Gratiot Cruise channels nostalgia, brings neighbors together

By: Samantha Shriber | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published August 7, 2017

 A custom roadster speeds down the famous stretch of road.

A custom roadster speeds down the famous stretch of road.

Photo by Sean Work

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — The 15th annual Clinton Township Gratiot Cruise officially took place from noon to 6 p.m. on Aug. 6. But festivities began as early as 8 a.m. Activities included pre-cruise car show parking and exhibitions, and a special cruise for pedal cars commencing at 10:30 a.m.  

Dorian Ford, 35900 Gratiot Ave., served as the headquarters for this year’s cruise. It was the designated site for vendor and service group tables, along with live entertainment and an area for kids featuring carnival rides. 

The day formally began at 11 a.m. with the presentation of the grand marshals: Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel and his wife, Tracie. They were joined by the Clinton Township police and fire departments and several sponsors.

The cruise was a free, public event for residents and out-of-towners alike. Participants were allowed to park in business parking lots, set up camp on the grass and travel up and down the street. 

“Here, I don’t pay anything, I just pull in, park and that’s it,” said William Landrum, of Warren. 

Landrum attended the cruise with his 1979 Chevrolet Camaro and parked at Clinton Pointe. 

He attended with his brother Brian Landrum, of Eastpointe, who appreciated the easy access and familiarity of the cruise for Macomb County residents. 

William Landrum described the cruise’s atmosphere as being very laid-back, welcoming and familiar. 

“When I was younger, we used to cruise Gratiot and Woodward,” he said, explaining that on Friday evenings he and his peers would drive down Gratiot toward Detroit and then head up to Woodward. “This is more like home stomping ground over on this side.”

Rose Scarpelli and her husband, Bob, of Sterling Heights, were attending the cruise for the third year with a similar sense of nostalgia. 

“I used to live in Detroit off of Eight Mile,” she said. “I’m familiar with this strip of Gratiot because we used to go up and down here all the time. For me, it’s like coming back home.” 

She expressed having the same memories of frequently cruising with her peers as teenagers growing up in metro Detroit. 

Self-proclaimed car fanatic Ron Black, of Warren, said that he had rearranged plans solely to attend this event. 

“I thought it was going to rain, but the weather is holding and there’s quite a crowd,” Black said. “There is a mix of older and newer cars which makes it quite interesting.” 

The Holy Cross Classic Cruisers Car Club of Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Warren also made an appearance. 

The fellowship group is about 20 years old and has around 60 members, according to member Ron Ratzow, of Harrison Township. Their tent was set up with a collection of 12 classic vehicles. 

“This for us is a fellowship event, alongside being an outing for those interested in cars,” Ratzow said. 

He said that the cool weather provided a nice temperature for enjoying the day’s many vehicles and activities.

“Primarily these events bring people together and unifies the business aspect of it as well as the residential, pedestrian aspect of it,” he said. “It’s an event joined by a lot of different people and a lot of different factions.” 

Businesses alongside the strip hosted festivities and parties of their own with inflatables and giveaways. 

Five Stars Auto Care invited customers, family and friends to a family-friendly party with a barbecue and DJ. 

“We have food, light beverages, a bounce house for the kids, basketball hoops, tents, tables and just everything that we need,” said office manager Becky Bensett, of Clinton Township. 

Bensett said that she is very glad to be a part of hosting the event as an inside employee. 

“This event does a good job advertising all of the businesses together and I’m hoping everyone has a good time,” she said. 

The cruise has been held on the first Sunday of August since 2003. It commemorates years of cruising and unity amongst neighbors and car enthusiasts alike. 

As Rose Scarpelli said, “Gratiot will always have a special place in people’s hearts.”