Parks & Rec Pushes Back on June ‘Caffeine & Carburetors’ in Waveny; Oct. 20 Event Approved


Scenes from the June 17, 2018 Caffeine & Carburetors at Waveny Park. Credit: Michael Dinan

The chair of the New Canaan Parks & Recreation Commission said Wednesday night that a proposed June 2 date for the popular Caffeine & Carburetors car show in Waveny is problematic.

Hosting the specialty and antique auto show in the spring “has been filled with a lot of issues that we’ve heard from the town,” according to George Benington. 

“Those issues need to be resolved before they come back to us,” he said during the Commission’s regular meeting, held at Lapham Community Center and via videoconference.

“There’s a lot of opposition based on concerns about the field that time of year with the weather and what not. So we cannot vote on June tonight.  We can vote on October, but not June. … I think we all agree that this is a great event. But the springtime is fraught with a lot of issues. And if you’d like to come back to us in March and talk about June, we’ll certainly put you on the agenda. But I think there’s a number of issues that need to be discussed and vetted and agreed upon before we can do that.”

Parks & Rec voted unanimously to approve Caffeine & Carburetors for Oct. 20 in Waveny following a presentation from Claire Drexler, representing the show’s organizer, Doug Zumbach.

Owner of the eponymous coffee shop at Grove and Pine Streets downtown where Caffeine & Carburetors was born as an informal gathering of enthusiasts, Zumbach is “willing to personally cover any maintenance that is required following the event with respect to the lawns, as we do use some of them to park the cars,” Drexler said.

“In addition, my understanding is that the pool, the Steve Benko Pool, opens the weekend before, over Memorial Day weekend,” she continued. “Just looking at the schedule, I don’t expect this to be a major issue. Just given the seasonality, it’s early in the season. The pool, I understand it opens around 11 a.m., which is around the same time our event wraps up. However, we will also be directing specific volunteer efforts towards managing the flow of traffic in order to ensure that any mom, like myself, or person that wants to access the pool right when they open is able to do so. Other things that we’ve already discussed based on some potential concerns are parking. We will be shifting our parking map away from the [Waveny] House. That can address that specifically if you guys have any specific concerns. But that should potentially alleviate any issues that might arise or be raised by a future event such as a wedding the following weekend.”

Drexler also said that, for the first time, Caffeine & Carburetors will charge cars that attend the event $20 to $25, and that all proceeds from the attendance fee—projected to be $20,000 to $30,000 per show—will be directed toward the nonprofit Waveny Park Conservancy.

“[WPC Executive Director] Michelle [Crookenden] and I have already been talking about this, and while her Board hasn’t gone through it in specific detail, I believe that there’s some initial enthusiasm around the fundraising potential of this event,” Drexler said.

She added, “Our event alone in October raised $3,300, and that’s without even having the show. So we were really excited to be able to give back to the park last year, and hope to do so again this year. And then finally I would just like to say that I believe the track record of Caffeine & Carburetors speaks for itself. I grew up in New Canaan. I love Waveny. Doug considers himself a steward of the park. And we have absolutely no problem canceling the event if conditions require it. We actually did so with the October show proactively before we were told to. So we’re very familiar and comfortable with that process, and we can guarantee that we’ll always put Waveny first in that way.”

When Benington raised objections to approving the June date at the meeting, Drexler said that logistically a show would not be able to go on if planning couldn’t start until the next Parks & Rec regular meeting (March 6).

Benington said that if Caffeine & Carburetors organizers are able to reach an understanding with the town, the Commission could schedule a special meeting to get more lead time.

Commissioners asked whether Drexler said $4,000 to $6,000 could be raised for the Conservancy between two shows at Waveny, or $40,000 to $60,000 (the latter) and whether there are other June dates that organizers are looking at if June 2 is not possible (yes, June 23 and 30 appear to have no conflicts).

Commissioner Doug Murphy asked how many of those who drive to Caffeine & Carburetors are from New Canaan.

Drexler said, “I know that there are a lot of out-of-towners that come to the event. I also see quite a number of familiar faces when I’m there, so I would say it probably depends on each event, but I know I have tons of friends that go and tons of my parents’ friends that go. We haven’t charged registration fee in the past, so we haven’t maintained that database. And, we don’t charge people to come. So it’s difficult to say exactly where they’re coming from.”

Benington said the Commission is “very supportive” of Caffeine & Carburetors.

“It just has to be managed correctly,” he said.

Drexler responded, “Of course. And we’re willing to do whatever it takes in order to meet those obligations. Like I said, we absolutely love the park. We’re so lucky to have it and we want to take good care of it.”

Those voting in favor of the Oct. 20 date at Waveny included Benington, Murphy, Secretary Francesa Segalas and Commissioners Susan Lione, Keith Richey, Lindsey Heron, Hank Green and Tim Klimpl. Commissioners Gene Goodman, Jake Granito and Steve Haberstroh were absent.

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