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Sun, Apr 22, 2007

Safety, Other Concerns Cancel Cottonwood Airplane, Auto and Cycle Show

Officials Determine Original Location "Too Dangerous"

The 19th annual Cottonwood Airplane, Auto and Cycle Show scheduled for May 12 at Cottonwood Municipal Airport (AZ) will not held this year, leaving a void that disappoints supporters and those 1,500 to 2,500 who planned to attend, reported the Verde Independent.

The show was canceled because of concerns of safety, property damage, and security.

Said Cottonwood Chamber of Commerce President Margie Beach, "We're disappointed ... but there were challenges that made it difficult this year." She is hopeful that the event will be back on track for next year.

A meeting of interested parties was recently held that included the Chamber's Margie Beach, the Cottonwood Public Works Director, the Cottonwood Airport Users Association President Al Gradijan, event committee organizers, and 19-year organizer, Wayne "Butch" Hunt.

An alternative location was offered, but declined, because, Hunt said, all arrangements had been made in relation to holding it at the Cottonwood Airport, and making dramatic changes to established arrangements would "impossible."

Public Works Director Tim Costello, who oversees airport management, asserted the reality of safety concerns at the airport while the event is held, during which the airport is not closed.

"You have to be concerned with aircraft maneuvering around the crowds. I have seen aircraft come by and part the crowd, without incident, but the possibility of an accident is there."

Costello cited the dramatic increase in aircraft activity, as well as the doubling of aircraft based at the airport over the past five years.

"In the early history of the auto and airplane show, we had a pretty sleepy airport," he said. "Now [activity] has increased pretty significantly."

In addition to safety concerns in the skies and on the ground, aircraft owners have expressed concern for the integrity of their own planes tied down at the airport.

Issues of children playing on or around wings of planes have seen some owners moving their aircraft during previous events because they don't want the public around their planes.

Said Gradijan, "Planes are much more fragile than cars. Personally, there's no way my plane would be out there during that auto show."

For Gradijan, having it at an airport is not critical because, he contends, the show has turned into an auto show. "No planes have been at this car show for years," he said.

Costello agreed that the presence of airplanes at the show has diminished.

Planes were present at last year's event, however, and four classes of airplanes were slated for judging at this year's event, including antique, scratch built, kit built, and ultralight.

Will the show go on? That depends on everyone involved agreeing to an alternative venue that meets the show's needs.

For Hunt, the times are a changing.

"There's a new breed in town and this is not the way they did it where they came from," he said. Some of the new guys have come in with their new planes and they just don't want us up there (at Cottonwood)."

"I'm really sorry that they are not going to have their show, said the Gradijan. "But, we offered them some reasonable adjustment."

Canceled Show A Costly Decision

Canceling an annual event, even once, does not come without consequences.

"Anytime you cancel an event that generates revenue and excitement for the community," said Cottonwood Economic Planner Casey Rooney, "it is a problem."

Event organizer Wayne Hunt said the show attracts thousands of attendees and more than 100 entrants into the annual judge's competition.

He acknowledged that although the event is not a moneymaker for the airport, it stimulates community business and raises money for the local chapter of the Civil Air Patrol.

"It pays for itself, but [more importantly] it gets people into the community," said Hunt. "People who ride in, fly in, or whatever, are going to stay the night here at the hotels and go to the restaurants."

"It's not only the money," Rooney said. "People come to the community and bring relatives from across the country who are interested in an event. Then, if it is canceled, the interest is gone - it disappeared. It's not only the dollars that would have been brought in that you're missing, but you're losing future business by people not coming back."



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