Harper Charity Cruise roars into town Aug. 28

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published August 21, 2013

ST. CLAIR SHORES — It’s back!

The last car cruise of the season will be in town from 5-9 p.m. Aug. 28 along Harper Avenue from Old Eight Mile Road to one block past Martin Road. Hosted each year by the Shorewood Kiwanis, the Harper Charity Cruise is unique in that all the proceeds go to area charities.

“All that money goes back into the community,” said Dr. Carl Papa, a Kiwanis Board Member and Lt. Governor for Michigan Kiwanis Division 1.

To raise as much as possible for the charities — and put on the best cruise possible — organizers say they’re always looking to do something new.

“We’re trying to enhance the cruise as much as we can without costing us any more money,” said Cruise Committee Chairman Tom Ulrich.

Last year, Shorewood Kiwanis inserted a map of the cruise, complete with party locations and T-shirt stands, inside the Sentinel. That map is back, he said, because it really enhanced the cruise and “changed the attitude of the people on the street.”

Advertisers on cruise T-shirts, which sell along the route for $10, make sure that all money raised from T-shirt sales and donations along the cruise route go right back to the charities the cruise supports, after expenses are covered.

“We’re the only 100 percent charity cruise in the metro area,” Papa said. “We get no support from the city — we pay the police … (and) they see some of the finest collection of classic cars in a small space around.”

Ulrich agreed that, unlike some of the bigger car cruises around, the intimacy of Harper Avenue allows enthusiasts to get up close to their favorite cars.

“On Harper, it’s all right there,” he said. “They park on the boulevard … in the parking lots. You can actually talk to the (owner). They’re very, very accommodating — they live for that.”

Along the cruise route, different businesses host parties for loyal customers or anyone at the cruise. Ulrich said passersby can look for “sanctioned party” signs to see where to stop.

A big draw this year will be in the Kmart parking lot on Harper Avenue at Nine Mile Road. Local auto shop students will have vehicles on display, which they’ve had restored and have taken to car shows around the country. Also, students from Macomb Community College’s Graphic Design Program — who are invited each year to produce the cruise logo — will have a display, as will the Macomb Community College computer-aided design (CAD) program.

“They’ve got their own car that they’re showing off,” Ulrich said. “It’s something you’ll want to go see.”

Papa said that CKWW, a Windsor, Ontario, AM oldies station, will be broadcasting live from the corner of Nine Mile and Harper, as well.

“I think that’ll be really cool,” he said. “Nine and Harper is the No. 1 spot with those guys there.”

Children at the cruise can enjoy themselves at Bagnasco & Calcaterra Funeral Home, 25800 Harper Ave., where the north parking lot will be devoted to a bounce house, bounce slide, tunnel, popcorn and a clown.

“I’m sure that will be a great event for kids,” Ulrich said, adding that that’s where children’s-sized T-shirts will be on sale, too.

Papa said those looking for Mopar cars should definitely come to the cruise.

“I think there’s actually more old Mopar cars like Chryslers and Dodges and Plymouths over here than on the west side, and I think that’s due to the number of Chrysler employees that worked on the east side rather than the west side,” he said.

Anywhere along the route, though, he said visitors can get a great show.

“Just go out, grab a spot,” he said. “It’s a fun time and you buy that T-shirt, it’s helping somebody.

“It all goes back to Shorewood and we pass it out to the community.”