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Cruise Night closed out its successful season Saturday

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013 5:30 a.m. CST

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MORRIS – Cruise Night founder Herb Wyeth wanted nothing more than to count his blessings Saturday following a “great season of events.”

“We brought in more people and more cars than in the past,” he said. “We have been able to help a lot of people along the way, and we are all really looking forward to next year.”

This is the 12th year for the annual Cruise Nights. The event resurrected a Morris tradition called “Buzzing the Gut,” which was a way of saying cruising Liberty Street, according to the event’s website. Held from June through October, it attracts hundreds of classic car owners who display their vehicles while attendees can view them for free as music from the 1960s and ’70s plays.

The final Cruise Night of this year was from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday and brought in 274 vehicles – considered a respectable turnout considering the day’s sporadically stormy weather.

“I’d like to give a special thank you to my committee,” Wyeth added. “They really hustled and picked up the load to help build up the records.”

And while the questionable weather may have kept some drivers at home, it didn’t discourage Jerry Haven from making the 90 mile drive from Metamora.

Haven is one of the Car Show chairmen for the annual Nostalgic Indoor Invitational in Pekin, and he attends the Morris Cruise Night at least once a year. He brought his 1952 Ford Customline to the event, which he said he bought and began restoring in 1982.

Since then, he has put more than 100,000 miles on the car – 85,000 before rebuilding the engine, followed by another 20,000.

“My favorite part of the car is the engine,” he said. “It just sounds good.”

Haven is partial to this particular model, as he previously owned a 1953 Ford Customline that he purchased back in 1955.

“It’s a common car from back in the day,” said Haven’s wife, Becky, a Morris native. “People walk by all the time and say, ‘I used to have one of those!’ ”

He still restores cars, often with the help of his son. They have since worked together on a 1958 Oldsmobile and a 1961 Studebaker Lark Convertible.

“There were only two ever made,” he said of the particular Studebaker model he owns. “With a little luck, I’m hoping to get it up here next year.”

This month’s event had 78 cities represented. Newly represented cities included Champaign and Clarendon Hills in Illinois, as well as South Gate, Mich., and Muskego, Wis. Seven cars made the trip from out of state, while two vehicles made an even farther trip, traveling all the way from Canada and Australia.

The beneficiary of the event was We Care of Grundy County, and the 50-50 raffle raised $8,140, half of it going to Tom Kusak.

The vehicle of the night selected as the Beneficiary’s Choice was a 1968 Pontiac GTO, owned by Tim Thompson. The Celebrity’s Choice, selected by Grundy County State’s Attorney Jason Helland, was a 1968 Shelby GT 350 Mustang, owned by Dave Madison.

Wyeth and the Cruise Night Committee are currently planning a fundraiser scheduled for Nov. 9 at Clayton’s Tap for committee member Chris Olson, who has been hospitalized in Peoria since September following an automobile accident. They will raffle off a 2000 Ford Mustang and hope to raise $20,000. Additional information about that event will be released later.

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