International, domestic visitors rally
By Sarah R. Buchholz,
Car enthusiasts look over a row of vintage
Citroëns Aug. 9. (Stan Sherer photo)
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.
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
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
"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
"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
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
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
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."