Somernites Cruise gearing up for 2012 return
April 20, 2012 Share

Somernites Cruise gearing up for 2012 return

It’s April, and everyone in Somerset should know what that means: It’s time to rev up for Somernites Cruise.

The first edition of Pulaski County’s always-popular classic car show will be on April 28, and as is often the case, this year — the 12th in Cruise history — will be bigger and better than ever before.

“It’s gonna be a big year, but it always is,” said Mark Hansford, vice president of Somernites Cruise in 2012. “It seems like every year people think Somernites is going to run out of gas, but it never happens. We keep rolling right along.”

The more things change, the more they stay the same: Each month will feature a different theme in the Showcase area, located on the south end of Main Street in downtown Somerset.
However, early birds will have a new place to fly on Fridays, as the monthly “meet-and-greet” session will be moving from the Convention and Visitors Bureau on Ogden Street to location of Danny’s Rod Shop, about two-and-a-half miles north of Somerset on U.S. 27.

“Danny’s Rod Shop is a national vendor for custom parts, custom performance, and appearance parts for classic cars,” said Hansford. “The owner (Danny Mink) is a real nice guy too. He’s new to the area and part of the reason he moved here was because of the Cruise. It’s definitely a feather in everyone’s cap to have a national business locate in our community.”

The meet-and-greet will be on Fridays of Cruise weekends from noon to 2 p.m.

Closer to the heart of downtown, Cruisegoers will be in for a very different Somerset than they may be used to from past seasons. New eateries like J. Gumbo’s and Old Town Deli have moved into the area, giving attendees more options, and more ways to help boost the local economy.

“We’re always happy to see new businesses move into downtown because it gives spectators more to see and do, and we hope they’ll spend some dollars here,” said Hansford. “Lynn’s Lunchbox always does huge business on Cruise day, and so does Life is Sweet, and now we have some more. Any time you give someone a selection, that’s a good thing.”

Of course, “Vendor Alley” is always a great place to pick up not only tasty treats but one-of-a-kind Cruise merchandise and other goods, reminded Hansford.

“On a down note, we have to move due to construction on the square,” said Hansford, referencing the $1 million renovation of the Fountain Square that’s likely to begin this summer.

“They say it will be about three months (of disruption); for those months, we’ll move our trailer over to the judicial center courtyard,” he continued. “We understand things like this have to happen. All the construction efforts benefit the city, and that’s what we want to do too. It’s a little inconvenient, but nothing we can’t overcome.”

This year’s raffle car will be a 1974 blue Dodge Challenger, to be given away in October. Hansford noted that they rotate among car brands for each local dealership to have a hand in this special aspect of Somernites Cruise from year to year, and those dealers sponsor a portion of the cost of the car.

Also, Gator Made — the headquarters of which is right here in Somerset — is once again donating a 20-foot enclosed trailer for a giveaway prize.

“Without them, we wouldn’t be quite the same show,” said Hansford.

Tickets for both the car

and trailer are $5 and can be purchased as many times as one wants up until the drawings in October. One doesn’t have to be present to win.

“Sometimes people buy a ticket in July, and we call them up (in October),” said Hansford. “They go into hysterics.”

This month’s special Showcase will be for Buicks, Oldsmobiles, and Pontiacs. There’s a special VIP gate by the new library for letting the featured cars into their designated area on South Main Street.

In May, Mopar Mania returns to Somerset. “Don Marshall has sponsored that,” said Hansford. “They have a show of their own on the morning of the Cruise, All the cars then come together and can come downtown for the Show-and-Shine. We had around 200 Mopars last year, which is a huge crowd.”

June is a month for Camaros and Firebirds, but it’s also a time to fondly remember the old Somerset Drag Strip. Though it closed 40 years ago in 1972, anyone who raced there or just attended the Somerset Drag Strip is invited to bring old photos, memorabilia and stories, and help make a special reunion event magical.

Normally, the Power Cruise would be the July feature, but that’s when Cruisegoers will find “Corvette Summer” this year. The Power Cruise is moving to September, which Hansford promises will be a “huge show.” Before that, however, August brings “Mustang Alley,” which brought a massive 560-car turnout last year.

The chance to drive a car in cooler whether is what prompted to change to September for the Power Cruise — Hansford noted that many older cars have a hard time driving long distances in the oppressive July heat — and the locations from which the cars will be coming to Somerset has slightly changed: Nashville, Bowling Green, Louisville, Cincinnati, and instead of Knoxville this year, Chattanooga, Tenn.

That’s because that’s where you’ll find Coker Tires, run by Corky Coker, a longtime supporter of Somernites Cruise (Coker has spoken at a Cruise banquet before) and television “barn find” personality.

“He wanted us to start the Cruise from his shop, and we agreed,” said Hansford. “We’ve never been involved with him to this level before.”

Additionally, Dennis Gage and the popular TV show “My Classic Car” from the SPEED Channel is scheduled to film at the September Cruise.

“This is one show we’ve never had it, and it’s probably the most popular nationwide classic car-related show,” said Hansford. “We’ve been trying to get them here for years.”

For that honor, Somernites can thank the late Tom Walther, a Cruise Team member for a number of years until he passed away in December. Walther had a connection to Gage and had been “badgering him” to come film at Somernites for some time, quipped Hansford.

“The timing was just never right,” said Hansford. However, “a little over a month ago, Dennis Gage called Tom to try to set up a time to come to Somernites — but Tom had passed away.

“(Gage) was very upset about missing out on talking to Tom,” he added. “As a result, it worked out that this is the year. … We wouldn’t have had ‘My Classic Car’ come without Tom, so it looks like he’s still helping the Cruise event even though he’s no longer with us.”

The season closes out in October with the raffle drawings and the Tri-Five Chevy Gathering, featuring vehicles made by Chevrolet from 1955, ‘56, and ‘57.

By CHRIS HARRIS, CJ Staff Writer
Commonwealth Journal