Despite heat and humidity, crowds turn out for Gratiot Cruise – Macomb Daily

With barely a breeze blowing and temperatures in the lower 90-degree range, the Clinton Township Gratiot Cruise felt like a steam bath on Sunday.

But organizers, participants and observers didn’t seem to mind.

“The heat and humidity led to a lot of conversation, but it didn’t stop anybody from coming out today,” said Jim Tignanelli, cruise chair. “This is the most people I’ve ever seen on Gratiot at 2 pm on a Sunday. It’s packed.”

Co-chair Bob Roehl agreed: “The weatherman said we had a chance of rain. You can see by the amount of cars, people are going to take their chances to come out.”

A 1957 Chevy Nomad makes its way down Gratiot Avenue in Clinton Township on Sunday.  (DAVE ANGELL -- FOR THE MACOMB DAILY)
A 1957 Chevy Nomad makes its way down Gratiot Avenue in Clinton Township on Sunday. (DAVE ANGELL — FOR THE MACOMB DAILY)

Macomb County’s largest car show saw a daylong procession of vintage vehicles, hot rods, tractors, motorcycles and other wheeled contraptions driving up and down South Gratiot Avenue. Rain was in the forecast, but initial showers held off until the event ended.

Because of ongoing road construction taking place, the cruise was shortened to run from Quinn Road near the Target shopping center to Wendell Street, just north of 16 Mile Road. It usually goes from 14 Mile Road to Wellington Crescent. Organizers believe it will be that way next summer as well.

Many drivers said there are no precautions to take to guard against overheating. That’s why the parking lots hosting static car shows seemed busier than usual.

Chuck Murray with wife Jordan and daughter Teagan enjoy watching cars by as they sit under some shade.  (DAVE ANGELL -- FOR THE MACOMB DAILY)
Chuck Murray with wife Jordan and daughter Teagan enjoy watching cars by as they sit under some shade. (DAVE ANGELL — FOR THE MACOMB DAILY)

Joe Monteleone, 53, of Trenton, who drove his 1991 burgundy F250 pickup to the show. says he’s glad to see his 15-year-old son starting to pay attention to the details of car design. That means there is a new generation of “gearheads” in the works.

“He’s actually looking at other older cars, looking at the lines, the color combinations,” he said. “It’s not the power of a car, but the look. I hope that continues.”

With a front-row view of vehicles cruising gratiot from a lawn chair in front of the Cruise Headquarters near 16 Mile Road, Myron Dixon, 49, of Roseville, said he has owned a hot rod, but likes the energy of the crowd.

“I just loved seeing the cars and the crazy things people do dress them up. Some of these guys are pretty creative,” he said.

Stephanie Mittelstedt, who works for Clinton Township government, recalled the days of walking to the end of Remick Street with her husband and daughters to watch the cars by on Gratiot Cruise Sunday.

“Like I said, it’s all about the next generation, so if we can’t get these kids educated and excited about what’s going on, this event will slowly whither away,” she said.

“We don’t want that to happen.”

romote for KBW Hot Rods
Two men observe a monster vehicle sponsored by Kreative Body Werks at the Bravado parking lot. (DAVE ANGELL — FOR THE MACOMB DAILY)

Now in its 20th year, the Gratiot Cruise had a bunch of street parties along the way featuring live bands, activities, displays, raffles, static car shows, and refreshments.

The Clinton Township Parks and Recreation Department took over the parking lot at Regional Shopping Center. It was filled with families and others moseying around, trying out the free activities and watching a three-way Battle of the Bands.

Tignanelli, the cruise chair, said even with the shortened route, he felt the avenue was the busiest in the last decade. He said the original intent of the cruise wasn’t to have a car show, but rather a way to draw potential customers to the businesses and restaurant on South Gratiot.

“We are now seeing the fruits of our labor,” he said. “The plumbing guy has a car show. The pizzeria has a show. Lover’s Lane has a car show. There is somebody selling stuff in front of every building. This would have never happened around here on a Sunday without this show.”