Organizers of the Burnouts in the Sky memorial car show, held at Cloverdale Fairgrounds over the past six summers, are searching for a new location to hold the annual charity event.
They’re also gearing up for a name change, to avoid a perception of “young hot-rodders being silly” at the gathering.
Susan Simning, whose son Bradley McPherson was killed at a Newton house party in 2011, said she’s frustrated that the event can’t be held at the fairgrounds next August.
“We have worked so hard these last six years to build this event and location, and to now have to start over is seriously breaking our hearts,” she told the Now-Leader on Tuesday.
“It’s putting a lot up in the air for us, and it’s kind of disheartening, it really is.”
One roadblock initially, she said, was the construction of a road through the fairgrounds – work that Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum put a stop to a month ago, on 177B Street from 62nd to 64th Avenue.
With the lot ripped up and the road project in limbo, Simning said caretakers of the fairgrounds then told her that Burnouts in the Sky couldn’t be held on the site next year – with road construction there or not.
“They told us they wanted to steer away from car shows for more family- and festival-type events,” Simning said. “We are actually quite upset because seriously, how much more ‘family’ can you get with our event and festival? But they don’t want to be involved in car shows from now on.”
Mike MacSorley, general manager of Cloverdale Rodeo & Exhibition Association, said the nature of the event has caused some problems at the fairgrounds.
“I have had some issues with the way they conduct their show,” MacSorley said Tuesday. “I don’t want to get into it but they are getting better every year, which is great, but it’s been a five-year process of them not doing burnouts – we don’t want burnouts on our lot.
“So when the road was coming through and we still didn’t know what it was going to look like, we said, ‘You can’t do Burnouts in the Sky if there’s a road there, period,’ so we told them to look for a new location. And if they don’t find a new location then we’ll work with them to try and get them here, but they can’t do burnouts. I think that’s pretty fair. If they can’t find a spot, we will probably accommodate her if we don’t have something else booked.”
The Burnouts event, which includes live music and a beer garden in addition to close to 200 polished vehicles on display, raises money for a scholarship in McPherson’s name. The money is reserved for high school students who struggle with attention-deficit disorder, like McPherson did, and also for budding mechanics.
The event that features the kind of cars and trucks loved and appreciated by McPherson, who was fond of doing burnouts in a charcoal-coloured truck he called “Emma.”
At age 28, McPherson was shot to death in the early hours of Christmas Eve in 2011.
Last April, Russell Bidesi was given a life sentence for the crime, and isn’t eligible for parole for 15 years.
In years following McPherson’s death, Simning and others have planned Burnouts in the Sky as an annual memorial event for her son.
“We had the higher number of cars last year, and I think we hit just over the 200 mark,” Simning said.
“One thing is, it’s not just another car show,” she added, “and some of the car clubs have suggested we need to focus more on getting not only more cars out there but more sponsors, to help our cause. I’m told that for people with expensive hot rods who invest a lot of money in their vehicles, the name ‘Burnouts in the Sky’ is kind of a deterrent a little bit – that the perception is that it’s just a bunch of young hot-rodders being silly and not taking it seriously. So the suggestion is we play more on the Bradley McPherson Memorial Show and Shine, as a name, so we’re going to rebrand a little bit, aka Burnouts in the Sky, just to see if we can get more attention from the major-player car clubs.”
As for possible new locations for the event, suggestions have included Langley Events Centre, the raceway in Mission, Holland Park, Twilight drive-in theatre in Aldergrove and the Adesa auction lot in Richmond.
“We’re looking to stay primarily in the Cloverdale, maybe Langley area, or maybe even out to a place like Aldergrove,” Simning said. “We’re not overly fond of having it Surrey, and we’ve had a few people suggest various parks and other places there, but I’m not overly fond of that because that’s where we lost our son, right, and other people have said go to Mission raceway, but it’s such a far drive for people to go.”
Back at the fairgrounds, MacSorley said his association is “in a holding pattern” now that construction of the through-road has been halted.
“We don’t even have a place to put our work stuff, because they took our maintenance building away,” he said. “That area, they say they’ll return it to the way it was, but they removed some services, so I don’t know what that means in their eyes.
“We have people working with the city to make sure it will be usable for the rodeo, and I’m confident it will be usable – it might look a little different but I don’t think it will hurt the rodeo at all. The area is our food court, so we have to figure out to make sure we have enough power and services for the vendors pulling in. The power is still there, they’ve just unhooked some of the pods, so it’s a matter of hooking them up and seeing what they have, and if not we’ll have to bring in some generators to make sure it works. It’s a much safer place without the road going through, though.”