX-142, is a state highway that travels from US 80 in Martindale and under TX-130 before ultimately connecting with US 183.
While it’s understandable that Mr. Gammage would want to make his event as safe for everyone as possible, there exist few alternate routes that would make closing a major thoroughfare a feasible plan.
Council thought so, too, and the request wasn’t considered.
But still up in the air is another request that seems like a Sisyphean task. Joel is faced with talking to the downtown business owners by Dec. 18 and convincing them to let him close the streets to through traffic early on the evening of Friday, Feb. 1, to allow the participants to set their cars up in the square’s few available parking spots.
Convincing business owners to let him do as he pleases is going to be a tough sell, because that’s also First Friday, a day that businesses hope to attract foot traffic through their doors, a feat made much easier by ample available parking a few steps away from the businesses themselves.
Maybe the businesses will acquiesce, and maybe they won’t. But maybe there’s another solution.
Namely, in 2020, Hot Rods could try running on a different weekend. It currently competes with First Friday and runs smack into Super Bowl Sunday.
Why not spread the love? With enough planning, I’m sure Hot Rods would be just as big of a success if it ran, say, the second weekend of February.
It’s too late now. The hotels are booked and the plans are made.
But there’s always next year.
There are enough weekends to go around in February. Why not pick another one?

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