If the GOP is either officially or unofficially standing up against “Cancel Culture,” then nobody bothered to tell the three Crawford County commissioners—all Republicans. After just a handful of complaints, the trio has decided it no longer wants the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood using county roads for its annual race.
While there were some legitimate concerns raised about this year’s Rally, including some miscommunication on both sides about what would happen during a practice day that had been approved by the commission, the Rally has a long history of being held with few problems. And after this year’s race, after complaints about damage to country roads caused by the race, organizers even reimbursed the county for additional maintenance it had to conduct.
While concentrating on a few complaints and problems, it appears commissioners would rather do away with the Rally than work to fix what is wrong and make the event even better in the future. Like it or not, the Rally brings in thousands of participants and spectators every year (except for the past two rallies that had COVID restrictions) who stay in motels, eat at restaurants, buy fuel, and…more importantly…get exposed to everything the region has to offer in the way of tourism and natural beauty. You can’t pay for that kind of marketing!
Supporters of the Rally have already shared stories of fans coming to the race and then returning for vacations, or even buying land and moving to the area. Isn’t that worth a little road damage that was ultimately paid for?
And what about the local economic impact from the event, both in Crawford and Dent counties. Attendance has only been growing, by both the drivers and their teams and their fans. If you have been to any part of the Rally—from the Parc Exposé often held in Steelville’s Community Park to a short stage at Huzzah Valley Resort or even a remote stage in the midst of the Mark Twain National Forest—you’ve seen the crowds. They are hard to miss. It looks like a Subaru convention.
And while Salem is always the focal point of the Rally, teams and fans can’t all stay there. Motels from Rolla, to St. James, to Cuba and beyond are all used by the Rally, as are cabins at area campgrounds. It’s a busy couple of days in the entire area.
Is all that to be ignored because of a few complaints? If so, then should all the other annual events in the area that cause a few inconveniences or complaints also be canceled?
Parades are common, including those for county fairs and fall festivals, but they do shut the roads down for hours at a time. Doesn’t that create potential hazards and make people change their driving routes and schedules? Should they be canceled? No!
What about some of our big charitable events? Running the Rails on Route 66 and Riding for a Reason bring in thousands for worthwhile causes. They also use public roads and highways. Should they be canceled? No—and neither should the Rally!
Area leaders should be working to make the Rally better rather than canceling it. They should be asking organizers to do more of the event in Crawford County, not less, perhaps evening moving the finish to Steelville occasionally instead of always having it in Salem.
They should be promoting the area to Rally fans and participants, giving them info on where to stay and what to do while they are here, with hopes of getting them to return throughout the year.
And they should be working to eliminate some of the problems the Rally creates, especially when it comes to parking along county roads at some of the rural spectator sites. How about a shuttle service to and from those sites with fans paying a small fee to park at a local resort that could run buses to the viewing areas?
The truth is, Crawford County (and the entire area) has only scratched the surface as to how it can benefit from the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood. That is what needs to change.