CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Leaders of one of Charleston's most lauded events, the Rod Run and Doo Wop auto show, have butted heads with city officials in recent months, causing major reshuffling among the event's leadership.
Each fall since 2006, hundreds of cars have lined up along Kanawha Boulevard in Charleston for the show.
It's a massive event - nearly 1,000 cars shown and an economic impact of more than $1 million - and eclectic. New models of luxury cars like Porsche or Mercedes sit beside classic, decades-old cars that have been endlessly tinkered with and restored by their owners.
It will be that way again this year, but only after some conflict between Charleston Mayor Danny Jones and the group of auto lovers who have run the show since its inception. Three of the show's founders have resigned from its board of directors.
The Rod Run and Doo Wop is an independent non-profit organization but has always received support from the city.
In the early years Jones donated a few thousand dollars of his own money to get it started, and in recent years the city's contribution has amounted to $20,000 in cash, plus city services to clean up after the event and provide security, among other things.
But about a month ago, in a meeting with the show's board of directors, Jones floated an idea: limit the car show to "classic" automobiles at least 25 years old. If they agreed, he said the city would provide them with the regular $20,000 in cash, plus an extra $5,000. If they wouldn't agree, he would pull at least some of their funding.
To Mark Wolford, one of the board members who resigned, this sounded like a threat from Jones to ruin the show if he didn't get his way.
Jones says the event is successful enough to be self-sufficient and it's time for the city to become less involved; he says he offered the extra $5,000 to make up for the revenue that would be lost by eliminating newer cars.
Jones is an antique car lover himself. He owns four classic cars and says from the beginning he thought the mission of the Rod Run and Doo Wop was to show off such vehicles.
The board members, former and current, aren't opposed to older cars. Those who still collect cars themselves own antiques. But the bulk of the Rod Run and Doo Wop's 200-strong volunteer base is made up of young men with newer cars. The board didn't want to alienate those volunteers.
"I mean we didn't exclude anybody from the show," Wolford said. "If you go to a church and when you're sitting there and you look out at the congregation, you only see people with gray hair, that church is not going to be there for long because there's no one to carry that on. Our whole goal was to keep the show going."
The board of directors took the proposal to the heads of each of the show's committees and asked for a vote.