The Campus Chronicle
Vol. XVII, Issue 41
for the Amherst campus of the University of Massachusetts
August 23, 2002

 Page One Grain & Chaff Obituaries Letters to the Chronicle Archives Feedback Weekly Bulletin

 Page One Grain & Chaff Obituaries Letters to the Chronicle Archives Feedback Weekly Bulletin




International, domestic visitors rally 'round Citroëns

By Sarah R. Buchholz, Chronicle staff

Car enthusiasts look over a row of vintage Citroëns Aug. 9. (Stan Sherer photo)

Car enthusiasts look over a row of vintage Citroëns Aug. 9. (Stan Sherer photo)

The campus had its own French Connection for four days early in August. More than 1,000 Citroën enthusiasts from Europe, the U.S. and Canada crowded around the Campus Pond to admire each others' cars, exchange ideas and learn about how Citroëns differ from one side of the Atlantic to the other.

     Citroën manufactured the first mass-produced car in Europe in 1919, and with the exception of a break during World War II, the company has been making cars ever since.

     It was the first time in the International Citroën Car Club Rally's 30-year history that the gathering took place outside of Europe.

     "These cars have never been in North America," said conference organizer Michael Cox, who hails from the Boston area, pointing to a row of vintage and contemporary vehicles lining the concourse of the Lincoln Campus Center. "The other side is U.S.-specified," he said, pointing to another row. "We wanted to show the Europeans what the U.S. cars were like. The Citroën sign we hung is unique to America, so people [from Europe] come in, and they've never seen it."

     A Citroën enthusiast since 1974, Cox has been organizing a smaller Citroën rally at Northfield Mountain for 25 years. When he had the opportunity to put together the international event, he immediately thought of the Pioneer Valley.

     "I was acquainted with the area," he said, confessing to being a long-time enthusiast of Bub's Barbecue in Sunderland, "and I knew the scenery it would present to tourists from Europe." So Cox contacted the University.

     "Once I was shown the pond and the idea of putting cars around the pond, it was a natural," he said. "The Conference Services coordinator [Mary Terry] has been fantastic, very professional. They've come through on everything."

     Aug. 8 saw the set-up of a "museum" in the Campus Center, complete with informational videos, a history of the car, and 14 of the cars themselves, placed up and down the concourse. The event ran from Aug. 9-11.

     Auxiliary Services upped staffing at the Blue Wall, put up 500 people in dormitories and nearly another 100 in the Campus Center Hotel, ran concessions by the pond, and hosted two large dinners - a Bub's-style barbecue on Friday night and a lobster bake on Saturday, both held in the Student Union Ballroom.

     Doug Devanney, a senior in Communication who works at the information desk on the Lincoln Campus Center concourse, spoke French with a number of the visitors. Devanney has studied the language since the sixth grade. Some of the visitors were so impressed that they presented him with a red racing jacket emblazoned with the Citroën logo on its back.

     "It's an official racing jacket that they use on the course," Devanney said. "I'm going to keep this forever."

     In all, more than 500 cars were displayed around the pond and other European car enthusiasts brought cars that were displayed next to Skinner Hall and the Worcester Dining Commons.

     "The real event is in the show field," Cox said. "People are able to compare their cars. And people can see what Citroën is producing today in 2002."

     On Sunday afternoon the winning car was displayed on Metawampe Lawn.
Terry, director of Conference Services, said security was beefed up for the show as one of the cars was valued at at least $1 million. "We have some foot patrols while the show is going on," she said. "And the organization is providing extra security."

     The Town of Amherst also provided police to help direct the increased traffic on North Pleasant Street.

     "Traditionally August is a slow month for us, but this brought thousands of dollars of business to the campus as well as to the community," said Ashoke Ganguli, director of Auxiliary Services. "We did a study a few years ago that showed that for every person we bring in, there are at least $3-$5 in sales in town - the restaurants, the gift shops. It's good for town-gown relations.

     "What was nice about this conference is that visitors from all over the U.S., Europe and Canada came. We were host to a wonderful group as well as economically helping ourselves and our community. This was a great boost for everybody."

     Ganguli said the campus typically sees 25,000-30,000 visitors in the summers, generating $1.5 million - $2 million in gross sales at the University.

     "This is a cyclical business," he said. "Overall it's been a good year."

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