Gear heads, low riders and hot rodders are expected to give San Bernardino’s ailing economy a little rev-up this weekend. It’s the annual Route 66 Rendezvous - a celebration of classic cars and hotrod culture that draws about half a million people every year.
There are competitions, too - including an Open Header Contest to see who’s got the loudest engine. But really, it’s all about parading your ride through the streets of downtown.
“It started out in 1990 with about 300 cars, and now we limit it to about 1700 cars,” said Karen Blanco of the non-profit San Bernardino Visitors and Convention Bureau which puts on the Rendezvous.
“And the cars get to cruise through the 35 blocks of downtown. We get half a million people over the four-day period. It’s huge,” said Blanco.
“You can’t walk through the streets on Friday and Saturday,” adds Visitors Bureau CEO Wayne Austin.
“You have to be here to actually see it.”
But people almost didn’t see it after San Bernardino's bankruptcy forced the city to pull critical funding for security and cleanup last month.
“It’s one of the things that’s tough for us because it is free to the public," said Blanco. "The only way we can earn money is through our sponsorship dollars and, of course, the car participants.”
Donations from an emergency fundraising campaign kept the rendezvous rolling. As for next year?
“You know I’m still very optimistic about that,” said Austin. But for now, he's looking forward to a fun Rendezvous weekend in San Bernardino.
"It’s gonna be spectacular,” said Austin.
The 23rd Annual Stater Bros. Route 66 Rendezvous runs through Sunday in downtown San Bernardino.