Spring Carlisle a success despite court drama

Pennsylvania venue sets the stage for future collector car events
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By Gene von Gunten

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SPRING CARLISLE: Picture huge crowds, chilly weather, perhaps even snowflakes. But not this year, not COVID-2020. Instead, picture an event postponed twice and finally held on June 17-20. Picture a smaller crowd with fewer vendors. Picture a court hearing in nearby Harrisburg, PA where the Governor of Pennsylvania and his Department of Health threatened to shut down the event and send thousands of vendors and spectators home early.

COVID-19, a pandemic that has changed our lives forever. From the trip to the grocery store; to our family vacations; to our beloved collector car events- we’ve all been severely impacted by this terrible viral infection. And as we tend to represent the more senior part of the population, we get a larger dose of misery. All across the country, our favorite car and truck events have been cancelled or postponed until later in the summer and fall. The announcement that the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) and its Hershey Region have cancelled the 2020 Fall Meet swap meet and car corral, otherwise known as “Hershey”, seemed the final blow to the 2020 collector car and swap meet season.

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As the spread of the virus slows and many states reopen their economy, the management of Carlisle (PA) Events, widely known as a venue for several popular antique and collector vehicle events, took the bold step to host the twice-delayed Spring Carlisle event from June 17-20. But this doesn’t mean they simply threw open the gates of the fabled 82-acre Carlisle Fairgrounds. In fact, a considerable amount of planning and preparation took place to protect the health of the vendors, spectators, employees, and the Carlisle community:

  1. No one was admitted without a suitable face mask.
  2. Employees at gathering points were protected with plastic sheeting and gloves.
  3. Sanitation at restrooms and the food court, already a high standard at Carlisle, was further enhanced with hand sanitizer, additional cleaning and disinfection, and other measures.
  4. The food court, probably the place with the closest gathering, had the tables spread apart to enhance social distancing.
  5. In general, the event was structured to allow participants to maintain the comfortable distance we all now seek.

Despite being the first major east coast event, the numbers of vendors and spectators was considerably reduced. Those who were not comfortable being out in public simply remained home. The smaller crowd made the social distancing easier. The event was scheduled from Wednesday through Saturday, with everyone home for Father’s Day.

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As the gates opened on Wednesday, spectators handed their payment to Carlisle employees wearing masks. Hand sanitizer stations were just inside the gate, as if to remind visitors that personal hygiene and safety were not simply words on a page. Many spectators removed their mask as the temperatures increased; but social distancing was evident. Public health experts are now discounting the threat from surface contact; and stressing that transmission requires close face to face contact. With 82 acres and large vendor spaces, this threat has been minimized.

Wednesday afternoon a hearing convened in Harrisburg, the State Capitol, to decide the fate of Spring Carlisle 2020. Commonwealth Court Judge Anne E. Covey was impressed by the arguments put forth by the Carlisle Events legal team. The health and safety preparations and the fact that the business was primarily conducted outdoors indicated the activity was proper under the requirements set forth by the Department of Health. By Friday, the DOH and Carlisle Events had agreed to a mutual statement whereby the State would assist Carlisle in keeping their events as safe as possible. Over the next few days, the vendor count and spectator attendance was more typical for the event. There were empty spaces; but most vendors reported brisk sales, and the spectators seemed happy to be enjoying their passion.

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In the days following the event, the PA public health officials have not reported any spike in infection in Carlisle or the surrounding Cumberland County area. Of course, these numbers are watched closely. The next Carlisle events are scheduled over the months of July to October; and the enhanced health and safety measures will remain in place. Please consult the Carlisle Events website for the actual dates, some have been revised.

The Hershey Region and the AACA management are working with the Hershey Entertainment and Recreation Company (HERCO) to possibly hold a Saturday (only) car show at Hersheypark on October 10, 2020. The week preceding this will see Carlisle host their annual Fall Carlisle event. There was plenty of discussion at Spring Carlisle about the possibility that Fall Carlisle could act as a “proxy” for the Hershey swap meet. If the virus remains in decline, the 46 anniversary of “Post-War ‘74” (the first Carlisle event in 1974) could be a memorable event.

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