Thursday, February 29, 2024

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Cruise Night: It’s not about the cars

LANSING, Ill. (July 15, 2017) – When Ross Leck and Barb Vlietstra try to figure out how long Lansing has been doing Cruise Nights, they refer to other Lansing milestones to orient their memories. The Clock Tower, the Park Foundation, Denny Flanagin, L.A.C.E., Thunder Road—all are part of Cruise Night history. The details are recorded somewhere, but they didn’t surface in time for this article.

What does become apparent—even to people who know nothing about engines, paint, or chrome—is that Cruise Night is a celebration of community. First-timers get advice and encouragement. Long-timers get respect. Amid the laughter and questions and pizza and neon, old friends reunite, and newcomers are welcomed into the family.

Scenes from Cruise Night

Three times each summer for the past 10? 12? 15? years, traffic on Ridge Road between Burnham and Wentworth Ave slows down to cruising speed. Early in the evening is a good time for new police recruits to get to know their community. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Cruise Night
The prime spots along Ridge Road fill up early in the afternoon, and the side streets fill up soon after. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Cruise Night
The hill near Ridge Road and Grant Street provides a picnic-like vantage point for people to gather and catch up with each other. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Cruise Night
Phillips Chevrolet is a major sponsor of Cruise Night, so a desirable spot near the Clock Tower is reserved for their Corvette collection. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Sandy Kiel is part of the team at Thunder Road Productions. Thunder Road works with the Lansing Association for Community Events (L.A.C.E.) to organize three Cruise Nights each summer. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Barb Vlietstra of Thunder Road Productions believes the sense of community is what makes Lansing Cruise Nights so special. In this video she explains (1) what judges at a typical car show look for, (2) how a Cruise Night is different from a car show, and (3) how Lansing’s Cruise Night is unique in the area:

Cruise Night
All kinds of people participate in Cruise Night. It’s a family-friendly event with no cost to participate. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Cruise Night
Taking pictures is a way of showing respect for a job well done, and it’s a way to store ideas you might want to try with your own car. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Cruise Night
Bikes are part of the Cruise Night community too. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Local businesses do well at Cruise Night. The Wario family chose Tacos and Burritos Rancho Grande (3444 Ridge Road) for supper. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Tony Rone welcomed me into the car community by giving me the keys to his Buick Skylark. I didn’t understand most of what he told me about it, but he had clearly put a lot of work into the engine and the interior. In fact, he had won an award at another car show earlier in the day.

Cruise Night
Around 8:30pm, the sun began to set on Cruise Night 2017. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Cruise Night
It was a beautiful night for cars, people, and car people. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)


Melanie Jongsma
Melanie Jongsma
Melanie Jongsma grew up in Lansing, Illinois, and believes The Lansing Journal has an important role to play in building community through trustworthy information.


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