Channel 11 gets inside look at Pa. car show that was allowed to happen despite COVID-19 restrictions

CARLISLE, Pa. — It’s trademarked as the single largest Corvette event in the world, and despite the governor’s orders and mandates on social gatherings, the show goes on.

We went inside of the Carlisle Car Show, an event that’s raised some eyebrows because it reached a confidential deal with the state to allow it to go on, letting up to 20,000 people in a day despite the governor’s 250 person max rule.

“I have my mask, I’m the only one who brings out my motorcycle gloves, I wash my hands,” said Joseph Abal.

Abal hasn’t left Florida since March, but COVID-19 was not going to keep him away from coming to the Corvette show in Carlisle this weekend.

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“I should be drastically worried but I know the Millers. Tthey’ve got our interest at heart. They know we’re Corvette people. This is a business. I have no fear because I knew he’d take care of me,” Abal said.

Among added safety measures, staff were wearing face masks and Corvette enthusiasts were encouraged to, but a lot of folks we saw, did not mask up.

“We have added sanitizer stations around the grounds, opportunities for folks to wash their hands. In our food court area, we have spaced out seating areas,” said Carlisle Events Public Relations Manager Mike Garland.

This event almost didn’t happen, but through a confidential agreement with the state after the health department tried to shut them down, the show goes on. Because it’s part flea market and part car show, it was allowed to continue operating.

“There are certainly elements of both here at the event. There are many great vendors selling parts, vendors who haven’t had the opportunity to make a living in some cases due to the cancellation of some events. And then you have passionate car owners showing off their beloved Corvette,” Garland said.

We’re told the event was down about 1,000 cars this year, but people we talked to said if this was completely shut down by the state, the overall impact on some livelihoods would be devastating.

“Car shows in Carlisle usually contribute about $100 million to the local economy annually. It would’ve been a massive economic blow to central Pennsylvania,” Garland said.

Organizers said it’s down about 30-40% overall throughout all of its shows this summer.

The event is scheduled through Sunday.

11 Investigates’ previous coverage:

Reaction from local leaders

For a week now leaders, lawmakers and business people have reached out to Channel11 with questions about how could this event in the eastern part of the state go on.

We sent pictures and videos of today’s event to Democratic Lawrence County Lawmaker Chris Sainato.

“I still believe everyone should be treated equally. From my understanding, it was classified as a flea market and that’s how they were able to get an exemption...if that’s the case, I mean everyone’s county fairs could be classified as flea markets with tables,” Sainato said.

We reached out to Lt. Gov. Fetterman on the issue.

“The carlisle Auto Show is one that i went to my whole life. It’s a classic car kind of event. I’m very familiar with, but I had no knowledge and wasn’t’ involved in the whatsoever this agreement. Whatever it was,” Fetterman sad.

We asked the Allegheny County Health Department Director if she would allow an event like this.

“So, I will just say in Allegheny County we put a 50 person limit on our outdoor gatherings and I think that and other public health measures have worked,” Dr. Debra Bogen said.

“If you can put 20,000 there, most events we have don’t have that many people in. We have to have consistency,” Sainato said.

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