The Eastpointe community will come together June 17-19 for Cruisin’ Gratiot, the annual celebration of all things automotive.

The Eastpointe community will come together June 17-19 for Cruisin’ Gratiot, the annual celebration of all things automotive.

Photo provided by Suzanne Pixley

Eastpointe driving forward with 2021 Cruisin’ Gratiot

By: Brendan Losinski | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published June 9, 2021


EASTPOINTE — Eastpointe is getting in gear for Cruisin’ Gratiot, the traditional days-long celebration of Eastpointe and car culture.

This year’s cruise will take place Thursday, June 17; Friday, June 18; and Saturday, June 19. The three-day schedule is reduced from its usual six-day length.

“It’s three days instead of six, with a car show on Thursday at First State Bank, and two other car shows on Friday and Saturday at the high school,” said co-organizer and former Eastpointe Mayor Suzanne Pixley. “The first one on Friday is from 2-8 p.m., and the second one on Saturday is from 9 a.m.-8 p.m., both at the high school. We have other events such as Immanuel Methodist Church having music, balloons and other attractions. Andary’s restaurant will be selling T-shirts. The antique 1921 firetruck will be on display along with one of their modern trucks on Ethelyn Court, and the Police Department will be having a demonstration with their K-9 unit. The Lions Club will be giving out ID kits for kids.”

Eastpointe High School is located at 15501 Couzens Ave., and First State Bank is located at 16100 Nine Mile Road. Ethelyn Court is located just south of Nine Mile Road off northbound Gratiot Avenue. The car show on Thursday, June 17, will take place from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

“We’ve ordered shirts, trophies and license plates. We have the dedicated lane taken care of. We’re about ready to go,” remarked Cruisin’ Gratiot Board President and City Councilman Harvey Curley. “We have an exceptional board putting the cruise together.”

There will be plenty to do and see at the 2021 Cruisin’ Gratiot, despite its truncated format.

“During the opening ceremony, we will be honoring the Fire Department for its 100-year anniversary. (State Sen.) Paul Wojno will be there to present an award on behalf of the state,” said Pixley. “We also had a death a few months ago when one of our (Department of Public Works) employees died while on the job, so the Lions are working with some of our local Vietnam War vets ... to put a plaque on our memorial that’s over at City Hall. The employee, Brian Theobald, will have his name put on the plaque, honoring city employees who have died, and he will be the first name included.”

Eastpointe City Hall is located at 23200 Gratiot Ave.

The cruise will unofficially start the evening before, on Wednesday, June 16, from 4 to 8 p.m., with an independent event hosted by the Eastpointe Advocates Supporting Equality organization, which will host a charity car show to raise money for a unity monument that is being planned for Eastpointe’s Kennedy Park.

“We’re calling it a charity cruise, since the actual Cruisin’ Gratiot starts the next day,” explained EASE Board Member Gary Sasek. “It’s going to take place at the (Veterans of Foreign Wars) Hall on Nine Mile Road. It’s the Shafer-Rachelle Post between Tuscany (Avenue) and Brittany (Avenue). We are supposed to have music available, beverages that can be purchased in the hall, and classic cars lined up on both sides of the parking lot.”

Although not officially affiliated with the cruise, it is getting into the spirit of the event and inviting the public to attend to support a community project.

“We’re trying to help raise money for the unity monument that we’re hoping to have the grand unveiling in November for,” said Sasek. “We’re raising money through donations. There is no cost to attend or take part. We’re hoping to have a nice turnout. It’s our first time doing anything like this. We usually have things going on all week for the Gratiot Cruise, so this is sort of happening in that tradition.”

For both the EASE event and Cruisin’ Gratiot, despite mask mandates outdoors no longer being enforced, the organizers are asking attendees to be respectful and cautious when it comes to matters of social distancing and to wear face masks when appropriate.

Curley said they were happy to bring the event back after having to miss it last year.

“We were sad that we couldn’t have an annual cruise last year, but we realized that, so we said let’s cut it down to three days instead of six. This made things easier because we had some trouble this year with some major sponsors. We knew we could do three days though,” he said. “There are a lot of cruises now, but I think we still maintain one of the better cruises. We have strict guidelines, particularly with not allowing drinking outdoors or out in the parking lots. We’re dedicated to making this a fantastic cruise.”

One of Cruisin’ Gratiot’s longest unofficial guidelines, not allowing the event to become political, is being bent this year, but only by inviting some state officials to the cruise in order to celebrate the Eastpointe Fire Department’s 100th anniversary.

“We try not to get political,” Pixley remarked. “We usually don’t invite politicians who aren’t local politicians to attend, and even then, we ask them not to use the event as a campaign opportunity, even during election years. This year we made somewhat of an exception because we wanted to have someone from the state present to commemorate the Fire Department.”

“Even during the VIP parade, we don’t put their names on the cars,” added Curley. “We just put ‘Eastpointe mayor’ or ‘City Council member’ and so forth.”

Anyone with a convertible who wishes to play a more active role in the cruise is encouraged to contact Curley.

“We’re still looking for 19 convertibles that we can use during the VIP parade,” he said. “If anyone is interested, they can call me at (586) 480-0355. I can give them the details if they are interested in helping lend a hand with the cruise.”

Pixley said what she loves about Cruisin’ Gratiot is that it is an event for families.

“We really focus on making this a family event,” she said. “A lot of people who have cruises feature the old grandpas who worked in the automobile factories and have since died. Those were a lot of the people who had the old cars from the ’50s and ’60s who would head out, but we still have a lot of people coming out because we have younger people who have inherited those cars, so you’ll often see three or four generations of people out there together.”

She and Curley both hope the community will come together to make the 2021 Cruisin’ Gratiot celebration a good one.

“It’s one of those things where you can sit back in an easy chair and watch the world go by. In this case you’re watching the cars go by,” said Pixley. “We see some of the same cars every year belonging to local residents, but you see different cars every year from all over. We did a study 15 years ago to see where everybody came from, and we had people coming all the way from Canada.”