Como residents who’ve complained about pre-dawn noise associated with the Back to the ’50s car show at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds may get some relief this year.
Participants in the June 18-21 event will be prohibited from parking from midnight to 6 a.m. in the entire area east of the fairgrounds, from Snelling to Hamline avenues.
“We want to keep peace with the neighborhood,” said Jim Harvey, chairman of the Minnesota Street Rod Association event, for which nearly 12,000 vintage and classic cars were registered last year.
Over time, many of those car owners have become accustomed to assembling on nearby residential streets in the wee hours and then forming an engine-revving parade onto the grounds when the gates open at 6 a.m.
Chris Harkness lives on Midway Parkway near the Snelling Avenue entrance to the fairgrounds and says the cars begin lining up on the service road in front of her house as early as 4 a.m.
“In general, I like looking at the cars,” she said. “It’s a hobby that people embrace, and I respect that. But it’s impossible to sleep with the window-rattling noise.”
Back to the ’50s is the biggest event the fairgrounds hosts outside of fair week and also generates the most complaints to the District 10 Como Community Council.
“These concerns have been discussed by various District 10 committees and the full board many times,” noted former community council administrator Ted Blank. “District 10 raised the issue with each of the players—State Fair, Street Rod Association, St. Paul Police—without a successful resolution.”
Blank said that at District 10’s request, Russ Stark, Fourth Ward St. Paul city councilman, convened a meeting of the respective parties late in the summer of 2014 at which it was agreed that changes would be made. A follow-up meeting was held in April.
“No one expressed any doubt that residents were being unfairly disturbed,” Stark said. “I left our April meeting satisfied that the parties were willing to come up with a plan that would provide substantial relief to the neighbors along Midway Parkway and surrounding blocks. If the problems persist during this year’s event, we will re-assess.”
Off-duty police officers paid by the Street Rod Association will enforce the restrictions, said Commander John Bandemer of the St. Paul Police Dept.’s Western District. Temporary signs on Midway Parkway and nearby streets also will announce the ban.
Harvey, who was president of the Minnesota Street Rod Association for 18 years before taking over management of Back to the ’50s, said he felt the parking change was “a good course of action. We’ve had challenges in the past in terms of making things palatable for the neighborhood, and we’ve dealt with them successfully, I feel.”
The association’s website (msrabacktothe50s.com) explains the restrictions and participants will be given a flyer outlining the new rules when they register at the event’s headquarters hotel in Shoreview, Harvey said.
The state fair has offered to allow the street-rodders to queue up in some of its parking lots and participants will be offered that option, Harvey said.