Visitors to downtown Morris were rocketed back in time Saturday night, as the third Cruise Night of the year overtook Liberty Street.
Started in 2002, Cruise Night is modeled after an old tradition in Morris called “Buzzing the Gut,” slang for cruising through downtown.
Over the years the venue has grown, with cars not only showcased along Liberty Street, but also one block both east and west on cross streets from Illinois Avenue to the railroad crossing, including a handful of parking lots.
This event, however, takes place the second Saturday of the month from June through October and isn’t only a place for hot rods and muscle cars to flex their gears.
“It’s a great event, we bring a lot of money back to the community,” Cruise Night founder Herb Wyeth said. “It’s all volunteers and 95% of our money goes back to charities, the beneficiaries.”
Each month, the organization picks a local charitable organization to work the show. That group can sell food and 50/50 raffle tickets to earn cash for their cause. August’s beneficiary was the Morris Rotary Club. Applications to be a beneficiary are due by the end of the year.
The Morris Cruise Night organization also utilizes help from Illinois Valley Industries. The social service organization helps to pack the informational bags that are handed to the drivers, and receives a donation for their assistance.
The organization also donates to Operation St. Nick, and provides two $1,000 scholarships to the Grundy County Vocational Center.
“That’s very dear to my heart because I was in their first class, so it’s giving back,” Wyeth said. “It’s all volunteers and they work their hearts out to be here. ... To manage 700 or 800 cars is a challenge.”
Wyeth said that although Cruise Night isn’t immune to criticism, volunteers learn as they go, working to make each month better and operate more smoothly than the previous, and addressing any issues that may come up.
“We really try to do the best we can on every show, and we learn,” he said.
The event draws in a multitude of vehicles from antique cars and trucks to muscle cars to motorcycles and even fire engines and race cars.
The rules are simple: no alcohol, no pets, no campaigning, no outside vendors. Just wander up and down Liberty Street and have a good time.
Each vehicle pays a $10 entry fee. There are two awards handed out at the end of the night – the beneficiary’s choice, and the celebrity’s choice.
Cruise Night participants come from all over the country, and the combined events from June through October draw more than 8,000 visitors to downtown Morris.
Cruise Night’s record number of vehicles is 917, and Wyeth said they hope to get to vehicles 1,000 eventually.
“The community comes out, and that’s one of the attractions here,” he said.
Saturday’s show had a total of 680 entries from 122 cities in Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and Oklahoma. Wyeth said the show has become so popular that they don’t really have to advertise for participants anymore, instead relying on word of mouth.
The next Cruise Night is Sept. 14.
For information about, Morris Cruise Night on their website,