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Wednesday, March 21 News

Mallozzi: Caffeine & Carburetors has to be manageable

Disagreement between event organizers and town officials on how many more Caffeine & Carburetors should be held every year has caused major changes to upcoming events.

The June 15 event has been moved to Lime Rock Park in Salisbury, according to Caffeine & Carburetors' host and founder, Doug Zumbach. The only confirmed date for the event to take place in New Canaan is Sept. 7, as two other upcoming gatherings were put on hold, he said.

"This seems to be the way local government wants it," Zumbach said.

More Information

2014 Caffeine & Carburetors:
June 15 - Moved to Lime Rock Park, Salisbury
Sept. 7 - Confirmed
Oct. 5 - Pending
Nov. 2 - Pending

The increasingly popular event, which gathers vintage car enthusiasts in downtown New Canaan on Sunday mornings, has grown larger and larger this year, drawing nearly 4,000 people and more than 400 cars at the latest event, May 4.

At a meeting Tuesday, the Police Commission granted only one permit for the event, citing the growing crowds have caused problems for traffic control and pedestrian safety.

The gathering, which was originally created in 1995 and "resurrected" five years ago, has been held six times a year. In past years, it was restricted to Pine Street, where Zumbach's Gourmet Coffee is located, but with the growing popularity, it has expanded into Elm street as well.

First Selectman Robert Mallozzi, who said he's a close friend of the organizers, said the Police Department is having trouble staffing "to the degree that is necessary."

Mallozzi suggested holding the event twice a year, one in the spring and one in the fall, and then having smaller-scale events either on half of Pine Street or at a different location, such as the New Canaan High School or Waveny Park.

"The reasons is very simple," he said. "We can control things better in a smaller environment than our downtown."

Zumbach said he's considering making the gathering biannual, but he said holding it anywhere outside of the business district "would not benefit the town."

"By word of mouth, it has grown to a nationally recognized event, which gives the town wonderful exposure," Zumbach said. "It's a wonderful opportunity for the town of New Canaan, the merchants as well as the residents. Everyone has seemed to enjoy this event tremendously."

Besides police officers, volunteers from New Canaan's Community Emergency Response Team as well as other volunteers recruited by the organizers have helped control traffic in the area.

"The real challenge here is staffing the event," Stuart Sawabini, chairman of the Police Commission, said.

He noted that the need for volunteers has been an issue for the CERT, which he said will be working the July 4 fireworks; the Zerbini Family Circus, which is coming to town in June; a 5K run for multiple myeloma research; and other events.

"When you tally up that list and attempt to add six Caffeine & Carburetors, that's a large burden on the volunteers," Sawabini said.

At the last event, there were nearly 40 people working on traffic control, he said. Twelve of those were CERT volunteers, according to CERT Chairman Nancy Upton.

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She noted that Caffeine & Carburetors has not been problematic for the organization, but "it would've been a drain" having to find volunteers in the summer months.

Mallozzi said the organizers are "a victim of your their own success."

"To contemplate six times that type of event in our downtown just wouldn't work," he said. "It's just a matter of what this town can support ... There's a reason why we do a sidewalk sale once year. We do it because it's manageable."

Zumbach said he would be able to provide as many volunteers as needed.

Other issues that have been raised with the increasing crowds are the lack of bathrooms and parking spaces.

In an email, Todd Brown, one of the organizers said he would continue talks with the town.

"We know how disappointing this is and will continue to seek a solution," he wrote.

noliveira@bcnnew.com, 203-330-6582, @olivnelson

Nelson Oliveira|Education/general assignment reporter