800,000 attend classic-car event | TahoeDailyTribune.com

800,000 attend classic-car event

RENO (AP) – The classic cars and the poodle skirts have headed home from Hot August Nights, but their owners left plenty of money behind. An estimated 800,000 attended the weeklong event – slightly more than last year.

Event spokesman Bruce Walter estimated the crowd for the annual gathering and said high gasoline prices might have prompted visitors to linger a little longer, turning it into their summer vacation. He said hotels were booked by Tuesday rather than on a Wednesday as was the case last year.

Walter described this year’s event as “picture perfect.”

Bob Merritt and Carolyn Sawyer, both Reno retirees, saw five classic rock ‘n’ roll bands play outside concerts.

On Sunday, the couple sat in the shade of trees at the university watching the cars go by.

“How can you beat this?” Merritt said. “I’m in seventh heaven.”

For others, it was the people.

“Car people are great. You can go up and down the street and talk to anybody about cars,” said Keith Rayman, a first-time visitor from Denver driving a 1966 Chevrolet pickup. Others heaped praise on the more than 700 volunteers.

On the downside, Betty, Nancy and Bob Jones, of Fresno, Calif., said young people using foul language in downtown Reno were scary.

“They’d walk five or six abreast down the sidewalk and not budge,” said Betty Jones, 77.

But Nancy, her daughter-in-law, said she felt safe walking around at night because of a large number of police and security officers on duty.

Participants couldn’t avoid seeing the hundreds of police officers on bike, foot, horse, motorcycle or in patrol cars monitoring the downtown event.

Some casino security guards even rode bicycles while wearing uniforms nearly identical to Reno police bike units.

The Street Enforcement Team, which targets drug dealers and prostitutes, has been conducting undercover Hot August Night stings since it was formed about three years ago.

This year the team arrested 93 people – 40 in the days before the event and 53 during the week’s activities. Those arrested included 59 prostitutes, 14 drug dealers, three pimps and 17 on charges unrelated to drugs or prostitution. Last year SET made 87 arrests before and during Hot August Nights.

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