Summer cruising, Auburn style
The days are hot, the nights are warm and downtown Auburn is real cool, man, real cool, as classic cars and those who admire them flock to this Placer County town for Cruise Nites each summer. Now in its 23rd year, Auburn Cruise Nite takes place from 5-9pm on the second Friday of each month from May through September in downtown Auburn.
In the beginning, Cruise Nite was held at the Auburn Dairy Queen on Highway 49. Kenny said 20-30 cars would gather in the parking lot, “and that’s a lot for the Dairy Queen,” he said. As the event grew in size, it was relocated to the downtown area, where it has remained for many years.
“We have right around 300 cars and we have anywhere from 1,000 to 6,000 people in the streets,” said Jack Kenny, co-chair of the Auburn Cruise Nite Committee, who has a ’68 Chevy ?-ton pickup that has made the show for more than 20 years. “Sometimes we have to turn them away, we get so many,” he added.
Cruise Nite is made possible by the support of many foothill businesses and the Auburn Downtown Business Association, which makes Auburn’s show unique because it is completely free to participants and the public, according to Kenny. Car owners don’t even need to fill out a registration form, Kenny said; they just have to show up on Lincoln Street in downtown Auburn, ideally before 4pm, and park between the Chamber of Commerce and the clock tower. Spaces are limited and are allotted on a first come, first served basis to pre-1972 cars and trucks.
Organizers begin to straighten out the classics to allow more vehicles in the area after 4pm, starting at the Chamber of Commerce and working their way downtown, in an attempt to keep traffic flowing to businesses still open until the 5pm starting time.
So, if the event is free to all, how is Cruise Nite financially supported? “Where we get our money is, we run ads, we have a brochure, we have food vendors there and any leftover profits we donate to the Downtown Business Association,” Kenny said. That brochure reads like a small yellow page phone book, full of information about the supporting businesses. It also includes photos of past participants and their vehicles. “We’re not in it to make money,” he said. “What we have left over (after expenses), we donate it.”
Food and beverage vendors include businesses that stay open for Cruise Night and temporary stands set up for the event, such as Shannon’s Shaved Ice, a CHP-sponsored hamburger stand, Maria’s Tacos and the very popular (or so I’ve been told) beer and wine bar sponsored by Pistol Pete’s Brew & Cue and Pete’s Liquor Outlet. “If you’re down there with your family and you want to get a hamburger or a sandwich and walk, you can do that,” says Kenny, “but if you want to go in a restaurant, they run specials too, if you want to sit down and eat.”
Kenny says, in his opinion, that the main purpose of Cruise Nite is to promote downtown Auburn. “You’ve got all these people, even if they’re not shopping a store, they see the stores are there, and I think it’s very beneficial for them.” And since there is no charge to participate or attend, that makes Auburn Cruise Nite special. “They have a nice night out on the street and it’s free,” Kenny said. “As far as I’m concerned, this is the best event that happens in Auburn.”
The next Auburn Cruise Nite is scheduled for tonight, July 13th. Future dates include August 10th and September 14th. More information about this event is available by calling Chairman Dick Kiger at 530-885-4364 or Jack Kenny at 530-887-1604.
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