How a classic 1973 Chevy Camaro marks a milestone for Wauconda Cruise Night
Wauconda Cruise Night celebrated a milestone Tuesday with recognition for the 10,000th vehicle to participate in the popular summer event.
The landmark came much faster than expected. While Cruise Night was thought to be a good idea when it debuted in 2014, there was no guarantee how the new event would fare.
A 1973 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 Pro Touring driven by Larry Stern of Hawthorn Woods became the 10,000th participating vehicle at about 3:55 p.m. Tuesday. He was congratulated in a short ceremony and received gift cards from local businesses.
Initially, the show was organized by a promotional group that specialized in such events. The first show in July 2014 drew just 88 vehicles. But on opening day in 2015, 430 vehicles participated.
"They told us it would take us years to get up to 100 cars," per show, said Alise Coulter, executive administrative assistant with the village and Cruise Night committee member since 2015.
When the 2021 season opened June 15, 675 vehicles were parked throughout downtown taking part. An estimated 2,500 spectators turned out to view, shop, eat and enjoy the scene.
The pet-friendly event is free for participants and spectators.
Wauconda Cruise Nights are held the third Tuesday of every month from June through September. On average, 500 classic and muscle cars, hot rods, motorcycles and trucks of all years, makes and models participate, according to Coulter.
What's the attraction?
"We figured if we could block off our Main Street and have that feel, it would go very well," said Jason Laureys, a resident and classic car enthusiast. He was one of two people who had independently pitched the idea to village officials.
As downtown Wauconda was experiencing a resurgence with new restaurants and shops, Laureys thought a cruise night would draw people. Not everyone was so sure.
"A lot of people couldn't envision what we meant by this event," he said. "It was a tough sell to a lot of people."
In a cruise night, a designated section of a town is blocked off. People bring their cars, socialize and patronize local businesses.
"I would go to events in other areas and I would think, 'We have a really nice space for something like this,'" Laureys said. "I thought it would go over well if it was done right."
Besides the small-town atmosphere, another element of success is there are no restrictions on the types of vehicles that can participate.
"We're not going to turn people away. We're welcoming," Laureys said. "That decision has helped keep our event fresh." Word traveled quickly among enthusiasts.
"We were growing by about 100 cars per event, which surpassed our wildest dreams," Laureys said.
Coulter credited the popularity to atmosphere and the effort of about 30 volunteers who efficiently direct the cars and assist visitors.
"In total, we can fit about 730 cars," she said. "It's a pretty massive layout."