Gentlemen, restart your Cruise Ins

Friday, May 28, 2010

The extremely popular Cruise Ins that started last spring are returning to the Lewisburg public square on Saturday afternoon.

However, there's new management and what's ostensibly a car show has been expanded to include a variety of family activities.

From 5-8 p.m., the Cruise In is to resume as a place for gear heads and antique auto aficionados to show what they've got under the hood, and to allow close up examination of their paint job, interior and details.

Some cars may be on display as early as 3 p.m. if drivers want a nice, shady spot. But at noon, the east side of the square will be closed so sponsors and other participants may start setting up their tents, booths and other arrangements.

Meanwhile, the Lewisburg Art Guild will oversee sidewalk chalk art drawings on the square, and the event's new managers will set up a dunking booth for politicians on the vacant lot at Church Street and North First Avenue.

All of this and more is according to Ken Todd, spokesman for the Lewisburg Downtown Alliance and proprietor of Too Squared photography and graphic arts.

"We won't know how many cars will be on display until they arrive," Todd said. "Fliers are to be distributed in Columbia at the Big Lots parking lot where there's another car show Saturday morning."

The invitation seemed to work last spring when the first Cruise In was held. That day hundreds of flashy cars, restored, preserved and loved antique autos arrived at the Courthouse a couple of hours earlier than the program was scheduled to start.

Owners of classic cars and folks who admire them are invited to buy lunch on Lewisburg's public square where food will be available from Pitt Hogs barbecue, the Corner Café, a smoker set up in front of the Fun Time Game Room, and - from '50s & Fiddles, hot dogs and ice cream.

LASA, the Lewisburg Animal Shelter Adoptions organization will be selling soft drinks, chips and baked goods to raise money for the group's rescue of stray dogs.

Church Street on the north side of the square was closed for overflow parking for the first Cruise In on that Saturday afternoon in 2009. This year, it will be different.

Closures of two sides of the square are anticipated, if needed.

According to Todd:

* The east side of the square between Commerce and Church streets will be closed at noon.

* The west side of the square, between Commerce and Church will be closed if necessary, although it's unclear whether the event will require closure of three said.

Firefighters, county paramedics and emergency medical technicians from their respective departments will be located at First Avenue to display their vehicles and explain their services, Todd said.

That location was selected "for easy exit if there's an emergency, he said.

Todd is among the downtown merchants who've created the Lewisburg Downtown Alliance. The LDA is led by its president, the Rev. Leland Carden, a member of the Lewisburg Planning Commission and a pastor who's led a church in Clinton, Tenn., where the city and downtown property owners restored and preserved the historic appearance of their commercial center.

The LDA is chartered to be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization as permitted by the Internal Revenue Code. As such, it's a tax-free group with by-laws and a legal status.

The Cruise Ins were started by several city residents, merchants and city leaders who wanted to have an event for fun that would also attract people to Lewisburg for the economic benefits that come with tourism and crowds of people in town.

The informal assembly of gearheads, antique car owners and just folks who like vintage vehicles has released management of the Cruise Ins to the LDA and that association of merchants is expanding on the concept.

One of the ways they're doing that was explained in an announcement circulated this week to all candidates in the upcoming elections on Aug. 5.

"The LDA will be hosting a Political Dunk Tank at the Cruise In the Square this Saturday evening with all proceeds going to help support some of our future planned events," the LDA said.

"In this day of unflattering, negative political attacks, what better way to cool your aggression against your opponent than by getting dunked in a tub of ice cold water by your future constituents?

"Or even, perhaps, your opponent?"

LDA invites the candidates to be at the Cruise In the Square where they may "sign up in the spirit of good fun and let the community take out its frustration with the current political landscape in a wholesome, healthy way, with a laugh or two.

"Better here than at the polls," the LDA said. "We dare you."

Rick Spence, one of three candidates for county mayor, is a member of the LDA and he's been asked to call all the candidates and schedule their appearance on the dunk tank's seat.

The LDA also announced six places where restrooms will be open during the event: Bank of America, the Courthouse, Fun World, Corner Café, the south entrance to the county jail and the historic Ladies Rest Room.