Pennsylvania sues Carlisle Events, claiming pandemic violation

Spring Carlisle swap meet continues as court hears arguments regarding 250-person limit for public gatherings ordered by governor

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Show goers examine vintage truck toys at a recent Spring Carlisle | Carlisle Events photos

(Update:  The Pennsylvania Department of Health and Carlisle Events reached a settlement agreement in principle Friday morning, allowing the Spring Carlisle event to continue through Saturday, and the scheduled hearing to be continued.  Details of the agreement, which has not yet been written down, were not available.)

The Pennsylvania Department of Health has filed suit against Carlisle Events regarding pandemic safety precautions at its Spring Carlisle automotive swap meet, which opened Wednesday.  A hearing on the suit in Commonwealth Court ended Thursday with no ruling, allowing the annual event to proceed.

The suit seeks a court injunction to limit the number of attendees to 250 at any one time, in compliance with the governor’s restriction limiting pandemic gatherings. The swap meet at the Carlisle Fairgrounds is a sprawling event that typically attracts 100,000 people, which the health department terms a “public health threat.”

State Governor Tom Wolf’s “Green Phase” reopening plan for the COVID-19 outbreak limits gatherings to a maximum of 250 people.  Carlisle Events sought a waiver June 9 to allow an exception for the popular meet that attracts collector car hobbyists from all over the country, but it was turned down by the Department of Community and Economic Development, the legal filing says.

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Hoods open at a Spring Carlisle car corral

According to the suit, the Department of Health sent a letter to the show organizers on Tuesday to remind them that they must comply with the 250-person restriction and requested a written response to confirm.  No response was ever received, the suit says, and Carlisle Events went ahead and opened the show without the confirmation.

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Carlisle Events, which had postponed the event from earlier this year and canceled its collector car auction because of coronavirus, says that it has made put necessary safety measures in place to protect show goers, including sanitizing stations. 

The organizers also claim that the venue is large enough that there will never be more than 250 people gathered in one place at a time.

An aerial view of Spring Carlisle

On Wednesday, Carlisle events released this statement:

“This morning (June 17, 2020), Carlisle Events received notice of a lawsuit filed by the Pennsylvania Department of Health in the Commonwealth Court. The filing seeks to apply and enforce the Department’s 250-person COVID-19 limit to outdoor events, such as our Spring Carlisle event, which opened this morning. We have retained counsel and intend to vigorously defend this action.

“Similar to other large outdoor entertainment venues and amusement parks that have or are scheduled to open under the Green Phase in southcentral Pennsylvania, our approximately 100-acre event facility provides ample space for vendors and patrons to interact in a responsible manner, consistent with the CDC’s social distancing and other COVID-19 guidelines.

“Carlisle Events has worked tirelessly to put on this event in a socially responsible manner and will continue to do so. We believe the Department of Health’s Order is invalid. Even if the Order is valid, the Department has erred in its application to outside events such as ours, or has acted arbitrarily in seeking to enforce the order against us, while permitting other entertainment venues to open.”

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Attorneys representing the Pennsylvania Department of Health and Carlisle Events are expected to resume arguments in court Friday morning.  Meanwhile, Spring Carlisle continues to operate as usual, scheduled to conclude on Saturday.

On Thursday, Gov. Wolf issued updated business guidelines that allow outdoor recreation facilities, including motorsports, to resume operation.  There was no immediate word as to how this would affect the Spring Carlisle decision.

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Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.

21 COMMENTS

  1. oh…and the state IS suing black lies matter, antifa etc etc etc for lack of social distancing, right?

    Hypocrisy, thy name is government.

  2. Right on Luke2236. and the responses above. Unbelievably brilliant action on the part of the PA Dept of Health! Having moved out of PA many years ago this shouldn’t surprise me!

  3. Dictator Wolf should be impeached, bottom line. Everything he is doing is to slow the economic recovery, all politics nothing more. He criticized Rothensburger foe getting his hair cut while he stood at the podium clean cut and trimmed up, BS. He never missed a paycheck but expects everyone else to be ok with not getting paid. This ONE tyrant, o lone knows what’s best for all Pennsylvanians, I know I don’t need him making my decisions. Nothing but Trump Derangement Syndrome. Impeach this tyrant, impeach, impeach!!!

  4. The hell with our corrupt/ hypocritical US lefties government!!
    Protester in the thousands are ok in violation of the 6 foot distancing, but an organized constructive event is not!!!

  5. The only thing I would have added at Carlisle is the mandatory use of masks at the meet. Then they would have been in complete compliance and there would be no legitimate reason for the state to intervene.

  6. The NCAA canceled their tournament. The NBA and MLB postponed their seasons to consider the greater good. Throw Grandma some love and quit being so self centered.

    • These were canceled when the virus first began, and we didn’t know as much as we know today. Because of the lies, exaggerations, everything was canceled. You can’t hide under that rock forever! Open back up and deal with it!

  7. Canadian cannot go to Carlisle because the borders are close. Covid-19 is true or not or a way to control events and all country.

  8. WOW! How does everything become political, or conservative or liberal? Would some of these decisions make more sense to us all if our mother, father, daughter, son, or friend, had died from the corona virus?

  9. WOW! How does everything become political, or conservative or liberal? Would some of these decisions make more sense to us all if our mother, father, daughter, son, or friend, had died from the corona virus?

  10. If you Democrats and Communist are afraid to go out, stay home! If you believe you need to wear a mash, fine, wear one, but don’t expect everyone else to wear one. Mask are for sick people! Stay home if you’re sick. Too many lies, too many exaggerations, too many scared people! God help this country if China or Russia ever attacks us. The Democrats would throw the white flag in no time! Scared sheep!

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