The Seattle Yacht Club hosted an exotic car and motorcycle BBQ as part of its effort to appeal to a broader interest. In Virginia, Farmington Country Club and The Country Club of Virginia catered to their youngest members with versions of “Cookies and Canvas” to help kids “unplug” and enjoy the club.
(As featured in C+RB’s 14th Annual Ideas Issue, June 2020.)
Boating isn’t the only mode of transportation favored by membership at the Seattle (Wash.) Yacht Club (SYC). In September 2019, the club hosted an exotic car and motorcycle BBQ, as part of its effort to appeal to a broader interest. “I have noticed a number of classic vehicles in our parking lot over the years, so [I] knew that many members were enthusiastic collectors,” says General Manager Amy Shaftel.
Inspired by the success of a previous Seattle Yacht Club Foundation classic car and boat show fundraiser, Shafter recruited a club member to serve as master of ceremonies and began calling members to take part by showcasing their vehicles. No fee was required to enter a vehicle or simply to attend; lunch was provided at a separate cost ($10 for adults, $5 for children, and no fee for drivers of the vehicles).
With the event promoted through various channels, including monthly and weekly newsletters, e-blasts and signs posted around the club, word quickly spread among the SYC membership and staff, who were also encouraged to participate.
For help with executing the land-based event, SYC tapped the Drivers Club of Redmond, Wash., for tips on how to set up the parking lot. “They made great suggestions and we invited their members, as well as members from the local Jaguar and Corvette clubs to join in,” says Shaftel.
The club’s lower lot was cordoned off the night before the event, and two tents (one for registration and one for food) were assembled. Drivers were asked to arrive in advance of the start time, with each driver receiving a number to place on the dashboard and a map detailing how to park their vehicles. They were also tasked with filling in the make, model and year of their entry; in exchange, they received a voucher for lunch.
Once the grounds opened for the event, attendees were directed to park in the upper lot and given ballots to cast their votes for a total of 39 cars represented in a variety of categories, including: Concours d’Elegance (best vehicle); People’s Choice (personal favorite); Best Zombie or Jalopy Car (least likely to get you home); Smiles Per Mile (most fun); Kid’s Choice (for voters under 15 years of age), and Best Restoration. Winners were awarded a 5-in-1 barbecue tool affixed with the SYC logo.
When members weren’t checking out the coolest things on wheels, they dined on classic BBQ fare—hot dogs, hamburgers, corn on the cob, baked beans, coleslaw, watermelon, cookies and brownies—against the backdrop of the “American Graffiti” soundtrack and classic rock. “Not much entertainment was needed; people love to talk about cars,” notes Shaftel. “Even members who no longer own boats still enjoy driving their classic cars.”
With 100 lunch tickets purchased, an event that had been budgeted to break even met management’s expectations. “Members were so excited that two agreed to be the event chairs for 2020 and make this an annual event,” Shaftel says. And even with heightened safety concerns, she does not anticipate having to adapt the format tremendously, because the event already takes place outdoors. “It is easy to keep social distancing in mind by spacing out cars,” she notes, adding that more tables could also be added to help diners spread out.
And while its first venture into featuring wheeled transportation was not responsible for bringing in any new memberships, existing members were able to make new connections. “Neighbors brought their kids, so it was great for our little community,” notes Shaftel. “One family saw the cars from the freeway and came by. It was nice to welcome everyone when we are usually closed to non-members.”
The Goal: Create a sense of community by hosting a family-friendly event that goes beyond Seattle Yacht Club’s usual focus.
The plan: Prep the property for a car and motorcycle showcase that includes participant voting for a variety of categories.
The payoff: A festive outing that is already on the books for a repeat performance.
In Virginia, two clubs have had success converting the popular “wine and design” trend among adults to an equally appealing kids’ version, “Cookies and Canvas.” Farmington Country Club in Charlottesville, Va. positioned its event as an opportunity to provide an exciting activity for kids (and new revenue for its Children’s Place) while also drawing their parents to the club’s restaurants. With a maximum headcount of 20, children ate dinner after arriving and then painted on a canvas. After painting, they got to decorate cookies for dessert.
The Country Club of Virginia (CCV) in Richmond, Va. offered its version of Cookies and Canvas as an “unplugged event” that could encourage creativity and time away from cell phones, video games and other technology. An instructor led the painting class as children painted their own unique canvases, and then enjoyed designing, decorating and eating their own cookie masterpieces with their friends. “This event works in all seasons, for all ages, genders and levels of artistic talent,” says Megan Jinks, CCV’s Youth Manager.