WALLA WALLA — Cougars and Cobras, Beetles and Barracudas, Skylarks and Sting Rays were lined up along Main Street on Saturday for the Ninth Annual Wheelin’ Walla Walla Weekend, but there weren’t as many wheels as last year, event organizer Marty Gehrke said.
"We had some out-of-town clubs that did call us and tell us that their businesses got hit so hard that they were going to stay home," Gehrke said.
Last year 401 cars entered the Valley’s largest car show; this year there were 316. But even with the drop, Wheelin’ Walla Walla Weekend is still one of the bigger car shows east of the Cascades, Robyn Gehrke said.
"Any car show that has over 200 cars is a good show," she said.
As for people attending the event, the husband and wife organizing team weren’t sure how many spectators walked up and down Main Street between Fifth Avenue and Palouse Street. They estimated there could have been more than 10,000 participants for the two-day event that started Friday evening with a car cruise. At 1 p.m Saturday, there looked to be about 3,000 people strolling and stopping to check out cars.
"I feel like we bring a lot of money to the community," Gehrke said.
Besides having fewer cars, there were three other changes at this year’s event. Gehrke said the city got stricter about enforcing ordinances that require street vendors to be located 100 feet from merchants who sell similar items — mainly food vendors. And fire officials required side streets to be kept clear enough to allow emergency vehicle access.
Since the car cruise took place on the anniversary of 9-11, all participating cars were given American flags to fly. And car owners — who often affix "Please Do Not Touch" signs to windows — didn’t seem to mind that paint might get scratched.
"Either they held them out the window in their hand or they attached them to their car," Gehrke said.