There’s a subculture in America that cuts across age, ethnicity, and professional divides. It all revolves around the car.
And to tap into that culture, while also building traffic for local businesses, Forest Park is hosting its first Cruise Night May 25. The classic cars will be parked at Madison Street’s Constitution Court. The event will take place every Tuesday night during the warm weather months through Aug. 31.
Classic car gatherings have become popular in suburban downtowns in recent years. Forest Park has scheduled its event for Tuesdays to avoid conflicts with nearby Cruise Nights in neighboring communities including Lombard, Elmhurst and Westchester. Those planning the event are hoping to replicate that success. The past months have seen two smaller Madison Street marketing events, including a comedy themed retail showcase, canceled for lack of interest.
“It’s an excellent idea,” said Mary Sullivan, manager at Doc Ryan’s, 7432 Madison St. “So many people attend these things from different communities and we are hoping for that overflow. I’ve been to cruise nights in Lombard and Villa Park and you would be amazed at how many people show up.”
One champion of the idea is Mayor Anthony Calderone. He said he jumped on board when the idea was first floated by Larry Moskos, part owner of H&R Towing in Forest Park. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for those who have classic cars to come show them off,” said Calderone.
Moskos has been involved with Cruise Night’s in Lemont, his hometown, for several years. “It is good, clean fun,” said Moskos. “It’s a fun event for the people all around. Whether it’s the guys with the cars or those who come out to see the cars, the streets are packed. These are people who put everything into these cars. Blood, sweat, and tears…”
Not everyone is as enthused. Some Calderone critics on the Forest Park Forum Web board have questioned if a summer long classic car event is in keeping with the more upscale retail promotions that have helped make Madison Street a destination over the past decade. Others have raised doubts that the event can be mounted weekly at little cost to the village, or with little additional police presence. Calderone shot down those criticisms emphasizing that this is not a drag racing event, a noisy event or one likely to attract any trouble.
Muscle cars, sports sedans, and classic roadsters of past decades had more flash and bigger engines than cars made today. The bigger engines provided speed, and the sporty designs still attract crowds, which is fortunate for car collectors, who are always looking for opportunities to show them off.
Cruise Night is a free event open to anyone. The committee, composed of Calderone, Moskos and eight other volunteers, talked and concluded Cruise Night would be more popular because it would essentially be free.
“We are going to expose individuals who don’t know about Forest Park to the downtown business district” said Calderone.
Casas de Puros, a cigar retailer and membership club on Madison Street, was eager to support Cruise Night. “I love the idea” said Tim Polk, the store’s manager. “Exposure will be great for the downtown area.”
Peter Gianakopoulos, of Old School Records on Madison Street, said, “It’s a good idea and will hopefully help small businesses get attention.”
Since there will be no street vendors or alcohol allowed on the street, there will be only one auxiliary officer walking the street during Cruise Night’s three hour stretch, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
“This is not a fest,” Calderone said. “We aren’t expecting any garbage problems or security issues.”
Committee member are going to seek sponsors, so the village is not funding this event. During each Cruise Night there will be a raffle where the winner will be announced at 9 p.m.
Some community members seem excited about the event and have even initiated a Facebook page that reached 80 fans quickly.
Glen Ellyn resident Jerry Schaus is an avid car lover and collector. He has been going to Cruise Nights for the past 20 years and is looking forward to attending Cruise Night in Forest Park.
“Cruise night has absolutely nothing to do with drag racing or cars cruising down the streets,” said Calderone. “It’s an event to get car lovers and the community together to enjoy themselves.”