The Glenmoor Gathering has run out of gas.
After 18 glorious years, the annual exhibition of rare and expensive automobiles is suddenly defunct because no business was willing to rustle up $50,000 to become the lead sponsor.
This is a big loss for the area, not only in terms of revenue — each September, car buffs from around the country filled three hotels and patronized restaurants all over Canton and Akron — but in prestige.
Classic car aficionados generally ranked the Glenmoor Gathering of Significant Automobiles among the top four or five shows in the nation, mentioning it in the same breath as the Pebble Beach (Calif.) Concours d’Elegance, the Amelia Island (Fla.) Concours and the Concours d’Elegance of America in Plymouth, Mich.
Staged around the rambling Gothic clubhouse of Glenmoor Country Club in Jackson Township, the event drew vehicles that ranged from regal to bizarre, from ultra-modern to nearly prehistoric. More than a few were worth at least $1 million.
Here’s the saddest part: Attendance grew each of the past three years, hitting an all-time high of 8,000 during the final show.
But the numbers still didn’t add up.
The admission price of $25, which included a fancy souvenir program, was dirt cheap compared to other shows in its class (generally about $100, up to $250 at Pebble Beach). However, 25 bucks was considered the upper limit in Northeast Ohio, where the economy continues to struggle and the potential audience is smaller to begin with.
The problem was certainly not a bloated operating budget. The annual $300,000 cost was a fraction of what similar shows require, mainly because the Gathering had its own facility, rather than having to pay for one.
Nor did the problem involve grumbling by the residents of Glenmoor, an upscale, gated community built around a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course.
“The members and residents were hugely supportive,” says the show’s main force, Myron Vernis, who runs Glenmoor Country Club and is himself a nationally known car collector.
“Imagine having a world-class event in your backyard once a year. They were really into it. In fact, when we made the decision, there were a lot of people who were upset, because they’re going to miss it,” Vernis says.
They’re not alone.
The Glenmoor Gathering was a significant part of the warm-weather tapestry that makes Northeast Ohio what it is.
While not on par with the big Bridgestone golf tourney, or the Akron Marathon, or the Cleveland Air Show, or the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction and parade, or the Soap Box Derby, the Glenmoor Gathering was another reason to feel good about living here.
On a personal note, I’m going to miss having access to incredible cars.
A couple of years ago, I was allowed to drive a 1911 Oldsmobile Limited Seven-Passenger Touring Car that had been purchased for $1.65 million.
Another year I got my hands on a 1912 electric car Thomas Edison once owned.
A couple of years before that, I ground down the gears on a prototype of the Lincoln Continental that was hand-built for Edsel Ford.
Wilt Chamberlain’s flaming red Ghia 450 SS convertible was a gas, too.
But merely looking at the Glenmoor cars — 250 were on display last year — was enough to quicken the pulse of anyone who believes automobiles are more than simply a means of transportation.
The organizers ran a first-class operation.
Not just cars
Among the key players was Lyn Smith, an automotive expert who served on the event’s planning board and chaired a committee that developed fun, educational, interactive programs held on the grounds during the show. Simultaneous offerings involved artists, seminars, book signings and activities for kids.
“We started with monthly planning meetings in March and worked hard to make sure next year was not a copy of the one before, like so many other car shows,” Smith says.
“Each year there was a different theme and different invited guests. We even did not invite winners back, just to keep the displays fresh.”
That required a lot of planning, a lot of cajoling and a lot of groveling for sponsorships.
Vernis admits that chasing sponsors wore him down. But he certainly will miss the culmination of his efforts, including “the people who came from around the world to attend the event, and how much they loved coming to Northeast Ohio. …
“We had international media coverage. It brought a lot of great press and a lot of good people to the area.”
The three-day affair also included a car auction, and Vernis plans to continue that tradition at the same time and place. Other activities might be added.
The Glenmoor grounds are “an ideal location to do automotive events, and people around the country are used to coming here, so we may see something surface.
“But the Glenmoor Gathering as we know it just isn’t going to come back.”
And that’s a shame.
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or firstname.lastname@example.org.