MORRIS – Liberty Street in Morris was packed Saturday evening with automobiles of all shapes, sizes and eras Saturday the kickoff of the 2014 season of Morris Cruise Night.
The closure of downtown streets allowed car enthusiasts the opportunity to show off their rides, with hundreds of automobiles on display from different corners of the region.
“We use it as a way to get out with the family and see what others in the area keep in their garage,” Mark Eller of Plainfield said. “It’s a really friendly environment, and the atmosphere isn’t as competitive as a lot of other car shows.”
Classic rock played over loudspeakers while attendees strolled the streets, enjoying the pleasant summer weather and wide array of sparkling automobiles.
There were 872 automobiles entered in the June cruise night, with more than 140 cities represented. The numbers point to the event surpassing the goal of more than 1,000 automobiles entering. Each Cruise Night benefits a different organization and Saturday’s was for Grundy Community Volunteer Hospice, which received $4,610 from the fundraiser.
“We’ve had a rough winter this year, and I think it’s only going to encourage people to get out of the house and come on down,” said Rance Welsh, vice president of Morris Cruise Night. “We’re confident we’ll hit our goal. We’re just not sure where we’re going to put them all.”
Although the show is planned and organized for members of the community, the small fee to display vehicles brings many car owners from far-away states, such as Louisiana and Nevada.
This year’s Morris Cruise Night season offers an expanded area and more space for entrants to show off their automobiles. The expansion came after members of the organization approached the Morris City Council last year about the possibility of closing more streets and offering extended support for entrants.
“We’re more than pleased with the city of Morris and how they’ve helped us grow the event,” Welsh said. “Without their support, we wouldn’t have been able to make most of this happen so smoothly.”
Children enjoyed ice cream with their parents and in some cases, the opportunity to sit behind the wheel of antique modes of transportation. Strollers and wagons rolled through the crowds carrying the young through the different decades of vehicles
Steve Bacherski, of Aurora, made the trip to exhibit his 2011 Dodge Challenger SRT.
“I’ve been coming to shows like this for years,” Bacherski said. “This show has more of a ‘hang-out’ vibe, and I enjoy just getting a chance to look. The Morris Cruise Night pulls from a lot of different areas of people who are interested in cars, and that gives people a lot to look at.”
The Morris Lions Club was on hand to raffle off its 1972 Oldsmobile Cutlass. Tom Kinzler and his wife, Terry, sold tickets to those passing for a chance to drive off in the pristine, yellow, convertible.
“The Morris Lions Club specializes in helping the less-fortunate get the glasses and hearing-aids they need to live an enjoyable and productive life,” Tom Kinzler said. “By being able to raffle off the classic car at these events, it gives us the chance to help even more people over the course of the coming year.”
A production team from the Velocity Channel was on hand to document the event and the variety of rides parked throughout the downtown-area. The team took audio and video footage for upcoming segments to be featured on the television channel.
As the sun set on Liberty Street, the festivities came to a close. The streets of Morris flooded with entrant’s classic cars and the sound of squealing tires, and loud tailpipes echoed throughout the downtown as hundreds of vehicles rumbled away.
“It was the perfect night to kick things off between the weather and turn out,” event organizer Herb Wyeth said. “We look forward to the coming months and hope to get more people out in the streets.”
CRUISE NIGHT WINNERS
• Beneficiary’s Choice Award by Grundy Community Volunteer Hospice: Bob Narvick of Morris’s 1957 Ford T-bird
• Celebrity Choice Award by Grundy County Clerk Lana Phillips: Tom Shay of Morris’s Nash Metropolitan