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News / Clark County News

Future of Vancouver’s Cruisin’ the Gut uncertain

Popular event draws 20,000 to downtown; escalating costs create challenges

By Lauren Dake, Columbian Political Writer
Published: June 14, 2017, 10:50am

The annual classic-car event known as Cruisin’ the Gut in downtown Vancouver appears to be in jeopardy.

Phil Medina, who has organized the event since 2009, told city officials he wouldn’t be sponsoring it this year.

The city and Medina have differing perspectives on why the relationship disintegrated, but it appears other locals are gearing up to take over the event to ensure it happens.

Julie Hannon, the director of Vancouver Parks and Recreation, said the city met several times with Medina and offered the same terms involved in last year’s contract, including paying for half of the police costs, which totals about $8,000, along with helping him apply for lodging tax funding to offset other costs and subsidizing the price of portable toilets.

“We said, ‘here’s what we can do, the same thing as last year’ and he decided not to do the event this year … He doesn’t want to fill out the permit and he didn’t want to get the insurance,” Hannon said, adding insurance costs about $1,500.

The event usually draws more than 20,000 people to Vancouver to watch people cruise the city’s Main Street in restored cars.

Medina said the city was requiring inappropriate liability insurance. In a statement, Medina said, “cost is not the concern” but that he’s worried the event is not insured properly. Medina also said he felt unsettled about the cost to pay for police presence. He said the city does not offer to cover their half of the police before the event, which puts him on the hook to pay an undisclosed amount that continues to grow over the years.

“At this point, (Medina) cannot even get the city to evaluate the insurance and discuss the details with him,” according to the statement, “(Medina) met one time with the city of Vancouver, on May 5, 2017 and told the city that he was not willing to file a permit for this year’s Cruisin’ the Gut, unless the city would look at taking on 100 percent of the police services as they did for 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 events and evaluate the extra insurance requirement to ensure the event is properly insured.”

The city is one of the major beneficiaries of the event, he added, and should consider playing a larger sponsor role.

Hannon said the city has been approached by other people interested in sponsoring the event. Medina holds the rights to the name Cruisin’ the Gut. But a group of business leaders is scheduled to meet with the city later this week to discuss potentially sponsoring a similar event.

Bryan Shull, with Trap Door Brewing, said he’s one of those working with a group of main street business owners who are trying to hustle to host the cruise.

“We essentially begged Mr. Medina to stay in and run his event with our willing financial support.  When it was clear he was not going to, we knew something had to be done.  We know the cruise is going to happen with or without official management and the result of 20,000 people on main st with no garbage collection, portable bathrooms, traffic control measures, and coordinated police presence,  would be quite frankly horrific,” Shull wrote in an email. “The potential damage to businesses and the reputation of our burgeoning Main Street economy was deemed unacceptable.  Our response is to try to supply the necessary infrastructure to secure a safe and entertaining day of cruising Main Street Vancouver.  We have (three) weeks to do this.”

Mayor Tim Leavitt, who also met with Medina and Uptown Village business owners, said the event has grown so much it’s difficult for one person to host and coordinate.

“What was clear to me was everyone wants the event to continue but there was a bit more organization event support needed to raise sponsorships and community financial support to cover the costs,” Leavitt said.

The Vancouver mayor remains optimistic the old cars will still be cruising this summer.

“Hopefully (this is) encouraging people who support the event to put some skin in the game and contribute so the event can continue,” Leavitt said.

Hannon wrote in a memo to staff the city is committed to supporting the 2017 cruising event, despite the sponsor.

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“Once it is known if there will be a new cruise event, I will most certainly work with all parties to provide a communication update,” Hannon wrote in the memo. “Unfortunately, we do not have a confirmed outcome at this time.”

Columbian Political Writer