Tony Johnson tells 14-year-old Sir Johnson and 10-year-old Damari Johnson, all of Detroit, a few fun facts about the 1967 Chevelle during the 2018 Cruisin’ Gratiot.

Tony Johnson tells 14-year-old Sir Johnson and 10-year-old Damari Johnson, all of Detroit, a few fun facts about the 1967 Chevelle during the 2018 Cruisin’ Gratiot.

File photo by Erin Sanchez


Cruisin’ Gratiot moving forward with June date despite COVID concerns

By: Brendan Losinski | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published April 28, 2021

 Linda Stilinovich, of Roseville, poses with her 1962 Ford Falcon Futura in 2018.

Linda Stilinovich, of Roseville, poses with her 1962 Ford Falcon Futura in 2018.

File photo by Erin Sanchez

 Classic cars make their way down Gratiot during the 20th annual event.

Classic cars make their way down Gratiot during the 20th annual event.

File photo by Erin Sanchez

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EASTPOINTE — The Eastpointe tradition of Cruisin’ Gratiot will hit the road this year despite questions of whether the date would be moved or if the event would happen at all in 2021.

Cruisin’ Gratiot features hundreds of classic cars being shown off on the streets of Eastpointe and competing for best in show in several local competitions. It will take place June 17-19 up and down Gratiot Avenue in Eastpointe.

“We always have the first car show at First State Bank, and we have the second over at Eastpointe High School,” explained Cruisin’ Gratiot organizer Suzanne Pixley. “The big day is Saturday, and we curtailed it down from a full week to just those three days.”

First State Bank is located at 16100 E. Nine Mile Road, and Eastpointe High School is located at 15501 Couzens Ave.

There was discussion by Eastpointe’s City Council about moving the date to September or canceling the event. Pixley said she is happy the event is moving forward at its traditional time of the year.

“We had been hoping for the June date because that’s our traditional date,” she said. “We want to salute the Fire Department for their 100th anniversary, including some things that might not work for September.”

The reason for those considerations were, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic. Pixley said that safety precautions will be in place for Cruisin’ Gratiot and that she thinks the June date will be safe.

“We’re mindful of all of the restrictions and everything,” she said. “Cases right now are up, but they are not up within the age group we usually attract; they are up within the younger group, so most of that older group have had their vaccines already. Our hope is that, in another 10 weeks, there will be more vaccinated people. … People will be pretty well separated, so we think it will be safe.”

She said there is significant public demand for the event to move forward.

“The men who are driving the cars are so excited; they feel like they’ve been let out of jail,” Pixley remarked. “I’ve been talking to people on the phone again and again with people saying, ‘We’ll do whatever we have to do, we’ll behave, we’ll follow the rules. We just want to drive our cars.’”

The decision to approve the event this year was somewhat unusual. The Eastpointe City Council voted twice in regard to having the event. The first was taken in February to decide whether to have Cruisin’ Gratiot take place in June. Councilman Harvey Curley and Councilwoman Sarah Lucido voted to have the event at that time, Councilman Cardi DeMonaco voted to not have it in June, while Councilwoman Sylvia Moore and Mayor Monique Owens abstained. According to council meeting rules, this meant it was approved.

The second vote occurred at the council’s meeting on April 6 and dealt with potentially moving the event to September. All council members voted “no” on this measure except for Lucido. With the plan to have it in September voted down, but the plan to have it in June approved, the organizers of the event are moving forward with the June date.

“The council, when we brought up the vote to have it in its regular time in June, we made the motion, I voted ‘yes,’ Sarah voted ‘yes,’ and Cardi voted ‘no.’ The mayor and Sylvia abstained. The abstentions didn’t count, so it passed 2-1,” explained Curley. “Since the measure to move it to September failed, we’re still planning to have it in June. We put on the motion that it would be contingent based on the governor’s health orders. It’s an opportunity for people who have been locked up for the last year. It’s our biggest event of the year, and people have a chance to come out, see some cars and talk to their neighbors. We want to do it because we love the city.”

Lucido said she wanted to have the event in September but thinks having it in June may be premature.

“I voted to move it into September to give more time for vaccine distribution and hopefully make sure the event would be safer in regard to the COVID-19 spread,” she said. “I also supported it in June, but I supported the decision to try and move it to September. I am a little disappointed that they weren’t able to switch the dates. I still support the event taking place in June, so long as they are following the state recommended health guidelines.”

DeMonaco said he believed it would be too dangerous to have the event at all this year with COVID-19.

“On the cruise, I voted ‘no’ to have it in June and again to have it in September,” DeMonaco said. “I was asking about COVID protocols and how it would mitigate the spread during the cruise. I wanted to understand what they would do because I wasn’t really getting answers. I think June is not ideal, for sure. I just am not sure if we can have it safely.”

He added that the expected numbers of attendees do not make him confident that the event would be safe, even if the date had been moved.

“State guidelines for parades, which the cruise would count as, allow for up to 1,000 people,” DeMonaco said. “The events in the parking lots should be limited to 300 people according to the law. The cruise is expected to get 50,000 to 100,000 people, so this all just wasn’t seeming feasible to me and no one was telling me otherwise.”

Moore agreed that the event should not happen at all this year, saying that she believed her abstention and the mayor’s abstention would have meant the June date would not have been approved.

“I voted not to move it to September. COVID is running rampant,” Moore said. “I don’t think that having that many people together would be a good idea. I have eaten at a restaurant only once since the pandemic. Michigan is No. 1 in infections in the country, so I don’t think having it this year would be wise. I didn’t vote on the matter at all (when deciding to hold it in June). So I don’t want to have it at all this year.”

Owens said the numbers of infected in Michigan make an event such as Cruisin’ Gratiot too dangerous and is worried about the event moving forward with the June date.

“I voted not to have it at all. I love the event and I thought people need some kind of normalcy, but I wanted to find what the numbers in Michigan look like,” Owens said. “Michigan has one of the highest numbers of COVID in the country. I wanted to hold back on any type of event that could not be in line with the governor’s health orders. I can’t promise that there won’t be less than 1,000 people gathered in an area. They are still having it in June, but I didn’t want it at all this year. I abstained from the June date in the original vote. I wanted more information.”

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