FerndaleAugust 15, 2012
Ferndale gearing up for three days of cruisin’ good times
By Jeremy Selweski
C & G Staff Writer
FERNDALE — Sometimes bigger really is better.
Last year, organizers of the Ferndale Dream Cruise opted to consolidate the city’s annual celebration of classic cars and rock ‘n’ roll to Nine Mile Road east of Woodward Avenue. It was an attempt to compensate financially after MotorCity Casino Hotel ended its decade-long sponsorship of the Dream Cruise, as well as an effort to minimize the economic impact on downtown businesses.
But according to Michael Lary, event organizer of the Ferndale Dream Cruise, the downsizing experiment proved to be unpopular, and organizers quickly learned their lesson. Now they have once again spread out the automotive amusements across both sides of Nine Mile and expanded the celebration with the addition of a handful of new events.
“Last year was kind of a bump in the road,” Lary admitted. “We just weren’t happy with the setup that we had, and neither were our sponsors or the spectators. This event requires a lot of space to make it work well, and there’s just not enough space on East Nine Mile to comfortably maintain the fun, vibrant atmosphere that people love so much about this event. Bringing West Nine Mile back into the mix will restore a great deal of balance.”
The boon for local businesses in 2011 was also not as significant as organizers had hoped. “Things have gotten to the point where no matter what we do, people in this area still have to face all the same challenges,” Lary said. “So instead of fighting it, we realized that we should try to give people a reason to hang out and spend money here.”
All the old standbys that made Ferndale the place “where the dream began” will be back in full force this year. Many of the attractions, including the “Built Ford Tough” Ford trucks display, Rock ‘n’ Live Entertainment stage, Kids Play Zone, food court and merchant vendors will kick off Aug. 16 along West Nine Mile, between Woodward and Allen Road. The next day will feature the city’s annual Emergency Vehicle Show, as well as the official Dream Cruise ribbon cutting ceremony and the Lights and Sirens Cruise in the evening.
The fun will continue on Aug. 18 with Ferndale’s signature Mustang Alley showcase, featuring about 800 classic Ford Mustangs of every imaginable make and model along East Nine Mile, between Woodward and Hilton Road. In addition, spectators can check out the annual Classics & Cruis’n Legends Vehicle Show on Vester Street, between Woodward and Bermuda Street.
There will also be a pair of brand- new attractions this year. The Cars in Art event will feature artists from two Ferndale tattoo shops painting automotive themes on the bodies of Ford Transit Connect cargo vans.
“That one was actually my idea,” Lary pointed out, “because I thought it would be really cool to see art created on the side of a vehicle live in person. One of them is going to be using spray paint, and the other is going to be using Sharpie markers.”
The other new event for 2012 is the Restoration Academy, in which a team of metro Detroit students and retired automotive engineers will build a complete classic car on location.
“The hope there is to inspire young men and women who might be unsure of what they want to do with their life, but maybe they would want to pursue a career as a mechanic for classic cars,” Lary explained. “It’s kind of a way to pass the torch down to a new generation of car lovers.”
In addition, the Ferndale Dream Cruise will serve as the location of the awards ceremony for the second annual Michigan Gumball Road Rally, which will include a special guest appearance by racing legend Shirley Muldowney, the first female drag racer.
Created by automotive enthusiast and Dream Cruise fanatic Randy Kohler, the Gumball Rally is a three-day, 1,100-mile road trip across Michigan during the weekend prior to the cruise. Kohler estimated that nearly 100 fellow cruise lovers would be participating this year.
Beyond the simple enjoyment and camaraderie of the event, it is also intended to support Michigan businesses, charities and tourism. This year’s rally will raise funds for the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, the Bryson’s F.U.E.L. childhood cancer foundation, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast cancer organization, and the Ford Model T Automotive Heritage Complex in Detroit.
“I’m amazed at how much momentum we’ve gained in just a little over a year of existence,” Kohler said. “It’s been really cool to see the level of support that people have shown us and how excited they are to be a part of this.”
Kohler was inspired to create the Gumball Rally by Nelson House, the founder of the Woodward Dream Cruise, who passed away in 2010 at age 69 following a battle with colon cancer. The longtime Ferndale resident inadvertently created the Dream Cruise phenomenon in August 1995 when he organized the event as a fundraiser to build a children’s soccer field in Ferndale.
“Nelson House showed me, without a doubt, that one person really can change the world for the better,” Kohler said. “He was just a man with a simple idea, and that idea grew to become the biggest one-day automotive event in the world. After he died, I just felt like someone needed to step up and fill that void.”
Between the established traditions and such new additions as the Gumball Rally, Restoration Academy and Cars in Art, the 2012 Ferndale Dream Cruise is shaping up as an antidote to the downsizing seen at last year’s celebration. Lary wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Ferndale is where you want to be for the Dream Cruise because we have such a huge variety of events over a three-day span,” he said. “Every year, we try to think outside the box without forgetting what this event is all about: celebrating days that have gone by, classic cars, cruising culture and rock ‘n’ roll. But it really has become bigger than that. We attract a very large, very diverse audience of all different types of people who have this one thing in common.”
To view a complete schedule of events for the Ferndale Dream Cruise, visit www.ferndaledreamcruise.com. For more information, call (248) 546-1573.
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