CLINTON TOWNSHIP — The 11th installment of the Gratiot Cruise may have been the best one yet.
That is, according to Linda Walter, Clinton Township’s parks and recreation director, who has worked with the cruise since the very beginning. In an event that is usually weather-driven, this year’s event exceeded expectations from years past.
“It was perfect weather. It was not blisteringly hot when cars overheat and people want to go inside in air conditioning,” Walter said. “It was sunny, clear and breezy. There wasn’t a dead spot (along Gratiot).”
Although no specific numbers have been released by the police department as of press time, Walter projected that the amount of attendees probably exceeded the 200,000-plus people who showed up in 2012. She even noted that her department ran out of prizes for the kids’ games — something that has never happened in previous years.
And although the weather plays a large role year after year, people have become accustomed to having a great time.
“(The event) has built a reputation,” Walter said, “There were huge crowds with no problems. There is usually a drop (in attendance) between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., but attendance never wavered. People stuck around.”
The event had an overall different ambiance this year, according to others who worked it.
“It was a great turnout with families, and parks and rec did well at cruise headquarters,” said Communications Director Tracey Moro. “It seemed like a lot more business invited people to come in and be on their properties.
“The whole thing went really well.”
The event, which falls on the first Sunday of August every year, officially began at noon, though preparations were in full swing the previous day.
Walter said that her department tries to switch things up and offer different things every year to keep the event fresh. The department’s goal is to change 33 percent of the details while preparing for the maximum of around 1,500 kids. She said there may have been even more kids than that this year.
“It’s all about the car aspect,” she said.
When kids needed a breather, they could play in a sandbox with an assortment of cars and trucks while their parents relaxed. When kids got restless and wanted to move around, they could jump in bounce houses and go down slides. Even teens and tweens could get in on the fun, playing “giant” versions of classic games like Jenga, checkers and Connect Four.
Four years ago, the department introduced a “paint the car” area where kids can put their own stamp on a department-issued Chevrolet Lumina, all while doing so in different colors of paint. Walter said the car had a brownish-purple color at the end of the festivities.
And while the kids played, the adults had the pleasure of seeing classic cars roll by, one after the other.
“People love it because they see really special vehicles,” Walter said. “Out on the strip, you look at everything … (Detroit) Tigers cars and cars with flowers on them. People had favorites.”
And people continue to line up along Gratiot 11 years later, waiting for their favorite cars to drift by and glimmer in the sun.
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