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Slammin and Jammin leaves Lebanon, may go to Cookeville

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By JENNIFER HORTONThe Wilson PostSlammin’ & Jammin’, a car and truck show that has brought thousands of people and their money to Lebanon and Wilson County as well as an element that has caused problems for local businesses and law enforcement, may be considering a move to Cookeville for future events.The (Cookeville) Herald-Citizen newspaper reports that Charlie Cobble, president of Autoshows which puts on Slammin’ & Jammin’, took a tour of the Putnam County Fairgrounds in Cookeville this past week as a possible new location for the event.“I know we will be moving from Lebanon,” Cobble said yesterday during a telephone interview with The Wilson Post.    He said he is looking for a new venue for his car and truck show, but emphasized that he has not made a selection and nothing has been signed. “I am looking at three different places in three different directions from Lebanon,” he said. Cobble did not identify the other two locations, but noted the representatives of one the sites contacted him and he contacted officials with the other one about moving the show.In discussing his reasons for moving the event from Lebanon after 17 years, Cobble said, “I don’t like to burn any bridges, let’s put it that way.” He added that the “economic situation” also played a part in his decision.“Attendance has been down the last 3-4 years and dropped so far last year it was (barely) break-even.” Like any other business, Cobble said, “if our association doesn’t make money, we can’t continue.”At its height of popularity, Slammin’ & Jammin’ drew 1,800 participants/vehicles one year.Slammin’ & Jammin’ has produced an economic impact, he said, of an estimated $500,000 on the low end to $2.3 million on the high end. The event grew to become the second largest event to be held at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center/Wilson County Fairgrounds. The largest, of course, is the annual Wilson County Fair which drew more than half a million people in 2009.He said he believed local hotels and restaurants would hate to see the event leave as many were filled to capacity the weekend of the event.Hotel and restaurant owners must make money, too. “They’re like me for that. I hate it for them. They treated us awfully good.”Cobble said he believed some of the incidents that occurred elsewhere during the weekend it was in town, usually the weekend before Memorial Day in May, that drew the ire of local law enforcement resulting in arrests on various charges ranging from underage drinking to statutory rape, contributed to the event’s decline in attendance.Cobble emphasized that there were no problems at the Ward Ag Center during the event and told The Post in the past that he would not tolerate any troublemakers on the premises. “Those people are my customers. They have been treated unfairly with a lot of other things going on there in Lebanon.”The problems occurred off-site, sometimes in the parking lots of various businesses along South Cumberland/Murfreesboro Road/Highway 231 South. Local law enforcement officials have said in the past that most of the problems were not caused by those attending the car and truck show, but rather were caused mainly by some local residents, or others from nearby counties, who saw the event as a chance to misbehave.“The off-site situation has caused us to look at other places,” he said.Cobble had high praise for Larry Tomlinson, manager of the Ward Ag Center, and Ricky Rodriguez, director of the Wilson County Convention & Visitors Bureau, for their efforts regarding the annual event.“I give them a lot of credit.”Tomlinson, he said, made sure the event ran smoothly while at the Ag Center, and Rodriguez helped promote the event.“They’ve been great to work with all these years.”Cobble said he did not realize for some time that Wilson County and the City of Lebanon own the Ward Ag Center, but he also wanted to thank deputies with the Wilson County Sheriff’s Department who provided security while the car and truck show was on-site.The security was headed by Capt. Gary Keith of the Sheriff’s Department. “He did an excellent job for me,” Cobble said, noting Keith and the deputies stayed on top of security matters and prevented problems. “I couldn’t have asked for anybody better to do that for me. He took care of it for us.”Cobble added, “I want do want to thank the paper there. (You’ve) always been good to us. We always made the front page, whether it was good or bad.”Ultimately, he said, “it’s been a situation we knew we had to change something if it got any worse, for the last three years. It was just time for us to move and try to do better.”The Herald-Citizen newspaper in Cookeville reported that the Putnam County Commission’s planning committee voted to send the matter to the full commission without a recommendation from the panel.Cookeville Police Chief Bob Terry told the panel he was concerned about incidents that had occurred in Lebanon when Slammin’ & Jammin’ was in town. He said he talked to Lebanon Police Chief Scott Bowen who told him last year was better in terms of arrests with 40 people taken to jail, one of them charged with statutory rape.Bowen said he and others at the Lebanon Police Department had heard that Slammin’ & Jammin’ might be leaving and had heard rumors that Gallatin was one of the cities being considered in addition to Cookeville.“For us, that’s a good thing,” he said regarding the event’s move. Bowen said officers are busy on Memorial Day weekend anyway and Slammin’ & Jammin’ increased their workload dramatically.Bowen said he believed hotels and restaurants will do fine as Memorial Day weekend finds may people traveling and many may want to come to Lebanon and stay here a few days who did not previously because of the car and truck show.“I think people will come back to our community who didn’t want to deal with it” previously,” he said.Bowen said he was not surprised that attendance had fallen off in recent years because many car enthusiasts who spend hundreds, if not thousands, on their vehicles for these kinds of shows, likely quit coming because of what Slammin’ & Jammin’ had become.“We’re not the first city they’ve left,” Bowen said, noting Slammin’ & Jammin’ used to be held in a town in East Tennessee prior to coming to Lebanon but left because of similar problems experienced here in recent years.“It taxes all the resources we have,” Bowen said. He added that the south end of Lebanon ends up in gridlock because of traffic from locals and some of the show attendees cruising the roadway. It has always been a concern, he said, if a fire broke out in that area then fire engines would not be able to get through the traffic.Bowen said the city would be fine without the car and truck show and noted that this weekend the city was hosting 33 teams in the CABA baseball tournament.There are plenty of other events held locally that families attend like camping conventions at the Ward Ag Center and much more.“That’s what we want,” he said of family oriented events.“We’re happy they’re going to move on somewhere else.”For their part, Putnam commissioners expressed concern about why the show would move after being in one place for 17 years.Mike Atwood, a former member of the Wilson County Commission and now a member of the Putnam County Commission, said “Some situations have occurred, and it became negative and there were targeted as a group. And the reason they’re leaving is because they have been targeted. There is, to be frank, a New Orleans type of environment with the beads and that’s where the problems were (with indecent exposure),” he said in the Cookeville newspaper article. He added that of the four people he discussed the matter with, none of them had anything to say against the car and truck show.Another Putnam County commissioner noted the county would certainly like to see more revenue, but asked would it be worth it if gives the city and county a bad reputation among residents and visitors.The Putnam County Commission must vote on whether to allow Slammin’ & Jammin’ to hold its next show at the fairgrounds and is expected to do so when it meets Monday, July 19.Terry, the police chief, and Putnam County Sheriff David Andrews said if the commission gave the OK then they would do what they could do to make it a success. He told the Cookeville newspaper, however, “But I don’t think Mr. Cobble can expect any more love (from us) than he had out of Lebanon’s law enforcement.”Editor Jennifer Horton may be contacted at
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