Classics come to town: Cruise Nite begins Friday

By: Krissi Khokhobashvili, Journal Features Editor
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Cruise Nite season is revving up, with the first car show presented May 11 in Downtown Auburn.

Now in its 28th year, Cruise Nite draws 300 classic cars and thousands of people who love them to four blocks of Lincoln Way. The event started in 1984 in the parking lot of Foster’s Freeze, where car aficionados would show off their sweet rides. Now the event packs throngs of residents and visitors alike to Lincoln Way.

 “I am just amazed at the quality of cars that are here in the Auburn area,” said Cruise Nite co-chair Bob Kennedy. “They bring them out of the woodwork.”

The cars also come from far beyond Auburn, as Cruise Nite is a popular draw for car enthusiasts because they don’t have to pay to enter. While a few awards are given, such as Best Stock and Best Modified, the point of the show is to give families and car lovers a fun way to spend their Friday evening.

“You can hardly walk down the street!” said co-chair Jack Kenny, who added that dogs are not allowed at the event, per the event permit from the city.

Each Cruise Nite draws thousands of people, organizers said, with the most popular being the kickoff show and the September event, which includes a 9-11 memorial ceremony.

The vehicles are from 1972 and older, and the only stipulation is that no motorcycles are allowed. People have brought cars, trucks and even vintage fire engines to the show, although organizers request they be informed ahead of time if a vehicle will require more than one parking space. Kennedy said people can expect to see cars as old as Model Ts, and in all stages of restoration.

“Some guys bring their cars down there and the paint’s all faded and rusty,” he smiled. “We don’t care. We’re not there to judge what they’re driving; we just like seeing the old cars out there on the road.”

Still, the majority of the classic cars are in pristine condition, with some so exquisite they hardly ever touch pavement.

“There’s a couple of guys who have really classic cars – they’ll trailer them, park the truck and trailer on a side street and drive their car in because they’re that restored, that pristine,” Kennedy said. “Some of these cars, they don’t see the street.”

Visitors can enjoy several food vendors, including hamburgers, hot dogs, Mexican food and kettle corn. Pistol Pete’s runs a beer booth, and a DJ will play rock ’n’ roll throughout the night. Vendors pay a fee to set up at Cruise Nite, and after the bills are paid, any money left over from booths and event sponsors goes to the Downtown Business Association, Cruise Nite’s partner. The 2011 event raised $4,500 for the DBA.

This is the first year longtime co-chair Dick Kiger will not be an organizer, although he still serves in an advisory capacity and will certainly head downtown Friday to check out the cars. He’s been a Cruise Nite volunteer for more than 20 years, 15 of them as co-chair. While he loves the event, he said, at 89 years old it’s time to step back.

“It’s a labor of love,” Kiger said. “And the camaraderie that goes with it – the people and the cars – it’s just an enjoyable thing. It was a good ride. I just enjoyed doing it. When you get results and get 300 cars or more on the street, and civilians show up, elbow to elbow, it makes you say, ‘Well darn it, this was worthwhile.’”


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Cruise Nite
5-9 p.m. Friday, May 11
Where: Lincoln Way, Downtown Auburn
Cost: Free
Info: (530) 887-1604; (530) 878-7936
Remaining Cruise Nites: June 8, July 13, Aug. 10, Sept. 14