Tom Ross of Clarkston, WA, puts a little polish on his 1949 Ford convertible at the 2016 Penticton Beach Cruise. Organizers asked the city to relax parking enforcement during this year’s event. Steve Kidd/Western News

Penticton okays free parking for cruisers

The Peach City Beach Cruise wants to ensure participants leave Penticton with a positive impression

The Peach City Beach Cruise is getting some free parking for its participants, but it wasn’t an easy decision for city council.

In a 4-2 vote, council decided to honour a request from beach cruise organizers that the city grant free parking in city lots over the three-day event to cars showing the show registration card in their windows.

In a letter to council, Wayne Wood, Beach Cruise president said the request was intended to ensure participants “visiting our city leave with a positive impression.”

Billed as Western Canada’s premier vintage and collected car show, the annual beach cruise attracts hundreds of classic vehicles and thousands of fans from a wide area to Penticton each June.

More: Peach City Beach Cruise rolls into Penticton

Primarily, the cars are on view along Lakeshore Drive, which is closed to traffic on the Saturday for the event. But festival organizers say there is value to the city when the drivers take their cars to other areas.

“It certainly adds to the attraction of the festival, when you can walk around various parts of the community and see a classic car,” said Mayor Andrew Jakubeit.

Coun. Helena Konanz opposed the idea.

“I really think this is a fantastic event, but again, we just can’t do this for every event,” said Konanz, who was also concerned granting the free parking would set a precedent. “I expect to get many, many requests in the future for free parking.”

Coun. Martin questioned how the city treated other events like the Penticton Bridge Tournament, which made a similar request and was turned down. He also pointed out the parking meters hooded to accommodate the PeachFest Grande Parade is considered an in-kind grant.

“That (parade) is part of the attraction of Peachfest. These aren’t being treated equally,” said Martin. “We are telling Peachfest this is part of their grant and these people, we are telling them it is not.”

Other council members supported the idea, though Coun. Campbell Watt said it should be treated as a one-time gift, and that the request should be made through the annual grant process.

“The cars themselves are the attraction. It is actually the registrants and their classic cars that are looking for the free parking,” said Watt. “It is more advertising, and an overall awe factor throughout the city, more than just when you are walking up and down Lakeshore.”

Before calling for the vote, Jakubeit pointed out that the cost was minimal, since the cars spend Saturday on Lakeshore Drive, and Sunday parking is free.

The motion passed with Konanz and Martin voting in opposition. Coun. Tarik Sayeed is on a leave of absence.