This past weekend the Saabs Of The Mid-Atlantic group met for a sort of pre Carlisle meet at Valley Forge National Park. They had met here before but were told after the fact that they would need to have a permit to have this type of event in the future.
So in preparation of their meet in April, Jim McGuire who is employed by the park sent an email request for a permit to have this meet about 2 weeks prior to the actual meet itself only after his countless phone calls and messages left were never retuned. At 5:40pm on April 5th less than 48 hours prior to the event that had people travelling from as far away as Virginia and Massachusetts, the park responded with a flat out denial of their request. Oddly enough, if everyone attending drove all sorts of other cars and just showed up at the park it would have been fine but because this was organized it becomes a problem. The group discussed the denial online and decided as I would have thought as well that it should be OK to meet as scheduled in the back corner of the guest lot and break into smaller group to travel through the park. The picnic they had planned would have to be cancelled because of the parks refusal but they would still meet. As Jim explains this meet was not just about the cars but a way to have a rewarding day for the entire family.
The Saabs @ Valley Forge event was supposed to be new kind of car meet. This gave us a unique opportunity to not only meet and see one another but to take in some Saab scenery and some US history. This all came about the summer meet of 2012 when I “happened” upon a local meet in the King of Prussia Mall area. I stopped in and after talking to the fellow who pretty much arranged it all, I suggested using Valley Forge as a meeting place. Since I work there at the park I knew it had a lot to offer in parking, scenery and recreation activities. This would take it from a parking lot meet to a very rewarding day for our Saab families.
So on April 7th the group met at the lot at Valley Forge. The parking area is very large and one corner of the lot is utilized often by trucks and horse trailer bringing horses in for trail rides. The parking lot is never completely full. The group parked in the very back corner as to not bother anyone and most didn’t even have the hoods up out of respect to the parks wishes to not have a car show. As Julie Gardner says “it was just a peaceful gathering of like-minded individuals hanging out chatting about our cars”. Then the Park Ranger shows up in his squad car.
The Ranger didn’t like the fact that Jim disregarded their response and still allowed the event and wants to fine him but Jim convinces them that it is unnecessary and he receives a written warning. Let’s not forget, Jim works with these people and nobody in the group was causing even a little bit of trouble, all anyone wanted to do was be in the park for the day.
Despite the fact I worked there I was talked to like a common criminal and not in the professional manner I had hoped for. After a lengthy discussion I personally got a written warning, instead of a fine for “assembling without proper permit”. Much to my disgust, we were given 10 minutes to disperse. The crowd took the news better than I thought but I still felt bad for those who had come to make it a day event at the park. Looking back we could have just called off meeting at the park altogether, but I felt people should have the chance to tour THEIR National park should they want to.
So with 10 minutes to disperse it became apparent that they needed a change of venue and they needed this quickly and they decided to move to the King Of Prussia shopping center where oddly enough the Valley Forge event discussion had originally started back in October. Nobody was lost in the move which was about a mile down the road and when Julie walked the lot and counted, there were 48 cars in all and then a 9-4X and a classic rolled in to bring the total to an even 50 Saabs.
We had some very nice cars and really great talks with their owners. I must say the Saab community is by far one of the best groups of people you can find. There were plenty of everything to include two Turbo X Sport Combi and a few Viggen tossed in for good balance. We also had a 9-7x along with a 9-4x to dazzle the SUV crowds.
I have to agree with Jim when he talks of the community being one of the best groups of people. It is incredible to see a group of 50 Saabs come together in one place to share with one another and that even when the parks decide that it was so important to keep them out, the Saab family decides to politely leave and continue their day together elsewhere. Nobody can stop the Saab enthusiast from having a good time when they gather together.
some of the organizers Jin and Mike Young were kind enough to print stickers and business cards with the group-approved logo for them to leave on unknown SAABs and generate further interest for future events.
One of the members of the group has a great connection with Independent Motorsports Group so their leader, Charlie, came with a couple of his race cars and chatted with the group about making a date to run at the NJ Motorsports Park, either in their own cars or using ones available to rent.
Soon after Charlie from Independent Motorsports Group spoke groups began breaking off and heading for lunch since it was mid-afternoon by that time.
Julie says “a great day was had by all- with the possible exception of Jim, who isn’t so sure he shouldn’t be job hunting now…”
Jim received a follow up email from the park stating their problems in the past with other car groups and that they basically were victim of stereotyping, which makes perfect sense when one of your employees that you trust and pay to work for you is requesting the permit….
They are now in the process of finding a state park to talk with and see if they can make arrangements for future events. Thanks to Julie Gardner and Jim McGuire for sharing this story with us and Kyle Hudson who took some good photos of the Saabs on hand.