MORRIS – Saturday’s Morris Cruise Night not only brought in a record amount of cars that thousands of spectators walked the streets to view – but there were even airplanes.
“It was a great night. We had a flyover, 8,000 spectators and 917 cars,” said Herb Wyeth, Morris Cruise Night organizer.
Wyeth was able to arrange with pilots at Morris Municipal Airport to do a fly over to add to the event. A formation of stunt planes buzzed over the tops of downtown buildings causing the masses to crane their necks upward.
The Community Nutrition Network and Senior Services Association were on hand to sell raffle tickets as beneficiaries for the evening. The nonprofit organizations help to make sure senior citizens and people with disabilities are property fed through programs such as Meals on Wheels.
“Last year, we raised over $6,000 through Cruise Night,” said Anne Cooper, chief executive officer of the organizations. “It’s a huge opportunity for us, and we really hope we’ll continue to be selected.”
Cooper explained that fundraising opportunities such as Cruise Night make it possible for the Community Nutrition Network to provide more than 2,500 meals daily to senior citizens and those in need. Cruise Night can easily amount to 30 percent of the funding for the associations in Grundy County.
“Federal programs offer a wealth of resources, but to keep serving meals, we rely heavily on outside fundraising,” Cooper said. “Getting to be active in the community at events like this while raising money for our cause makes it feel like so much more of a group effort.”
More than $9,000 was raised through the 50-50 raffle, half of which went to the Community Nutrition Network.
The organizations sponsoring the event employed help from a large group of volunteers. While patrons looked over the automobiles and strolled through the downtown streets, volunteers prepared concessions, directed motorists to their designated areas, and kept track of the event’s data and statistics.
Robynn Olson of Morris greeted motorists entering at the corner of Washington and Liberty streets. As the afternoon sun beat down on Morris, the mood at the main entrance remained light.
“I always have a good time out here,” Olson said. “We’re all in a good mood, and the people coming in are happy to be here, so it makes everything roll along really smooth.”
Lines of cars rolled into the south entrance off Route 47, filling the streets and purveying the illusion that everyone drives a hot rod or tricked-out muscle car in Morris. Chrome and neon lights became the norm on Liberty Street as the scents of high-octane fuel hung in the air.
As the sun began to set, many in the crowd stopped to admire Herb Carey’s wooden 1969 Buick Skylark. Carey, from Kankakee, made the drive in his wooden automobile for the opportunity to show off his completely street-legal creation.
“The car took me and a friend over a year to build,” Carey said. “It started out as just a funny idea, and we just ran with it.”
The wide variety of automobiles is what attracts many, allowing many different subcultures to exist and interact on the same stretch of street.
“It’s great to see so many different types of cars and genres represented,” said Gary Holder, a first-time patron from Bolingbrook. “It’s surprising to see this much variety packed into the same event.”
“Everyone seems really relaxed and happy to help each other,” Holder continued. “It gives me a good feeling about coming back.”
Morris Cruise Night
Beneficiary: Community Nutrition Network
Amount of vehicles: 917 from 139 cities
Beneficiary Choice car: George Heslop Jr.’s Woody
Celebrity Choice car chosen by Roger Singletary of CRS Mechanical: Jack and Judy Smith of Aurora’s 1969 Oldsmobile 442