Guest Blogger Matt Forster is an experienced visitor to the Woodward Dream Cruise. Read along as he outlines the many events happening in the Detroit area that weekend. Looking for the best place to chat with the drivers, or to catch a parade? He’s got you covered!
Kids, cars, rock ‘n’ roll, and drive-ins. These are the defining emblems of America’s youth culture. Here in southeast Michigan in the ‘50s and ‘60s, you could find all four any weekend on Woodward Avenue. The Woodward Dream Cruise, which has run the third Saturday in August since 1995, celebrates those days of teenage prowling. Tens of thousands show up to drive up and down Woodward Avenue and show off the cars they had back then (or the ones they wish they had back then). They hoot and holler, peel rubber, and light it up. Another 1.5 million show up to watch.
For one glorious weekend in August, we go to forget about the hassles of adulthood—mortgages to pay, lawns that need mowing, receding hairlines, and expanding waistlines. During the Cruise, we’re all teenagers again.
Being born just a little too late, I never actually cruised Woodward back in the day. Instead of hopping from drive-in to drive-in on Woodward in a Model A hot rod or Dad’s ‘56 Buick Century, my friends and I made late-night runs to the video store and Taco Bell on Dixie Highway in my ‘82 Ford Fairmont and my buddy’s Buick Skylark. The Woodward Dream Cruise, however, has a universal appeal—and while it helps to have an interest in cars, it’s not necessary to enjoy the event.
On one hand, the Cruise is a very informal affair. There’s no registration needed to drive on Woodward that day, so anyone with a road-legal vehicle can take part. The route begins on Woodward at 8 Mile in Ferndale and proceeds north to Pontiac, where it makes a loop around the city and back south again. Not a parade, participants just drive the route, sharing the road with spectators and whoever else decides to drive on Woodward that day.
This year the official event runs on Saturday, August 20, from 9 am to 9 pm. You could just head out Saturday morning, find some parking, and set up camp somewhere along Woodward, but communities along the way add their own events to capitalize on the weekend crowds. I sometimes feel these sideshows are more fun than the main attraction.
Friday night in Berkley is almost like getting a backstage pass to the entire weekend. The city hosts a Classic Car Parade the Friday night before the cruise. It’s a more intimate affair, and if you’re in to watching the cars, then the parade is where you’ll want to be. Unlike the melee on Woodward, the parade is a bit more orderly and the stream of cars isn’t diluted by regular traffic. I always make it a point to head over to the A&W on 12 Mile before or after the parade. The drive-in is a popular stop with drivers and a great place to check out some cars up close. Just make sure you’re done with your chili dog before leaning over to inspect someone’s interior restoration.
On Saturday, if the crowds on Woodward become overwhelming, head to Bloomfield Township for the Classic Car Show. Let’s be honest, a lot of these older cars can overheat driving for hours at slow speeds on a hot summer afternoon. At the car show their drivers can relax in the shade and let the spectators come to them.
Parking can be found all over. There’s plenty on Woodward, but I don’t recommend driving on the main strip south of Birmingham. The traffic thickens quickly and it’s easy to get stuck. Bloomfield Township has parking on Woodward for $5 this year, but you’ll find plenty of other places.
Looking at the calendar, it’s easy to get a little discouraged as we see summer winding down. In less than two weeks, however, one weekend event will capture the essence of an eternal summer—the summers of our adolescence.
Matt Forster makes his living as a freelance writer and editor. Along the way, he’s done some travel writing. Check out his website and travel guides at http://www.big-words.net/.
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