Palo Alto Concours d’Elegance

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June 30, 2013
San Mateo County Event Center

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2495 South Delaware St.
San Mateo, CA 94403
$30 ($25 in advance)
Under 16: free (with parent)
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Palo Alto Host Lions & Bay Area News Group
Cadillac, Ferrari
Best of Show:
1933 Packard 1105 Convertible Coupe

From: The Mercury News

Palo Alto Concours Cancelled for Good

January 30, 2015
by Jason Green

The Palo Alto Concours d’Elegance has reached the end of the road.

The nonprofit organization behind the long-running automobile extravaganza, the Palo Alto Host Lions Club, has neither the venue nor the volunteers necessary to continue, said secretary Bill Downey.

“Nobody is more sorry than I am,” Downey told The Daily News in a recent interview. “I just thought it was a wonderful tradition and I was glad to be a part of it for the last 13 years.”

Established in 1967, the concours evolved into one of the premier events of its kind in Northern California. It also served as the club’s primary fundraiser, generating more than $1.75 million for dozens of Bay Area charities.

Things started to breakdown for the concours in 2012 when Stanford University ended a 38-year partnership that allowed the club to use its athletic fields. The club evaluated more than 50 replacement venues, eventually settling on the San Mateo County Event Center in San Mateo.

Downey said the location had the elements necessary for a concours: grass to park the cars on, controlled entry to charge admission and ample nearby parking for attendees. But it proved to be a bust.

“It was out of our core area for either visitors to the concours or our sponsors,” said Downey, adding that the 2013 event lost $37,000. “There are 37,000 reasons not to go back.”

The club canceled the 2014 concours following a fruitless search for a venue closer to Palo Alto.

There was a glimmer of hope that the concours would take place this year. Downey said Foothill College in Los Altos Hills offered to host the event on June 28, but wouldn’t allow cars to park on the grass. The sanctioning agent for the concours, the Sports Car Club of America, also denied the Lions Club’s request to hold the event on asphalt at the campus.

“Car shows on asphalt are not concours,” said Downey.

Downey said he expects the nonprofit organization’s board of directors to cancel the concours for good at its February meeting.

“The Lions Club doesn’t have the membership or the stamina to put it on,” he said. “We don’t have a location and without a location — particularly with grass, controlled entry and parking — we just can’t hold a concours.”

Downey noted that other fraternal and religious organizations are also struggling with thinning ranks.

But the concours might have lasted longer had it not lost its berth at Stanford, Downey said.

Lisa Lapin, a spokeswoman for Stanford, said a change in university policy influenced the decision. She also noted that the club was given advance notice and a “complete explanation.”

“As the concours event grew in size, and began to increasingly involve corporate sponsorships, it was no longer appropriate for Stanford to serve as a location for this charitable activity under Stanford’s own nonprofit status,” Lapin wrote in an email to The Daily News.

Downey said dealerships were indeed part of the concours but no cars were ever sold on the field. In any case, a quarter of the net proceeds were donated to an athletic scholarship fund at the university.

“This should have been regarded as a community outreach by Stanford,” Downey wrote in a separate email to The Daily News. “Instead, a beautiful social and cultural event was killed.”

Downey is still holding out hope that another organization will come along to jumpstart the concours.

“Maybe if we publicly state the concours has become history,” he said, “maybe somebody will emerge.”


Those interested in taking over or continuing the Palo Alto Concours d’Elegance can call Bill Downey at 650-424-1371

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