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.

Photo by Erin Sanchez


Eastpointe hits the gas for the 21st annual Cruisin’ Gratiot

By: Brendan Losinski | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published June 7, 2019

 Roseville resident Laura Matte, known as Miss Poodle Skirt to her friends, is among Cruisin’ Gratiot’s biggest fans, having attended for more than 15 years.

Roseville resident Laura Matte, known as Miss Poodle Skirt to her friends, is among Cruisin’ Gratiot’s biggest fans, having attended for more than 15 years.

File photo by Erin Sanchez

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EASTPOINTE — Eastpointe is revving its engines as it welcomes the 21st annual Cruisin’ Gratiot.

The cruise welcomes owners and enthusiasts of classic cars to take to Gratiot Avenue in Eastpointe and show off their classic ride or appreciate someone else’s. 

“It’s a family cruise and is great for families,” said Carol Corrie, one of the cruise’s founders. “It’s not commercialized like the one on Woodward. This one is smaller; you’re able to see the cars more. We have a closed lane on Saturday and people are allowed to sit on the medians so they can watch them all go by.”

Cruise events take place Monday, June 10, through Saturday, June 15, and are free to attend or take part in.

“We have different car shows Monday through Friday and then a dedicated cruise on Saturday,” explained Eastpointe Mayor Suzanne Pixley. “In the morning on Saturday, we have an opening ceremony, and then we introduce the grand marshals, which are the Eastpointe Lions Club this year. Then some of our local pastors will pray for a good cruise.”

Cruisin’ Gratiot will consist of several car shows at locations around Eastpointe, with a dedicated cruise lane on Gratiot on Saturday. It begins Monday with a car show at the Big Boy restaurant at Gratiot and Nine Mile Road. The show will run from 3 to 7 p.m. and will feature live music by Denise Davis and the Motor City Sensation. 

Tuesday’s show will run from 3 to 7 p.m. at the Cloverleaf restaurant, 24443 Gratiot Ave.; Wednesday’s show will run from 4 to 7 p.m. at First State Bank, 16100 E. Nine Mile Road; Thursday’s show will run from 4 to 7 p.m. at Villa Restaurant, 21311 Gratiot Ave.; and Friday’s show will run from 3 to 7 p.m. at Eastpointe High School, 15501 Couzens Ave.

 Saturday’s festivities also will be centered around the high school and will last from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. The cruise will roll down Gratiot on Saturday as well.

“At 1 p.m., we have a VIP parade down Gratiot. It’s not a political event; the only politically oriented people involved are the local Eastpointe officials and the school board. We’ll be honoring some of our students from the high school this year,” Pixley said. “At 2 p.m., the Arts Commission is welcoming people to paint an abandoned car they purchased. At 3 p.m., we’re dedicating a big cement Shamrock at City Hall that will serve as a monument to this community’s Irish heritage, because this was originally a largely Irish community back in the 1800s.”

Pixley added that there will be plenty to do and see all week.

“We are raffling off a quilt … and there also will be $1,000 raffled off as well,” she said. “One of the neat things this year is the Lions Club being the grand marshals. I like being able to recognize their work supporting the community. … It’s better to recognize people who take part in the community rather than some celebrity who stops by for a few minutes and then leaves. … They are showing off a soapbox car, which they will be entering into a soapbox race in September.”

The cruise began as a notion to improve Eastpointe and bring more people to the community. When the organizers first thought of it, they never believed it would grow to become the yearly tradition it is now.

“I started it in 1999, and what happened was, I joined the Chamber of Commerce and they asked me to be on their activity committee,” said Corrie. “I always thought we could have a cruise, the same way they cruise on Woodward. I went and met on Gratiot and brought it up, and I thought they would just blow me off, but they got behind it. … We never thought we would get (the Michigan Department of Transportation) to get behind it, but they agreed to close a lane for us. It all came together.”

Despite some doubts, the event quickly found traction, as many residents saw it could be a boon for the city.

“I didn’t know much about cars, but I thought it would be a great thing to bring to Eastpointe,” Corrie added. “Jim Wynn was a resident who restored classic cars, and he sort of brought that expertise to the group. He was the one who suggested we do it around Father’s Day, and that way, we would make it the first cruise of the summer.”

Cruisin’ Gratiot had 24,000 people attend the first year, and it quickly grew to average 150,000 people attending per year. The organizers say that is because it’s something special for Eastpointe and is different from other cruises.

“I think it’s a fun event for families that like to show off or appreciate cars. It’s a great event for the city and I think it’s Eastpointe’s opportunity to welcome people into the city,” Pixley said. “Eastpointe is more family-oriented and has a lot of people who work on their own cars and design and fix up their own cars — even more than the Woodward Dream Cruise, I think. You’ll see cars which are the same year and the same make but look completely different.”

Corrie said she was surprised at how many people threw their support behind the event, and she  thinks it has grown to be Eastpointe’s premier annual event.

“It was a dream and it came true, and it brought a lot of attention to Eastpointe,” Corrie said. “The greatest success for this cruise is not even because of the organizers; it was because of all the car enthusiasts who came out and supported it and really threw their support into this.”

For more information on the event, visit cruisin-gratiot.com.

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