A Wauseon staple of warm-weather entertainment that defied the reach of COVID-19 last year will continue its tradition in 2021, but with some continued restrictions.
Acting on Gov. Mike DeWine’s decision to allow summer fairs, festivals, and other outdoor events amid the pandemic, the 31st year of Wauseon Cruise Night, a weekly panoply of vintage automobiles, is revving up for a May 4 opening on Depot Street. As with every year, collectors far and wide will fill the street with their restored beauties amid a festive atmosphere of car enthusiasts, music, door prizes, and a 50/50 raffle, according to Angel Matthews, event chair.
And, as with last summer, small changes have been made to accommodate the continued threat of the pandemic. Masks, gloves, and sanitizer will be available, and cars may be spaced further apart for viewing. When available, the event may also include food vendors.
“Last year actually went very well, considering everything,” Matthews said. “We did work with the health department, so everything was a little different.” That included volunteers using pens for registration a single time.
Matthews said volunteers behind the scenes of last year’s Cruise Night events went the extra mile to ensure word got out it was continuing. Still, “some people were nervous about getting out that early (during the pandemic). Last year was just different,” she said.
Public attendance dropped to about 25 visitors each week through July, then picked up to over 50 the first two weeks of August, and to over 100 the final two weeks.
Matthews admits to being fearful that Cruise Night would be scrapped in 2020. “I’m way more confident this year,” she said.
Cars will again be displayed in a parking lot just off Depot Street each Tuesday at 6 p.m. through August, and may spill onto the street itself if enough collectors bring their vehicles. Matthews estimates there is room for about 150 cars on a typical Cruise Night.
And although they were scrapped last summer, Super Cruise Nights will return this year, all in the usual space on Fulton Street.
“We’re getting a lot of good feedback on our first cruise. We can close down Depot Street if we have enough people,” Matthews said. “We’ll have PPE available but no other major changes.”
She said Cruise Night is “basically where people can come up and look at the cars, get together with other car enthusiasts. It’s like a social gathering. I know not everybody is a car person, but the fact that the community can get together is, I think, important to everybody.”
Some sponsors for this year’s Cruise Night events include – but are not limited to – Scott Neumann Insurance Agency, M E Miller Tire Co., Auto Zone, Wauseon Downtown Association, McNeill Chevrolet Buick, Chief Supermarket, Grieser Interiors, and Sullivans Restaurant, and the Wauseon Chamber of Commerce.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.