Tell Me the Basics
Short answer: See the About page.
Long Answer: The event runs from 9-11, but on busy days, if you're showing a car and you're not there by 8:30 you're screwed. If you're spectating, park in any of the other lots or parking structure and river-dance on over.
We run all summer long, from April until October, every Saturday the chance of rain is 30% or less. People don't like standing in the rain regardless of what you read in some romance novel.
We're here to have fun and we don't put up with car drama, ever. If you've read this site, you can see that fun trumps just about everything. We love it when people come out and have a great time.
The entrance is one block east of BJ's Restaurant. That's where the cars come in no matter what's going on that day.
How Did E@RTC Begin?
Short Answer: Two guys had nothing better to do.
Long Answer: Exotics at Redmond Town Center began after a group first started an exotic gathering in Old Main Street in Bellevue in 2008. That group was founded by Paul Bunn, Greg James and Jason Stutzman. The location and parking made it impossible for people to gather and it soon died down to just a few participants. During the winter months, Tom Nault and Victor Tiscarino who met at that event, began to think about a different event that would be better suited for exotics.
Tom felt very strongly after watching the problems at other car events, especially the problems at Cars and Coffee Irvine, that the meet-up had to have a theme or it wouldn’t sustain itself. The two attended a few local car gatherings around Seattle and found them to be difficult to sustain because of location or theme or some other issue. After scouting several sites and giving it a lot of thought, the two decided to approach Redmond Town Center to see if they would welcome a small gathering. They did.
We soon attracted some volunteers who put in a lot of time to make the event special. It's their ruthless sense of humor, humor that would make a federal prisoner flinch that got us through the long hours it took to get the event off the ground and sustain it all these years. There is nothing PC about this bunch so don't even go there. No, really, don't go there. I'm not kidding.
The first event was held on Valentine's weekend February 2009 with just 30 cars and we all fell in love with hypothermia, something we would come to know well in the coming weeks. Not really, but almost. It has grown steadily ever since and has since become what we now believe is the largest weekly gathering of exotics in the US with over 550 cars on event days. We're still growing with more volunteers, more organization, and more sophistication, (well, at least for a few of us).
Unlike other events that shall go nameless, when we say 550 cars, we're not counting spectator cars too. That's actual cars in the show all the way around the primary surface lots, and the center of the mall. Uh-um...just clearing my throat.
From the early days of Exotics at Redmond Town Center, the mall has been a terrific help and without their generosity and support there would be no E@RTC. We hope spectators and car owners make it a point to support the merchants at the mall as a way of thanking them for their generosity. RTC is by far our biggest supporter and we can’t thank them enough! They are very nice to us and we do all we can to help them in return. Come and shop at Redmond Town Center. Blow a few buck. It will feel good. There is something there you're dying to buy I promise.
What makes E@RTC particularly special are the friendships that formed and the huge divides between brand stereotypes that all disappeared when they discovered how much they had in common. The pitchforks, torches and crudely made hand grenades all went away and were replaced by flowers, chocolates and home-made chutney. E@RTC has changed the lives of many who are regular attendees and we hear about it all the time. Aww shucks, it's humbling. It really is so we take that part seriously.
Why is Exotics at Redmond Town Center focused on Exotics?
Short Answer: Because they are cool, different and rare.
Long Answer: We started with the goal of creating the best weekly car gathering in the US, and we wanted to build an event with such a magnificent reputation that it could draw cars from all over the world, making it worth the effort from all sides. We wanted a theme and a focus and besides, we knew there was already some car group that served every other category in the Northwest except exotics and generally rare cars.
We also wanted a theme that met the expectations of the attendees and didn’t fall into an open category that would later be the subject of confusion, debate and occasional tantrums at the entrance. We wanted to make sure we met participant and spectator expectations and we didn’t want to be just another Saturday morning gathering of cars that mostly disappointed everyone, with a few gems thrown in now and then. Think of all the other events that eventually died because of a lack of sustainable enthusiasm! Eventually they get down to that last pimply kid who just can't let it go.
We wanted E@RTC to turn into an event worth driving a great distance to attend, drawing cars so rare that few people would have seen any examples, let alone rolling in on their own wheels. If we were nothing but the same cars you see in a Pe Ell parking lot, it’s not going to be worth your drive from Pe Ell to visit E@RTC. In fact, you’d probably never come back! We also knew there were incredible cars in garages around the Northwest and we wanted them to have a reason to come out. It doesn't get more chicken and egg than this...unless you're an actual chicken.
From the participant side, some of the cars that come out go through some challenging logistics to get here and we have a deep appreciation when they show up. Some require special fuels, have complicated starting procedures, have to be moved out of museums and private collections and need permits for the few days just to attend. It often means complications not considered with daily drivers. Those owners don’t want to bring their cars unless there is the audience to appreciate them in the first place. Again, we try and make sure expectations are met on both side so everyone has a wonderful time. We know what people go through to attend E@RTC and some of you make a journey that rivals the Donner Party except nobody gets eaten.
Is my car exotic enough?
Short Answer: No.
Very Long Answer: Please read carefully! We get a lot of people who ask us if their car is exotic enough to be a part of Exotics at Redmond Town Center and so this is our best attempt at answering the question. E@RTC is focused on exotics and truly rare cars but the event has always taken the broader definition of the term “exotic.” For starters, it’s nearly impossible to define the term, unless it's someone with a brass pole in their hand, but we're not talking about that kind of exotic. When we first started E@RTC, everyone seemed to have their own definition about what was and wasn’t an exotic and we heard a lot of different opinions. We looked at various criteria created by different groups, yet nobody has ever truly defined the term, “exotic car” yet generally we all know one when we see one. Virtually any Ferrari or Lamborghini fits the term, right? Rare, expensive, etc...
We also had to consider what “exotic” means in the Northwest, which may be more narrowly defined in LA, a place with more exotics, yet at the same time, we wanted the very term to have substance so we maintained a quality event. To a kid growing up in more remote part of Wisconsin, matching paint on all sides is exotic. Just about anything foreign was once considered an exotic, no, anything other than a pickup built in the last ten years, and yet in some parts of California, exotics as we know them are so common that the term is very narrowly defined and would exclude some cars we’d covet here. Down there McDonald's has Bugatti Day for a free hash brown and they line up for miles!
After giving it a lot of thought, we at E@RTC consider an exotic to be anything that’s either very rare, generally regarded as expensive, old, or unusual, to generally fit the term as long as it’s in reasonable shape for its age. The definition includes all hot rods, classics and extremely rare and valuable cars. We will accept some unusually and highly modified cars; modified far beyond exhaust, wheels and window tinting and they must be approved to enter. Our definition does not generally include daily drivers.
Over the years, we’ve allowed cars to come in that don’t fit the term in any stretch because we had a bit of extra room and could blur the line more than usual that particular day. It's just that day. If you fall into that gray area, it doesn't mean you get in every week as we don't want to displace our core theme. As an example, per a recent show, a fairly new Mercedes CLK doesn’t fit any of the definition because it’s so common in our area. The same holds true for a standard BMW 3, 5 or 7 Series, and the same with a somewhat rare 2017 Lexus LX570, or even a Mercedes S550. This is not a comment on if they are nice cars or not. We ask ourselves, would anyone drive 50 miles to see a CLK or a 3, 5 or 7 Series, Lexus LX570 or S550? However, if you’re looking at extremely rare examples of these cars, they may fit in just fine. No, your 2015 Jeep doesn't get to come in because it's bright green like a Lamborghini.
Still, we try and make it work for the benefit of spectators if it’s with a special group or there is ample room without displacing a true exotic. As it is, we blur the line with BMW Ms sometimes and AMGs because you don’t see that many around and they are regarded as interesting by spectators. We do however have to limit the quantity. Meanwhile, an older Mercedes, or BMW approaching classic status, that’s in nice shape would probably fit the definition rather nicely. No Lexus is yet old enough or rare enough to fit the definition, except the LFA or the new LC 500, but in a few years, those early LS400s will fit just fine. Just be patient young Grasshopper.
Let's use another measuring stick. If your car when new, with the sticker on the window, as a general national practice was kept outside in the dealer's general lot, it's probably not exotic enough. The only exception is Bentley, and Rolls Royce.
However, bring us something that has been unusually modified, or interesting to see because of something extremely unique and it probably fits okay. This does not include color! We initially allowed any Tesla in but now they are everywhere and limit it to P100Ds or Xs for now. When the new 3 comes out, we will want to let in the first couple of examples.
Let us make it clear, your paint color alone doesn't make it rare nor does your custom exhaust, or because it's the only one that has yellow stitching, or because someone famous farted on the seat, it still doesn't meet the criteria. Nobody comes to see us because a car has carbon-ceramic brakes, ever. Ever! The car should be immediately identifiable as something special. We always get some kid who wants to argue with us about how special his car is. We appreciate that it is to him, but we are focused on what our spectators want to see. We're doing our best to be nice, but when we turn you down, it's not the end of the world, we promise. We just don't think the people that drove a long distance are going to appreciate what you have and this isn't everyone gets a trophy day.
We hear it from the other side when we do lower the bar. We get that email, the one that starts, "We love E@RTC, but... don't you think some of those cars shouldn't get in...?" So, it's a balancing act that is our biggest single source of angst, so please, don't give us a hard time when we turn you down. We have feelings too. Okay, some of us don't, now that I think about it.
Keep in mind, E@RTC is a combination of participants and spectators and parking can become the issue, especially on our bigger event days. We can’t get the truly expensive and rare cars to come out unless we have the spectators. We can’t get the spectators to show up if what they see was something they see every day in the grocery store parking lot. We can’t draw the rare exotics if their cars are displaced either.
Some of the truly rare exotics, especially some old classics come out of collections, require special handling, and are not that easy to transport. We want E@RTC to always be worth their time, expense and trouble to come out and that means having the right audience. It’s a balancing act and we do our best to call it as we see it and sometimes even within the volunteer’s working the gate, we don’t all agree every week on those gray area cars. If the car is right on the edge, it may fall to the person running the entrance that day and we respect their judgment. Normally, if the bar is raised slightly, it’s because of an anticipated space limitation that day.
We have very specific periodic events where we blur the line even more, depending on the situation. As an example, we held a Mini Day two years in a row, yet modern Minis individually don’t fit the broader definition of exotic, while older ones, that now fit the classic and rare category typically do. We’d host another similar event if we were approached, and it was on a day where we could make the room. As it is, we frequently host car clubs of all types and that works because spectators enjoy seeing the clubs and meeting the members. It’s always important that we know what groups are arriving ahead of time so we can keep the cars together. Please see the club section of the FAQs.
We are always open to interesting ideas if we think our spectators will love it. But email us and ask. We're nice guys! We've had obedience training. Again, now that I think about it, not all of us.
Still, in spite of all our efforts, and the good nature of the Thugs, about once a week we’re going to have that one individual who tries to make it about them, and gets upset with us because their car didn’t fit the definition that day, but they forget that one important thing; it’s not about us trying to pass judgment on anything someone drives, it’s about our intention to create the very best event we can for everyone and that’s where we need the support of the attendees to get that point across. Besides, we have rather limited room and we are now closing in on 550-600 cars on event days. Sorry, this isn't the place where a tantrum will work, even if you send in your mom with a bat.
If you’re unsure, please ask or email us. The volunteers are extremely nice people and they are not at all snobs nor do they look down on any cars, in spite of what the pimply keyboard-cowboy kid writes from time to time. We will always blur the lines towards more inclusive when we can, assuming we have room, but there is a point where some things just don’t fit or we don’t have room. Still, we ask that people stick within the general spirit of the event and if you’re not showing, at least park in one of the other lots and participate as a spectator and come look at the cars and have fun. We believe you will still get something out of the event.
Oh, and please be nice to the thugs! They are all volunteers giving up their free time to put on a good show. Giving them crap over stupid stuff like arguing about how many were made with that badge ruins it for everyone, especially for those who work the front entrance. And, we do kick people out when they behave badly.
There, we've kicked this topic to death.
Why are the volunteers called the “Thugs?”
Short Answer: Because it's funny.
Long Answer: The term “Parking Thug” is in reference to the volunteers who are in the green shirts parking cars. The term was coined by Eric Reeves; also one of our original volunteers, after the two founders were initially getting so much heat after focusing specifically on exotics for the event. In the early days, the gathering was constantly under assault to make it something different and Tom and Vic were working overtime to keep the event, friendly and focused and set the behavior standard so the gathering would last.
We initially had problems with some car owners doing burnouts on arrival and exit, cars revving their engines, and some confusion about where to park within the lots. We had to kick a few people out for bad behavior. The two founders saw the event quickly building and decided that they had to help guide people to parking spots rather than let them park on their own so we added vests and radios to find each other and added more help to manage other lots. The vests, and radios, jackets and finally shirts cemented the look.
What most people don’t know is that the shirts are less about safety for the Thugs and more about the volunteer’s need to spot each other as we run from lot to lot to help get cars in the right spot. The shirts also make it a lot easier for drivers to look for someone to help them get lined up for that perfect photo. They also make us look like we shower more than some of us do.
It was right after a forum controversy about burnouts and standards of behavior when Eric showed up the following Saturday morning and asked how the two founding “Thugs” were doing and the term stuck. We’ve been affectionately known as the beloved “Parking Thugs” ever since. What’s made the term become amusing is that you couldn’t find a nicer bunch of guys anywhere who are there to help you have the best time possible.
Oh, one other thing about the Thugs. Because they are on headsets and there is a lot of chatter, they may look at you like they are in a walking coma, when they may just be getting an update. The walking coma look usually goes away when the headsets come off for most, but not all of them.
Why do you park the cars by make?
Short Answer: Because it looks better.
Long Answer: From the day we began E@RTC, we were watching how participants gathered at the event. We quickly learned that not all spectators like the same kind of cars. We also learned that car owners of a specific model like to meet other owners of the same type and compare and discuss their cars, share tips etc. It also makes for great photography. We’ve noticed that the photos that tend to go viral are those of groups of specific cars. We get requests over and over that owners want their cars to be with others of the same type so we’ve made that our layout backbone.
Every Saturday morning the volunteers meet and take into account the weather, other shows, the lot layout, and a bunch of other factors to decide where cars will go that day. As an example many open tops don't have heaters and only show up on warm days. There are no two weeks where we park all of the same cars in the same area. We also take into account car height to give the photographers those long wide shots. We tend to put the taller cars on the perimeter. The thugs also plan based on what we know will show up that day, often getting that information from either direct contact or various forum and Facebook chatter. We then decided who will work each section and allow them some latitude to arrange the cars as they see fit. We take into account themes, special cars, or any other considerations, right down to color. We also take into account clubs or special events that happen after E@RTC.
Once the volunteers know where the cars will go, we then use radios to communicate how and where each car is going as they arrive so that all the Thugs know what’s going on. From the moment we spot the cars on Bear Creek, we’re already calling the greeter on the radio to determine the row for that car so that we can keep the cars moving. Consider we sometimes move over 400 cars in an hour, it takes serious coordination and concentration and there is a lot of radio chatter. This is why when you arrive, you get a quick response about where the car should go and we typically already have someone to guide you to the perfect spot and get you landed in the shortest possible time. It’s much like air traffic control. With as many volunteers as we have, and with a large number of cars coming in, we sometimes are in continuous logistics conversations and therefore don’t have much time to socialize on busy days. We’re very busy landing cars!
It helps tremendously if you arrive with your window down and keep it down until you’re parked. This is for both direction and safety. It makes it way easier for us to communicate with you too.
Cars begin to leave at 11:00 AM and we typically let people just leave on their own, however we prefer you follow someone out for safety. If you have to leave early we ask that you let a Thug know and they will help you exit safely. Also, if you have to leave early, please let us know when you arrive so you’re not blocked in or parked in a difficult spot to exit. We will work with you. We also will try and get you next to your friends (assuming the same car make or type, depending on section) or help with any special needs.
Who pays for E@RTC?
Short Answer: A few people and some sponsors.
Long Answer: In the early days of E@RTC, the entire cost was covered by primarily one of the founders and the volunteers with some support from Redmond Town Center. Beginning with our E@RTC Party, Redmond Town Center has also helped with costs and does a tremendous amount of work to support the event. They have opened up passages between lots, covered the cost of advertising, security and bring out the tables and chairs. They have been nothing short of incredible. We therefore ask that you shop at RTC whenever possible. Let the store managers know you come to E@RTC. We've had sponsors help us buy our jackets and they are listed on our site. This year we've had additional sponsorship from Ferrari of Seattle and Lamborghini Bentley Rolls Royce of Bellevue and a huge thanks to them.
One of the founders and the other volunteers still pick up the majority of the expenses in both real cost and time. This is a non-commercial event and there are no plans to turn it into a for-profit venture. We’re trying to keep the administrative load to a minimum so we’re not out to add complexity with outside revenue and paperwork. This is all a donation to the car community to do something nice.
The volunteer commitment of time is far more than the two hours on the morning of the event and they carry a big load. We much appreciate their efforts and they are significant. There are regular planning meetings, forums, blogs, tweets, a website, and other social media to maintain, there are photos to edit, scan, post, press to contend with, and lots and lots of questions to answer all year. The volunteers coordinate with manufacturers, coordinate and plan special events, procure cars, interface with the mall, and deal with a mountain of small details. For each volunteer it’s an average of a ten-hour a week commitment and even in our off season there is work to do for the following year. Thousands of man-hours go into each season and without the Thugs, there would be no way to sustain the event. Without them, there would be no E@RTC. We can’t thank them enough and it means a lot when you thank them too.
When do you cancel the event?
Short Answer: When it rains.
Long Answer: We cancel Exotics at Redmond Town Center every time the AVERAGE chance of rain is 30% or higher on the morning of the event. We look at two primary sources, Weather.com and Wunderground.com. You can find a link on our site to our primary weather reporting source. We look at the narrative discussion about weather as it’s supplied by NOAA and we watch the hourly forecast. Sometimes the weather sources get it wrong but most of the time they are correct. Cars and spectators don’t come out if the weather is marginal. Besides, we try not to burn out our volunteers so the rainy weather gives them the day off.
We post if we’re on or off in several places. We send out a tweet, we post on Facebook, we post here and we send you an email if you're registered on our site.
We try and post 48 hours in advance if we can, however sometimes we can’t call it until Friday afternoon. We can not make our decision the morning of the event because there is a lot of work that goes into clearing the lots the night before and setting up for the event. The amount of logistics is not trivial and we apologize when the weather folks get it wrong. We rely on their primary expertise.
Does the event run all year?
Short Answer: No.
Not-as-short Answer: We wrap up the season after what looks like the last nice weekend of the year, but before RTC prepares for the holiday season. This means sometime in late October or early November. We begin again the first week in April. We tried starting earlier in the season but it was miserable. Besides, what typically happens each spring is that we have our kickoff event, then about eight weeks of straight rained out weekends, in which case we’re almost into summer. It’s just not practical to run all year.
Do you allow clubs to park together?
Short Answer: Only when we know you're coming.
Slightly Longer Answer: Yes, if you let us know ahead of time, we will keep club cars in a group, but we have to plan well in advance these days. We need a very specific count and how that will be split by type and the cars have to show up early. We do not allow club drop-ins because of our planning requirements.
Why do you close the entrance when a few spots remain?
Short Answer: So we have room for your mom.
Long Answer: Parking cars at E@RTC is a bit of a guessing game. We don’t know what’s going to show up or when or how many. We leave spots open sometimes because we’re expecting more of that type or a club wanted the extra space or we have something coming that we know about. Besides, we are not going to turn away special cars when they may have issues getting there that day, so we ALWAYS make sure there are a few remaining spots for those special cars. We recently had a non-exotic argue with us because he insisted his car made 400 HP, as if that made the difference taking up one of those spots. It doesn’t, and he missed the entire point of the event, including a bad attitude when we were trying to explain the situation. His car was not exotic and the lots were nearly full. We have to make the call to potentially displace something very special and we can’t do that and maintain the integrity of the show. Those people with attitudes ruin it for everyone.
What happens to people who behave badly?
Short Answer: We kick them out.
Long Answer: Oh, you ask a great question Grasshopper. They are the biggest fools of them all. Books could be written about fools and not match their foolishness. For one, it is one of the most video recorded places on the Eastside. You're basically standing under the Hubble. There is someone shooting video everywhere from all directions, including from the buildings above. There is someone watching the security cameras at all times and there is some dude with a satellite who's into cars who's looking at you from a few hundred miles up. Behave badly and you could end up on YouTube, in jail or most likely both. Not to mention your court date where we provide the delicious lightly salted popcorn and refreshments for your trial.
We have several volunteers who are also police officers so you are watched. Thinking of doing that fancy burnout to prove you are the only one who can keep a Mustang in control after not getting in? Well, think again little Grasshopper. We have police ready to take you to a very small prison cell where you will have to share that tiny space with a guy who's most likely not showered since last year who has a deep fondness for how you look in them jeans. There are other towns that desperately need a village idiot and we suggest you go where they will welcome you with open arms.