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Hot rods, chili aficionados converging on city

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - If you like chili, classic cars or both, you'll want to head into downtown Charleston this weekend.

Two big events - the seventh annual Rod Run & Doo Wop, along with the 2012 World's Championship Chili Cook-off - are about to unfold.

The city is preparing for the events and the thousands of people who are expected to descend on Charleston in the coming days.

"We're expecting a lot of people downtown," Assistant Mayor Rod Blackstone said. "Just about every hotel room in the area is occupied."

Besides those two events, the University of Charleston and West Virginia State University also have homecoming activities scheduled.

"This is a great weekend to be in Charleston," Blackstone said.

The car show will start at Haddad Riverfront Park and stretch several blocks west along Kanawha Boulevard. The chili cook-off will take place on Magic Island.

While there's a lot of fun in store, traffic patterns will require some patience.

Street closures will start this evening.  

"The closures will have an impact on traffic, especially during rush hour," Blackstone said.  

Kanawha Boulevard from Brooks Street east of downtown to Ohio Avenue on the West Side will be closed at 6 p.m. today, Blackstone said.

One westbound lane of Kanawha Boulevard from Clendenin Street to the turn onto Pennsylvania Avenue northbound will remain open, he said.

One westbound lane from Brooks Street to Capitol Street also will remain open for local traffic.

The block of Leon Sullivan Way closest to Kanawha Boulevard will become a two-way street Thursday morning to allow for easier drop-off and pickup of students at nearby schools, Blackstone said.

"Other drivers are encouraged to avoid this area along Virginia Street during peak drop-off and pickup times," he said.

Vehicles registering for the Rod Run & Doo Wop will access the registration area in the westbound lanes of Kanawha Boulevard Thursday, Blackstone said.

However, car enthusiasts do not have to wait for the automobiles to begin arriving Thursday.

Mardi Gras Casino and Resort will have a Cruise In starting at 6 p.m. today, said Janie Givens, secretary/treasurer for the committee that organizes the event.

The event will end at 9 p.m. Drawings for two $1,000 cash prizes will be held at the casino, and a buffet will be served, Givens said.

"And Mardi Gras will be giving away all kinds of goodies," she said.

Owners also can register their cars for the Boulevard show at the Cruise In, Givens said.

More than 1,000 cars are expected for this year's event, she said. More than 500 car owners have pre-registered, and more are expected to arrive for the Cruise In and on Thursday, she said.

The chili cook-off is also expected to attract many visitors.

Chili cooks will begin arriving at Magic Island about 7 a.m. Friday via Ohio Avenue.

"So traffic will be high during the morning commute," Blackstone said.

A fireworks display is set for about 9:15 p.m. Saturday, and streets will have to be closed to accommodate the event, he said.

The entire South Side Bridge will be closed at 5 p.m. Saturday to prepare for the fireworks, Blackstone said.

MacCorkle Avenue from Porter Road to U.S. 119 will be closed at 6 p.m. Drivers will be allowed to move eastbound from U.S. 119 onto Thayer and Ferry streets to access Loudon Heights Road and Bridge Road until 9 p.m.

At 9 p.m., Loudon Heights Road will be closed from the South Side Bridge to Grosscup Road as part of a safety zone for the fireworks display. Eastbound access from U.S. 119 will also be restricted.

Loudon Heights Road and the South Side Bridge will be reopened after safety checks and cleanup have been completed, Blackstone said.

Authorities will begin opening Kanawha Boulevard from Pennsylvania Avenue east on Sunday afternoon after the car show has concluded, he said. The section of road from Magic Island west will be reopened Sunday night after the conclusion of the chili cookoff.

Some of the city parking garages will stay open later to accommodate people driving in for the events.  

The parking garage on Virginia Street East next to City Hall will remain open until 11 p.m. Thursday and midnight Friday, Parking Director George Jarrett said. It will be open for event parking from noon until midnight Saturday and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Jarrett said.

The garage on Summers Street near the intersection with Quarrier Street will be open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday. It will be closed on Sunday.

The garage on McFarland Street between Virginia and Quarrier streets will be open from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Saturday. It also will be closed on Sunday.

Blackstone hopes many visitors will attend both the chili cookoff and the Rod Run. He pointed out that they could park in one of the city-owned facilities and walk to both events.

"We counted 2,000 steps between Haddad Riverfront Park and Magic Island," he said.

For more information about the car show and chili cook-off, see Thursday's Daily Mail or go to www.charlestonwvcarshow.com or www.chilicookoff.com.  

Contact writer Paul Fallon at paul.fallon@dailymail.com or 304-348-4817. Follow him at www.twitter.com/PaulBFallon.


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