Morris Cruise Night founder Herb Wyeth described this month’s event as having an incredibly successful turnout, despite September’s cooler weather.
“We had a lot of cars that drove several hours to be here,” Wyeth said. “We really pride ourselves on attracting all sorts of people and making this a family event.”
Saturday’s Cruise Night brought in a total of 877 vehicles, which was just shy of the 886 record hit last month.
Wyeth previously told the Morris City Council they were running out of room for all the vehicles in the space they were allowed to use downtown. He then proposed a plan for additional parking, which was implemented this month.
This plan included barricading Franklin Street at Washington Street, so only show vehicles could use the street. The vehicles came through to be lined up for assigned parking, and parking spots on Washington were used for additional parking.
They also barricaded where Liberty hits Illinois so the spaces on Liberty could be used for show cars. Wyeth said they were able to fill about three-quarters of the additional spaces opened up.
“We were able to learn a little bit that’s going to help us out next month,” he said. “We have the footprint down, and we’re definitely going to be able to improve our functionality in that area.”
Among those who filled the extra spaces was first-time Cruise Night attendee Matt Peterson, who drove approximately 50 miles from Waterman.
Peterson traded in his 1955 Buick three years ago for a 1929 Ford model that he reconstructed into a popular rat rod style – a custom car exaggerating the style of ’40s and ’50s hot rods.
What he described as an “unfinished project” ended up attracting many of the evening’s spectators. Much of the work done on the vehicle he completed himself, including but not limited to chopping the top, channeling the body and completing the paint work.
“My favorite part of the car is the interior,” he said. “I drew it out and picked out the colors, but it’s a totally different experience when you send it off to get work done and then get it back. ... The before and after was so different.”
Peterson, who works day-time as a mechanic, decided to attend his first Cruise Night in Morris after hearing about the event from co-workers.
“We just got back from the Symco Shakedown up in Wisconsin. ... It was like hot rod summer camp,” Peterson said.
Another fan favorite belonged to Vince Montelpasse of Tinley Park, who brought along his Chevy Nova. He bought the car seven years ago off eBay for $910, but he had to drive more than 350 miles to Wadsworth, Ohio, to get it.
“I was really wanting my dad’s 1972 Nova, but he said I couldn’t have it until he dies,” he joked.
Montelpasse has been attending Cruise Night for the past few years. He has also driven to events in Iowa, Michigan and Springfield, just in the past two weeks.
“I’ve probably driven close to 2,500 miles in the past couple months,” he said. “I want to enjoy [the car], drive it… not just let it sit in the garage.”
This month’s event had a total of 124 cities represented, including five new cities: Prairie View, Wilmette, Gridley, Rantoul and Merrionette Park. The beneficiary of the event was R.E.A.C.H. (Realizing Educational and Career Hopes). The 50-50 raffle raised approximately $7,900, half of it going to Chad Laning of St. Charles.
The vehicle of the night selected as the Beneficiary’s Choice was a 1999 custom Corvette, owned by Craig Hyslop of Orland Park. The Celebrity’s Choice, selected by Ray and Rose Grossi of Midwest Signworks, was a 1959 Impala owned by Gordon Woeltje.
The next Morris Cruise Night is from 6 to 9 p.m. Oct. 12. Proceeds of the 50-50 raffle will go to We Care of Grundy County.
For information on Morris Cruise Nights, visit morriscruisenight.com.