Final preparations begin for 3,500 hot rods in Charleston

COURTESY PHOTO The 20th Anniversary Hot Rod Magazine Power Tour makes Charleston one of its seven stops in six states on June 9. Event organizers expect about 3,500 hot rods and specialty cars to make their way to the city, closing Kanawha Boulevard from Greenbrier Street on the East End to Deleware Avenue on the West Side.

They’re coming.

Hundreds of hot rods, street rods, muscle cars, custom cars and trucks, that is.

Next Monday, June 9, an unprecedented number of vehicles will cruise onto Kanawha Boulevard for the day as part of Hot Rod Magazine’s 2014 Power Tour.

Event organizers with the magazine estimated around 3,500 vehicles will be part of the tour’s stop in Charleston. A final figure, however, won’t be known until the day of the event, since car owners have the option of registering the day of the event.

“We really don’t know,” Rod Blackstone, assistant to the mayor, said of the number of cars. “We’ve never done this before. It could be 1,000, it could be 3,000.”

The one-day event, which is expected to generate just less than $870,000 in economic activity for the city, will result in street closures that will affect the morning and evening rush hours. The event is scheduled from noon to 7 p.m.

Kanawha Boulevard will be closed between Pennsylvania Avenue and Capitol Street from Sunday (for the West Virginia Pride Parade) through the day Monday, meaning that section will be closed for the bulk of Monday morning’s commute.

Then on Monday morning around 9 a.m., the Kanawha Boulevard closure will expand, with the Boulevard shutting down between Greenbrier Street on the East End to Delaware Avenue on the West Side.

Blackstone said some vendors associated with the Power Tour will be in place early Monday morning.

Cars will start arriving around 10 a.m., with the majority arriving by early afternoon. Because the tour is in Knoxville, Tenn., the day before the stop in Charleston, the official route entering the city will take cars up U.S. 119 (Corridor G) from Kentucky and onto Interstate 64 before taking the Greenbrier Street exit to the Boulevard.

The Boulevard will remain closed until the end of the event around 7 p.m.

“As cars move out and move to the next destination, as we can we’ll open it up,” Blackstone said.

For Charleston, city officials are hoping the event will be a chance to show off the city to people from across the country and in some cases, internationally.

“It’s going to bring hundreds, maybe thousands, of people to Charleston,” Blackstone said. “It’ll expose our city and our friendliness to a whole lot of people who otherwise wouldn’t be here.”

Staff at the Charleston Convention and Visitors’ Bureau concurred.

“There’s also the exposure aspect for Charleston,” said CVB Vice President Jama Jarrett. “It gives us a chance to show off our downtown and show off our riverfront.”

The CVB is expecting 1,500 “room nights” — that is, one hotel room reserved for one night — for the Hot Rod tour alone. That number is one of the highest of all events for the entire year and is projected to be the highest one-night total for 2014.

“We do know that downtown properties are sold out for the Hod Rod tour,” said Samantha Carney, the CVB’s sports and special events manager, adding that bookings are also up at hotels outside Charleston.

Jarrett said besides the economic benefits on the day of the event, some participants are looking at extending their time in the Kanawha Valley beyond Monday’s event.

“We have had some inquiries with people planning to stay a few extra days,” she said.

Jarrett and Blackstone both said the event will be a great activity for locals as well, and downtown workers will be able to stroll through the car show during lunch or after work.

“It’ll be a great event for the city,” Blackstone said.

The Power Tour stop in Charleston will be one of seven for this year’s tour.

The tour began in 1994 and involves participants traveling to seven different cities in seven days. Over the last 20 years, the tour has grown to include about 4,500 participating cars.

This year, the tour begins June 7 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., before traveling to Knoxville on June 8 and Charleston on June 9.

After Charleston, the tour continues on to Norwalk, Ohio, on June 10; Crown Point, Ind., on June 11; Bettendorf, Iowa, on June 12; and finally Wisconsin Dells, Wisc., on June 13.

Participants have the option of traveling to all seven cities and being “Long Haulers” or just participating for one or a few days of the tour.

Pre-registration ended Thursday, but those interested in participating can still register for all seven days for $90 on-site, or can participate for one day only for $30 on the day of the event.

The Power Tour is just one in a series of several big events in downtown Charleston in early June.

On Friday afternoon, June 6, the Mountaineer Athletic Club will host its WVU Classic Fashion Show at the Charleston Civic Center, and the weekly Live on the Levee concert will take place at Haddad Riverfront Park later that evening.

The weekend also coincides with West Virginia Pride’s activities for Pride Week, which include a volleyball tournament on Magic Island on Saturday and the annual Interfaith Service and Pride Parade and Festival on Sunday.

After the Hot Rod Power Tour on Monday, the USA Boxing Junior Olympic Championships event is scheduled at the Civic Center from June 10-14; the annual Capital City Biker Bash will be June 12-14; the American Cornhole Organization’s West Virginia state championship is scheduled at the Civic Center on June 12-14; and Cabela’s King Kat Fishing Tournament in the Kanawha River on June 13 and 14.

Also that week, other scheduled downtown events include a performance by Elton John at the Civic Center on June 11; a family movie night at Magic Island, also on June 11; and West Virginia Power baseball games.

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