The Vail Automotive Classic, relocating to Lionshead Village for its 11th year, is happening this weekend. Despite multitudes of challenges for event organizers nationwide, the car show is able to offer a guest experience that’s remarkably close to what it would have been without the pandemic, just with social distancing now, too.
“To be able to keep this event on track is amazing, especially since almost every other car show in the state was canceled,” said Mark Bergman, president of the Vail Automotive Classic Foundation, the nonprofit that hosts the event every year.
As usual, the event is open to the public on Sunday, Sept. 13 for free public viewing. From 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., guests will be able to view the cars and speak with owners.
Typically, the event is hosted in Vail Village. However, with outdoor seating at restaurants growing into the streets and social distancing, there wouldn’t be enough space to also host the car show. Since Lionshead Oktoberfest was canceled, the Automotive Classic was able to move into that space for 2020.
“Otherwise, we would have been dead in the water,” Bergman said. “But with Lionshead sitting empty, the merchants in Lionshead who I spoke with — I spoke with a handful — said, ‘fantastic, bring it on, we’d love to have you here.’”
Organizers have been planning the show for about a year, and when COVID-19 hit, Bergman was able to use his position on the Eagle County Health District Board of Directors to get in-depth insight into the local effects of the pandemic.
“We’ve been watching the state of COVID-19 and the various health orders very closely,” Bergman said.
To that end, social distancing protocols will naturally be implemented to keep guests, car owners and staff safe, and every participant will receive a bottle of 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirits’ hand sanitizer.
The foundation also instituted a no-risk policy for car owners. If something happens that’s out of the organizers’ control, like a last-minute event cancelation to comply with public health orders, the participant is able to request a full refund for their registration fee. They can also apply it to register for next year’s event, or donate it to the nonprofit.
And the fact that the Vail Automotive Classic is one of the only car shows in Colorado this year makes the event’s impact on Vail, from a cultural and economic perspective, even more bountiful. While some repeat participants were unable to come due to COVID concerns — many are older and could be putting their health at risk — Bergman said that 40% are new participants this year. Some are driving in from as far as California, Arizona and New Mexico and as near as the Front Range.
“There’s just tremendous pent up demand to get their cars out,” Bergman said. “We will probably be in one of the best positions we have ever been in, if not the best, financially, which translates to two larger donations to nonprofits.”
A big tenet of the Vail Automotive Classic is the donation it makes each year to local charitable organizations. The two nonprofits the foundation has chosen to support this year are the Epic Promise Employee Foundation – Emergency Fund and the Vail Valley Charitable Fund.
The Epic Promise emergency fund provides Vail Resorts workers with grants to help assist with emergencies such as health care, emergency travel, handicaps, domestic violence, substance abuse and temporary shelter, among others. The Vail Valley Charitable Fund works to provide financial assistance to local residents and workers who are experiencing medical crisis or long-term illness. The Vail Automotive Classic specifically picks charities that are able to make the most impact with a $5,000 or $6,000 contribution.
“Our money passes through to the intended mission and they both benefit local residents, which is huge,” Bergman said. “The potential impact of our donations will be more needed than ever this year.”