Gratiot Cruise celebrates 15 years of fun

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published July 26, 2017


CLINTON TOWNSHIP — The Clinton Township Cruise has become a hit party scene, and the 2017 edition is expected to continue the festivities.

The 15th anniversary of the cruise will take place Sunday, Aug. 6, and will include pre-cruise car shows, cars parading up and down Gratiot Avenue, a large midway, and activities for kids of all ages.

Pre-cruise shows will take place 5-8 p.m. at Fern Hill Golf Club July 31, Avante Banquets by Catering 2 You Aug. 1, Wiseguys Bar & Grill Aug. 2, ConCorde Inn Aug. 3 and Clancy’s Irish Pub Aug. 4

Tracey Moro, director of cruise communications, said the 15th year of the event is “kind of a big deal.” The planning process is perpetual, she said, as the cruise committee evaluates every cruise shortly after its conclusion and discusses what works and what fell flat.

A big change this year is the moving of the Kidz Zone to the Dorian Ford Midway, located at Gratiot and Glenwood Street. The midway will be located in the used car lot, and in addition to inflatables and the like for children, the area will feature community service group representatives, food vendors and free live entertainment.

Cruise headquarters will be a car show this year. Individuals can pre-register their vehicles for $15 or pay $20 on cruise day. Show parking opens at 8 a.m. that day and closes at 6 p.m. Last year, approximately 100 cars were registered.

“The more cars, the better,” Moro said.

The 15th rendition of this event includes a new cruise committee president: Clinton Township Supervisor Bob Cannon. Moro said the township wanted to be more involved, and Cannon jumped at the opportunity.

“They’re all volunteers. They don’t get paid 10 cents,” Cannon said about the committee. “It actually costs them money out of their pockets.”

This year will also feature another first: Two grand marshals — Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel and his wife, Tracie — will lead the cruise for the first time.

The pair were admittedly not the first choice, as Cannon said he reached out to famed rapper Eminem to inquire about his availability. After it was determined he was working on a new album and was out of town, Hackel became a viable second choice.

“Not to my surprise, (Eminem) said he was on tour, but he said to ask again. And I’m going to,” Cannon said. “We have two grand marshals for the first time. (Mark and Tracie have been) married several years, and she doesn’t get out a lot and be prominently featured as her husband is. She will be an equal chair to the executive. Mark is equally as excited about it.”

Cannon said the event has come a long way since its inception. He recalled being a Clinton Township trustee and hearing a lot of opposition to the idea of putting on an annual cruise.

That was prior to a public hearing held years ago at Clintondale High School, Cannon said, when one Clinton Township resident after another said they saw the cruise as an opportunity to boost morale on the township’s southern end while providing an economic shot in the arm for local businesses.

Bill Lee Oldsm obile and Baker College, among others, became part of a business owners association to revitalize and maintain Gratiot. The cruise itself started on a shoestring budget, he said.

“When we started, some of the businesses held little parties for their employees, some held parties for customers and some didn’t do anything,” he said. “But as each year went on, the businesses provided fun activities.”

He recalls walking the entire length of the cruise with Trustee Ken Pearl — when there was still room to walk. Now, he said, it’s difficult to navigate due to the number of cars and people.

“My greatest joy is someone pushing a baby buggy, walking up and down Gratiot,” he said.

Last year’s attendance easily hit six figures. The goal is always to increase the crowd from the year before, and the hope is always for a clear sky. Rain has dampened the event just one time in 14 years.

“It was beautiful (in 2016),” Moro said. “The weather was phenomenal, and there were thousands of cars. Police estimated it at over 200,000 people, so if we can have the same weather again, that would be awesome.”

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