Sometimes too much of a good thing is, well, too much. For the first time in its 14-year history, Cars on Fifth is seeking to steer downtown Naples’ largest one-day event in a new direction by charging admission.
“The show has been such an incredible success that it has created challenges,” says Tom O’Riordan, president of the Naples chapter of the Ferrari Club of America, which puts on the show as a fundraiser for St. Matthew’s House. “Last year the crowd was around 50,000, and that’s a lot of people. The complaints we get are that people park everywhere, or that there’s nowhere to park at all. But the larger issue is that it’s so crowded, people can’t enjoy seeing the cars, which is the whole reason they came.”
The internationally acclaimed auto show, which features rides ranging from classic Packards to the latest Porsches, will take place February 9 on Fifth Avenue South and adjacent side streets. Admission will be $20, which replaces a request for donations.
“In the past, we had volunteers from St. Matthew’s who walked around asking for a voluntary donation of $10, and we estimated that about 40 percent of the people would pay it,” explains O’Riordan. “Some didn’t like to be asked to contribute—they felt put off by it—but 100 percent of the money we collect goes to charity. Also, as far as the impact on downtown businesses, if someone isn’t willing to pay $10 or $20 to see over 575 of the most beautiful cars in the world, they’re probably not going to spend a lot at a store or restaurant.”
O’Riordan says the event has supported other organizations but that St. Matthew’s House, a Naples-based nonprofit that tackles homelessness, hunger, substance abuse, and poverty in Southwest Florida, is able to provide about 350 volunteers to help run Cars on Fifth. More than $1.1 million has been raised for charity since the show, which began in 2002 but spent its first three years on Third Street South, hit the pavement. Children under 12 will be free, and St. Matthew’s House will have a limited number of complimentary wristbands for guests who can’t afford admission, which will be collected at 26 entry points.
“What we want to do is to make the show more for people who’re enthusiastic about cars,” O’Riordan says. “We did the math, and at $20 per person, we’ll raise even more money for St. Matthew’s. It’ll be a win-win for everybody.” (carsonfifth.com) —L.G.