Last year was Justin Felker’s first since taking over the Ponte Vedra Auto Show from the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce.
“It was something that was in our business plan to start doing, and by coincidence the Chamber came to us and said, ‘we have this show and we’re ready to pass it on to somebody,’” Felker said.
It was a crazy first year with many obstacles and situations that no one could have predicted.
The operation and logistics of the auto show is complex, and it was something that Felker learned about on the fly during his first year in charge.
“They already had a good plan in place, because they had done it for years, but now you have to learn how to do all of it yourself,” Felker said.
One of the biggest changes was that the show moved from September to November due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We had been asking for it to move anyways, so it just seemed like there were some good reasons to do so,” Felker said. “As we got closer to it, people’s mentality about COVID hadn’t really changed and we were actually on the verge of cancelling it, but we all just sat down and I said, ‘we’re going to do it,’” Felker said.
With masks, hand sanitizer and COVID-19 procedures in place the show went on.
“It turned out great and people wanted to come,” Felker said. “It turned out to be the largest attendance the show has ever had. I think people were looking for something to do
It proved to be a change that worked, and the show finds itself back in November this year.
According to Felker, what made the date work so well is that the weather was not as scorching hot as it had been in September, which proved to be key for an event that is held outside in a field where the elements can come into play.
Although the weather was cooler, one thing that no could have planned for was that hurricane had formed and it was a waiting game to see if it would have an impact on the local area and the show.
“We went through almost cancelling it again three or four days before the show,” Felker said.
He has already seen the buildup to the second year go much smoother and he believes the circumstances he encountered last year has made him prepared for any scenario that may come to the forefront.
“We went through all those scenarios that no one has probably even had to go through before,” Felker said. “We’re ready for anything now.”