Organizers of the Stater Bros. Route 66 Rendezvous believe so firmly in San Bernardino's signature event that they are unwilling to accept overtures from Ontario.

Those overtures came before organizers announced Tuesday that this year's Rendezvous - a 23-year-old San Bernardino tradition - would be canceled because the cash to put it on just wasn't available.

"We discussed the idea with Ontario, and frankly, Stater Bros.' position is Route 66 is a San Bernardino event," said Jim Gerstenslager, chairman of board for the San Bernardino Convention and Visitors Bureau, producers of the Rendezvous.

Michael Krouse, president and CEO of the Ontario Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Ontario Convention Center, said he had essentially offered about six weeks ago to keep the Rendezvous alive.

"I assured all parties the event was not going to leave San Bernardino, but there would be more people involved," Krouse said. "The people who own these fabulous cars want to drive them to other cities on the road also."

Krouse's plan would essentially take the event on the road.

"For example, on Day 1 it would be in San Bernardino, then Day 2 in Rancho Cucamonga, then Day 3 in Ontario. It will be good for San Bernardino, good for Ontario, good for the Inland Empire," he said.

The San Bernardino Convention and Visitors Bureau on Tuesday cited financial difficulties when it announced its decision to suspend the annual Rendezvous.

The decision to put the Rendezvous on hiatus in 2013 was made in order to preserve the quality and integrity of the event, said Stater Bros. Chairman and CEO Jack Brown in a statement.

Brown's San Bernardino-based supermarket chain is the title sponsor to the event, and just last year renewed its 5-year title sponsorship contract with the San Bernardino Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Brown couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday.

"Jack Brown and I are hoping that by having this hiatus, the economic situation will turn around and next year we'll be putting all our efforts into the Rendezvous and it will come back," Gerstenslager said.

According to former San Bernardino Convention and Visitors Bureau President Wayne Austin, the bureau's budget for the Rendezvous is $500,000 to break even.

"They would usually either make or lose $25,000 - one way or the other," Austin said.

Last year's event barely happened.

As the city dropped further into insolvency, organizers chose to keep the show downtown, leaning on donations from the public to cover the costs of law enforcement and trash pickups.

The show's exit from San Bernardino's 2013 calendar is accompanied by the closing of both the San Bernardino Convention and Visitors Bureau and the California Welcome Center, a tourism information center.

"We spent months trying to come up with options, figuring out how we can salvage the Rendezvous this year - but there are no options without financial help," Gerstenslager said. "It's strictly an economic situation - planning permits and lining up vendors would have to be in place by now."

Krouse said a 1-year hiatus would make bringing back the Rendezvous challenging because the cost would have escalated to re-build it.

Typically, the Rendezvous attracted about 500,000 visitors to downtown San Bernardino on the third weekend of September.

"It could be much bigger and better if not limited to just San Bernardino," Krouse said. "However, I do respect what they say about keeping it in San Bernardino. The point is it should move so each day it is cool and different."

The Rendezvous is important for local business and drives overnight visitors - people who have not experienced this region before, according to Krouse.

"We think it's a strong enough event to bring it back," Gerstenslager said.

michel.nolan@inlandnewspapers.com

909 386-3859