I was hoping to find something positive to blog about today. It does get a little old constantly reading about the problems at the IRS, including the issues with Lois Lerner, their ongoing struggles with customer service, lack of sufficient funding, etc., etc. It’s impossible to avoid stories about tax refund fraud, phishing schemes, and phony IRS calls meant to trick taxpayers into giving up their private information and their money. So when I saw that Modesto had hosted its first ever “Modesto Grand Prix” over the weekend, I thought I had found the perfect “feel good” story as a topic for today’s blog entry. What’s not to love about folks gathering for a good old fashioned street race? Even better: folks pouring in from all over the Central Valley, filling up hotels and ringing up registers at local eating establishments. If that had happened.
People came to the event, but not in the numbers that the city had expected. Downtown business owners had spotty success; some recording higher-than-average sales, and others lamenting a big drop in sales. Mark Smallwood, owner of a downtown restaurant called Harvest Moon, is most likely not going to be supporting a return of the Grand Prix to Modesto next year. He said that his business suffered this weekend because the sidewalks were blocked to the extent that it prevented some pedestrians from passing by his store front. He complained about fencing and banners blocking many from even seeing his restaurant. This resulted in revenues of less than half what he would bring in during a normal weekend. He even plans to file a lawsuit against the city.
So much for a positive, feel-good story. In a few weeks we’ll know if the city lost money on the event. The mayor, Garrand Marsh, is on record saying that he will not consider bringing the Grand Prix back next year if they did. I do hope that the mayor and city officials give it another chance. Modesto needs this type of thing to boost its economy a bit. It really needs events like this throughout the summer to get things moving financially. It sounds like with some adjustments the Grand Prix could have been a big success for the city and its downtown businesses.