Death of Vancouver's Steamworks Concours d'Elegance

by Nigel Matthews

December 20, 2010

Every year on a single weekend in September, The Steamworks show brought 40,000 visitors to the city of Vancouver. The show was well known and one of the best of its kind. So why did 2010 mark its final year?

Every year over the Labor Day weekend, the Steamworks Concours—an admission-free event—showcased Pebble Beach class winners and the best from British Columbia, Alberta, and Washington State. But no more. After eight years, 2010 marks the last for Vancouver’s Steamworks Concours d’Elegance.

If the pullout of a major sponsor and declining support from local merchants weren’t enough, the worst and most unexpected blow was dealt this past year by the City of Vancouver itself.

The Children’s Hospital Foundation was this year’s charity chosen by the show’s organizing committee. Having covered all of the operating costs to put on the event—amounted to roughly $30,000—the committee had $2,900 remaining to donate to CHF, until an unexpected invoice arrived from Vancouver City Hall.

The city had already been paid $4,500 for the required permit necessary to close the street for the public and exhibitors over the weekend. This new bill, however, cited additional costs for policing, traffic control, something called the “Harmonized Sales Tax,” and compensation for the projected loss of revenue from the parking meters on Water Street.

No doubt the greed of Vancouver’s City hall has been fueled by the increasing presence of television and film production companies that have turned Vancouver into Canada’s version of Hollywood. These companies have massive budgets and some believe the city has grown used to street-closing bills being paid no matter what the city decides the cost should be on any particular day.

In the end, whenever a historic vehicle show is shutdown or forced out, charities and local merchants are the ones who come up short. Back in Vancouver, the other big losers in this situation are families who would like a day out at no cost and opportunity to get a glimpse into an automotive history spanning almost 100 years.

Nigel Matthews is a writer living in Vancouver and served as Co-chair for the 2010 Steamworks Concours d'Elegance Organizing Committee.


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    I love reading these atircels because they're short but informative.