One of the biggest and most popular car shows in the state and the nation — the Minnesota Street Rod Association’s Back to the 50s Weekend — has been stalled by COVID-19.
Cancellation of the event at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds will leave a big hole on thousands of people’s summer calendars and the balance sheets of countless restaurants, liquor stores, gas stations and the hospitality industry, already struggling because of the stay-at-home prophylactic orders of Gov. Tim Walz.
Two weeks ago the show that draws more than 80,000 people to the State Fairgrounds to ogle 12,000 street rods, customized and classic cars from 1964 and older was still on. But organizers called off the event Monday as the coronavirus continues to spread, causing death and financial ruin for many.
“We looked at everything and every option,” said Linda Lucas, a Board member of the Minnesota Street Rod Association, which has put on the event for the past 47 years. “It was a difficult decision, but a no-brainer. To our fans, we are as disappointed as they are.”
Lucas said the event’s 2,000 volunteers and 51 committees are already planning to bring the show back next year. It was thrice voted the Best Car Show in the Country by USA TODAY Reader’s Choice.
The loss of this year’s show will hurt big, said Scott Berosik, who runs Pro Art Custom Paint in North St. Paul and has put pinstripes on high-end cars at Back to the 50s for the past 28 years. Crowds often gathered at his booth to watch his handiwork.
“It’s a 20-hour-a-day marathon,” Berosik said of the three-day show held on the third weekend of June. “It’s fun to see people. There is nothing better than that. This is my No. 1 show. The loss is huge.”
Berosik normally brings in $1,000 a day during the event, but even more from people who enlist his services after the show. That post-show business will now be gone, he said.
Events at the State Fairgrounds, such as horse shows and Back to the 50s, are big business for Roseville’s hotels. The city just 3 miles from the fairgrounds has about 1,400 hotel rooms and 85% of them are occupied during Back to the 50s. At an average room rate of $105 per night, the show’s cancellation adds up to a revenue loss of nearly $375,000. The thousands of people who line Snelling Avenue for nightly impromptu car parades won’t be going to shops and restaurants either, said Julie Wearn, chief executive director of Visit Roseville, the city’s tourism bureau.
“We are losing out on that,” Wearn said. “We look at the State Fair as our convention center. Everything that happens there, we get the overflow.”
With a lack of guests, Wearn said hotels could lose $3 million in June.
The hospitality industry faces grim predictions that it might not recover from the effects of the coronavirus for 12 to 18 months. Now, Roseville hotels are bracing for the grim possibility that the State Fair will be canceled, when rooms typically are sold out for the 12-day event.
Wearn said the city is moving ahead with its Roseville in Bloom, however, hoping to draw people to the northern suburb between Minneapolis and St. Paul. The free public art event, modeled after the wildly successful “Peanuts on Parade” tribute to Charles Schulz, will feature 20, 6-foot-tall rose statues designed by Minnesota artists and placed around the city starting in July.
“We hope to bring people to the city and jump-start our tourism,” Wearn said. “This is something you can do in small groups, and do in your car.”