Fort Street cruisers

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Photo by Steve Wielkopolan
Vintage wheels will hit Fort Street Saturday at the 14th annual Cruisin’ Downriver celebration. More than 100,000 participants and visitors are expected to line the avenue through Wyandotte, Southgate and Lincoln Park.

By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers

Drivers are mentally revving their engines in preparation of a flock of more than 500,000 motor heads gathering along Fort Street beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday for the 14th annual Cruisin’ Downriver festivities.

The event welcomes auto enthusiasts from throughout Michigan and beyond for a look at classic rides, lots of live music and local activities to get the summer in gear. The official Cruisin’ zone runs along Fort Street from Pennsylvania Avenue north to Southfield Road, through Southgate, Wyandotte and Lincoln Park.

Events and bands begin early and run through the evening.

City officials are only too happy to welcome the cruisers and spectators, a chance to rally community spirit, boost local businesses and bring people to town. Southgate Mayor Joseph Kuspa said last year’s cruise was somewhat abbreviated due to Fort Street construction projects, but green lights beckoned for the 2013 event.

“The roadway is terrific now for a much more pleasant cruise,” Kuspa said. “It’s back at full swing once again.”

Southgate roads are typically welcoming of vintage automobiles, Kuspa said — a classic car show is held each Wednesday evening through June and July at the municipal complex — and the event serves as a magnet to bring visitors to town.

“We appreciate people visiting our city and others,” Kuspa said. “We enjoy classic cars, host many events ourselves, and look forward to the cruise. It’s a great regional event.”

For live music, Lincoln Park will host stages at Painters Supply, 2040 Fort St.; Park Restaurant, 1681 Fort St.; and Fort Street Brewery, 1660 Fort St., with live bands playing from 11 a.m. through closing. In Wyandotte, the city’s business association will host a food and beer tent from noon to 8 p.m. at Cycle Connection, 2455 Fort St.

Lincoln Park Mayor Patricia Diaz Krause said the event is a chance for cities to work together, and that unlike individual summer festivals, the cruise invites a regional celebration. Diaz Krause will begin the day along with her mayoral counterparts — Kuspa and Wyandotte Mayor Joseph Peterson — to take the first “lap” up and down Fort Street.

Diaz Krause said it was exciting last year to see local businesses greeting visitors.

“Some of the businesses really get into it,” Diaz Krause said, with parking lot barbecues, live music, picnic tables and events for both employees and customers. “They make a big deal out of it. It’s exciting.”

Most participants and visitors flock to the event for a summer Saturday of hot rods and rock ’n’ roll, although some have been tempted to cruise at higher speeds than necessary. Kuspa said there haven’t been any particular issues over the years, but that additional police will keep an eye out for peeling tires, drag racing or other threats to safety.

“It’s been a good event,” Kuspa said of the track record. “Police do participate to ensure the safety of everyone.”

For information and complete listing of live music and events go to www.cruisindownriver.com.

(James Mitchell can be reached at jmitchell@bewickpublications.com.)

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