Lockhart erases Hot Rods from 2019 schedule
By Miles Smith
The city of Lockhart officially bade farewell to Hot Rods and Hatters on Tuesday night, wiping the annual car show and music festival from its 2019 schedule.
Lockhart City Council members voted 5-2 to withdraw previously approved hotel occupancy tax funding and put it back into the pool for future events, street closures and in-kind services for Hot Rods and Hatters.
The council’s decision came six days after the Gonzales City Council unanimously approved a resolution to award up to $17,000 in hotel/motel occupancy tax money to Hat Rod Productions, as well as in-kind donations to be determined later by Gonzales City Manager Tim Patek.
Councilmembers John Castillo and Kara Bliss McGregor voted against the measure due to the language about putting the hotel occupancy tax funding back into the pool, instead preferring to split the 7.7 percent allocated to Hot Rods and Hatters among other events already receiving funding.
According to the Gonzales Inquirer, Gammage formally began the process to move to the event to Gonzales on Nov. 28. The Gonzales City Council’s decision Thursday night awarded him more funding than Lockhart approved as well as the street closures he wanted with the times he requested.
The event was originally scheduled for Feb. 1-2 in downtown Lockhart. The plan now is to hold it on the same dates in Gonzales.
Gammage appeared before the Lockhart City Council on Nov. 20 to request the closure of San Antonio Street to traffic from US 183, citing safety concerns. He also asked council to consider closing the downtown square to traffic from 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 1 through 10 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 3. to allow for set-up by stage crew, vendors and car show participants.
The Lockhart City Council declined to close the San Antonio Street/US 183 intersection and asked Gammage to return on Dec. 18 to further discuss the 6 p.m. downtown square closure after communicating with downtown business owners.
“I think we gave it our best shot,” Lockhart Mayor Lew White said. “It seems like Joel put all his marbles in closing San Antonio Street and he didn’t get it. He pulled out all the stops.
“TxDOT didn’t want (the closure), the staff didn’t want it and law enforcement didn’t want it … we wish him good luck with his event in Gonzales. If there’s an opportunity for us to work with him in the future, we’ll consider it.”
Patek, who attended Tuesday’s city council meeting, said the city had not yet inked a contract with Hat Rod Productions. However, he didn’t foresee talks stalling.
“We’re excited for this event to be coming to our town,” Patek said. “The contract is a work in progress. He may be able to get more funding in the way of sponsorships and donations (from other parties). We’re just crunching the numbers.”
Gammage addressed Lockhart City Council on Tuesday night, thanking the city for allowing him to host the event for seven years. He said he planned to donate $1,000 apiece from his third and fourth quarter 2018 hotel occupancy fund payments to the Gaslight-Baker Theatre and the Pegasus School.
“I had intended on doing this publicly at Hot Rods and Hatters 2019 in Lockhart,” Gammage said.
In Gonzales on Thursday, councilmembers voted unanimously to approve funding, although councilmember Dan Blakemore asked Gammage whether he was trying to play one city off the other.
“You say it’s the size of your show outgrowing (Lockhart) and that’s it, but you didn’t outgrow the city,” Blakemore said. “Here you are 40 days before your show asking us for money. I’m having a hard time believing that you’re asking 1,200 participants and 20,000 spectators to drive 30 miles down the road. You need to calm some of my worries.”
Gammage countered that moving his show further from Austin only meant it was closer to participants traveling from San Antonio and Houston. He said only 100 participants had pre-registered for the show.
“Those are just the early risers,” he said.
Downtown Lockhart Business Association President Bobby Herzog said he was sorry to see the car show leave town, but that the decision had ultimately been Gammage’s to make.
Herzog said he believed the DLBA’s move to ask for street closures to be delayed six hours to midnight Saturday to allow for easier parking by First Friday patrons was not the issue that set Hot Rods to Gonzales
“This organization did not run the car show away,” Herzog said. “(The mayor) did not run this car show away. As far as the car show went, I loved it. I love classic cars.
“We would have never gotten them to agree to midnight. I was thinking 8-10 p.m., myself.
“Don’t let anyone make any one of us out to be the bad guy.”