Cruise Nite: Popular event continues to crowd the historic Downtown

August 26, 2011
Santa Paula News

Even as Cruise Nite moves closer to the end of its season, the last two events continued to draw crowds to East Main Street.

It’s been the lucky 13th season for Cruise Nite, which on the first Friday of each month from April to October draws hundreds of pre-1975 vehicles to the downtown and even more people who love strolling around the automotive car eye-candy. Cruise Nite draws cars and visitors from the Tri-Counties as well as from Los Angeles County communities such as Valencia and Agoura among others. 

Dave Anderson and Henry Aguilar - both retired Santa Paula Police officers - organized the event with the Santa Paula Police Officers Association and Chamber of Commerce. Cruise Nite was created not only to provide a showcase for classic and vintage cars, but also to highlight the historic downtown and prod the local economy by providing a steady flow of customers to business district eateries and merchants. 

At the August Cruise Nite Marleen Canniff was headed to Garman’s Restaurant & Irish Pub where her husband was waiting: “I’m meeting Andy” Van Sciver, who Canniff said was with family members, “which is really nice because I don’t have to wait for a table.” A diehard Cruise Nite fan, Canniff said, “It’s just keeps getting bigger and bigger.” 

And drawing a diverse crowd of visitors: “This is just fantastic,” said the Honorable Colleen Toy White as she made her way through the crowd in front of Santa Paula Health & Fitness, recently purchased by a relative of the judge.

Councilmen Rick Cook and Ralph Fernandez were also seen among the large August Cruise Nite crowd near a low-rider so low it was hard to tell if it even had rear wheels, so close the metal was to the road.

As usual the colors of the cars dazzle; a so much more than showroom red 1952 Chevrolet pickup truck had a grill shinier and more elaborate than those worn in the mouths of rap stars. Drawing admiring glances was a Chevrolet Bel Air, a soft baby blue sport coupe with a for sale sign, the $17,500 obviously much more than its 1953 new car price. A fabulous Buick roadster with tails sat serenely next to a to-die-for light plum and grey Chevrolet truck sitting near a lime-green 1963 red Corvette coupe. 

Anderson said people enjoy Santa Paula’s mild weather as well as the cars and the chance to eat and visit with friends. He and Aguilar both agreed that entertainment is also a draw. 

“I really enjoy Johnny & The Love Handles,” said the latter of the band entertaining the crowd gathered in the shade of the Odd Fellows famous Clock Tower. Aguilar said the band, fronted by John Procter, has “been playing since they were teenagers... it’s amazing how good they are.”

As are all those that play for Cruise Nite: “All these bands donate their time and each has a different style, they just do a fabulous job. With our budget being so tight they all do a fabulous job” providing entertainment to the monthly crowd. 

And in July that entertainment took a unique turn: Jim Carr of Oxnard had his black 1957 Chevrolet on display, all decked out for an evening at the drive-in theater with a speaker, window tray, food and a man suspiciously resembling Elvis Presley in the backseat cuddling a blonde. The life-size mannequin of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll even “moves and talks,” said Carr, but for Cruise Nite Elvis was silent. “His battery,” noted Carr, “is dead.”

There are two more Cruise Nites on tap before the season ends: September 1 and October 7. Cruise Nite will resume in April for its 14th season.

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