Local car cruise preparations underway

By: Kevin Bunch | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published May 14, 2014

EASTPOINTE/ROSEVILLE — With cruises coming up in June and July, organizers in Eastpointe and Roseville are working to secure sponsorships, routes and activities for the cities’ respective events.

Eastpointe’s is up first, with the 16th annual Cruisin’ Gratiot starting at 11 a.m. June 14. Roseville’s second annual Gratiot Cruise is scheduled for July 26 and should start around noon.

Harvey Curley, president of the Cruisin’ Gratiot board of directors, said they had in excess of 150,000 people at last year’s cruise, a number he expected they would meet again this time around. Car shows will be taking place the week leading up to the cruise itself, however.

Curley said there are car shows planned at the Cloverleaf Tuesday, First State Bank on Wednesday, the Villa and Wow Electronics Thursday, and at East Detroit High School’s parking lot on Friday and Saturday.

Additionally, Curley said the vacant Colonial Dodge parking lot at Gratiot Avenue and Stephens Road will have space for cars to park for display, and it will feature things for children, like face painting and a bounce house. The cruise itself will be along Gratiot, from Eight Mile Road to 10 Mile, with the cars looping back around in a circle.

“We have a dedicated cruise lane that the state allows us to close — the inside lane — and we will have 400-500 cars trawling back and forth,” Curley said. “We have people from Windsor, Toledo, and have had them come up as far as Bay City, Charlevoix, Traverse City, and pretty much the whole state.”

Since Eastpointe allows people onto the median, he added that people tend to congregate there to hold barbecues, eat lunch and watch the cars go by.

The cost of the Eastpointe event is estimated at around $17,000 for the city to provide public safety and public works employees, and Curley said this year the planners held a dinner dance May 7 to help defray those costs.

He said the organizers also have assembled all 16 cruise shirts and made a quilt from their designs. That quilt will be raffled off during the cruise itself at the East Detroit High School parking lot, with tickets costing $5.

“That was a job — finding all 16 original T-shirts,” Curley said.

Amelia Hinds, marketing manager and board member of the Roseville Heritage Foundation — the group behind the Gratiot Cruise — said the biggest change between this year and the first one is preparation time. She said the city waited until nearly the last minute to approve the cruise last year and set a price tag for it, which meant organizers scrambled to get it together.

“It was all down to the wire,” Hinds said. “This year will be a 180 — because we knew it was going to happen ahead of the game, so we are able to do more with it.”

A big struggle last year was getting the word out about the event on the shortened time scale, she said, which is going better this year already. Hinds said they only had a few dozen to a hundred people in the event last year, a number she is hoping to grow.

“I’ll start off saying if we could get 4,000, I’d be thrilled,” Hinds said. “We have no idea, because last year was so last-second. I’ve lived in Roseville for 30 years and I wouldn’t have known it was going on if I hadn’t been privy to the information.”

She said the cruise itself should be taking up the whole of Gratiot Avenue from 10 Mile Road to at least 13 Mile — possibly to 14 Mile, if fundraising goes well.

Right now, the focus is on getting enough sponsorships from people and businesses in Roseville to hit the estimated $55,000 price tag the event carries. Hinds said that amount is needed to cover police and fire costs along the route, portable bathrooms and other miscellaneous items. So far, she said they have had good participation on the sponsorship front and are trying to work with the city to help sponsors better advertise themselves with banners and customer-appreciation days during the event.

Outside events, like car shows and competitions, currently are not being handled by the cruise itself, Hinds said.

The Roseville organizers meet weekly now to hash out plans, and Hinds said the cruise’s Facebook page — www.facebook.com/rosevillegratiotcruise — currently is the best place for updates. People interested in participating can sign up the day of the car show to be an official participant — receiving a bag of goodies — or, Hinds said, they can simply come by with their car and join without signing. She said there is no age limit for vehicles coming.

For the Eastpointe event, Curley said people could sign up to enter the cruise lane during the lineup that day prior to the cruise itself. For $20, a person would get a pass for the front windshield that indicates they have permission to use the cruise lane for the whole day.

“The age of vehicles goes from the early ’50s to late ’70s, but anything that’s classic, we’ll take,” he said. “I don’t have a classic car, but I love them. I love looking at them and talking to the drivers — there are really some fascinating people that come out every year.”