Though Caffeine & Carburetors operates smoothly and safely, the auto enthusiast gathering has grown so popular that it’s reached a tipping point where controls on attendance must be considered, parks officials said this week.
On the heels of a the largest-ever Caffeine & Carburetors at Waveny—a gathering that saw an estimated 1,300-plus people attend—Park & Recreation Commission Chair Sally Campbell said Wednesday that “it is probably getting too big.”
“Things grow to a point and then you really have to look at them, and they have come to a point,” Campbell said during the group’s regular meeting, held at Lapham Community Center.
Launched six years ago as a modest gathering of specialty and antique car enthusiasts by New Canaan resident Doug Zumbach, the owner of the eponymous coffee shop on Pine Street, Caffeine & Carburetors swiftly outgrew its original location. It drew an estimated 400 cars in November 2013, and the following spring expanded to Elm Street downtown. It debuted at Waveny that fall of 2014, and parks officials approved two events downtown and two at the park for 2015.
Zumbach provides liability insurance and $1,000 cleanup bond, secures permits to sell coffee, communicates with participants via the event’s website and Facebook page, pays for all police who help manage the show, recruits, outfits and trains volunteers who help with parking and sees to it that Waveny is cleaned up quickly and completely after Caffeine & Carburetors is finished.
He has used the event to support local nonprofit organizations when the opportunity arises, and collects perishable items for the New Canaan Food Pantry from those exhibiting their vehicles as well as spectators.
Recreation Director Steve Benko noted during the meeting that those in attendance were well-behaved and also that “it was huge.”
“We probably had 1,500 cars in the park, between exhibit cars and people parking,” Benko said.
He added: “People behaved, it was we had the drought so cars parked on the grass, but it was a lot of people, a lot of cars.”
Commissioner Matt Konspore said the strong turnout was the result of “a 70-degree day.”
“It was absolutely gorgeous,” Konspore said. “The stars were aligned.”
Konspore wondered how feasible it was, logistically, to limit the number of people who attend the gatherings. He suggested introducing a $10 fee for those who come to Caffeine & Carburetors as a donation to the Waveny Park Conservancy (to which Zumbach already has contributed).
The move could effectively limit attendance, Benko said.
“If you charged a $10 admission fee it would reduce the number of people,” Benko said.
Campbell opened the possibility of charging more money for those exhibiting their vehicles, citing the Concours D’Elegance.
Konspore responded that Caffeine & Carburetors is different because no cars are judged or recognized with trophies.
“This is a get-together,” he said.
Campbell responded: “But many parks will not let you have get-togethers, we just happen to be kind of a nice town that’s lets people have get-togethers and among the few get-togethers we allow, this is one of the big ones.”
She added: “I think it is only fair to revisit it. If it is going to continue to get bigger, we need to put some controls in place.”
The 2016 Caffeine & Carburetors season is over and the event’s organizers will need approval from town officials to bring it back next year. Park & Rec’s next meeting is scheduled for Dec. 7.