BIZ makes cuts to Cruz In Downtown event

Funds pulled from long-running event, given to support two new events instead

Downtown streets will be without the classic car enthusiasts drawn to the Cruz In Downtown street festival every summer as organizers have decided to relocate the event due to lack of support from the Downtown BIZ. Cindy Titus

Organizers of an annual charity event that brings auto enthusiasts and spectators together downtown for live entertainment and car shows feel they have been mistreated by the Downtown Winnipeg Business Improvement Zone (BIZ) after it decided to pull funding from the event.

The BIZ announced late last year that the money that has gone to Cruz In Downtown for the past 10 years will be used to fund Cyclovia and Lights on Broadway.

“They told us the reason for withdrawing (the funds) is that they wanted our event to grow,” said Bev Dyck, who organizes Cruz In Downtown with her husband, John. “Well, how does that help us grow?”

Jennifer Verch, manager of communications and marketing for the BIZ, explained that because Cyclovia and Lights on Broadway are both in their second and third year, they still need seed funding to grow and succeed. 

“We decided we need to make some tough decisions with our budget this year and shift the funding,” said Verch. “We’ve been able to help that event (Cruz In Downtown) off the ground, and now we can help other events off the ground,” she said.

The Dycks met with with Stefano Grande, executive director for the BIZ, in December 2010 and were told that although the event is an asset to Winnipeg’s downtown, the BIZ believes it no longer requires its support to continue.

In a letter to the Dycks dated Jan. 17, 2011, Grande presented further explanation of the BIZ’s new goals in supporting downtown events.

The letter stated that the BIZ would like to focus on events that couldn’t happen without its funding, including events “that have been operating for several years and are willing and able to grow in regard to providing more programming and drawing more crowds, and creating more excitement and overall spinoffs.”

We’ve been able to help that event (Cruz In Downtown) off the ground, and now we can help other events off the ground.

Jennifer Verch, manager of communications and marketing, Downtown Winnipeg BIZ

Dyck was encouraged to move her annual festival from St. Mary Avenue to Portage Avenue, make it a two-day event and add more attractions in order for the event to grow and attract a bigger crowd.

Even with these changes, there is no guarantee that the BIZ would provide financial support.

“The cost would be double ... and it’s just ridiculous to close Portage (Avenue) for two days,” said Dyck, who has decided to remove the event from the downtown area entirely.

“If they can’t support our event in their downtown area, then we don’t want to be there,” she said.

For people who have gone to the event every year, like Dave Kwiatek, president of the Drag Racing Association of Manitoba, there is a lot of disappointment.

“There are a lot of cars and a lot of clubs in Manitoba, and there are a lot of people upset about it,” he said.

Kwiatek is a member of the Manitoba Association of Auto Clubs, where John and Bev Dyck sit on the board. He said there were a lot of emotions in the room during a general meeting last week in which Cruz In Downtown’s future was discussed. 

“It’s going to be a great loss for downtown Winnipeg,” he said. “It brings quite a bit of enthusiasts and people downtown.”

Although it will not continue to provide financial support, the BIZ has offered Cruz In Downtown continued in-kind support which includes set-up, clean up, security and advertising.

Over the 10 years it supported Cruz In Downtown, the BIZ invested over $35,000 cash and $50,000 of in-kind safety and cleanliness services.

Published in Volume 65, Number 18 of The Uniter (February 3, 2011)

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