On the road for its 22nd year

“Rebel Rouser,” a unique dwarf replica of a Chevy sedan, stands out among the other vehicles at the North St. Paul History Cruzer Car Show. (Linda Baumeister/file photo)
“Rebel Rouser,” a unique dwarf replica of a Chevy sedan, stands out among the other vehicles at the North St. Paul History Cruzer Car Show. (Linda Baumeister/file photo)
Last summer even the family pets attended the show on East Seventh Avenue. (Linda Baumeister/file photo)
Last summer even the family pets attended the show on East Seventh Avenue. (Linda Baumeister/file photo)
Classics cruise through downtown weekly on Friday nights during the North St. Paul History Cruze Car Show. (Linda Baumeister/file photo)
Classics cruise through downtown weekly on Friday nights during the North St. Paul History Cruze Car Show. (Linda Baumeister/file photo)

North St. Paul council renews license for History Cruzers Car Show

With the winter snows deepening across Minnesota and the temperatures getting colder, many people's thoughts are turning ahead to summer.

Those involved in organizing and planning the annual History Cruze car shows are no exception.

While it may seem early to be planning for summer activities, the organizers of the Friday night car shows are gearing up for all that is to come in 2016. And they can kick it into high gear now that the North St. Paul City Council members voted unanimously to renew the license for the car show at their meeting Tuesday, Jan. 5.

The show will be back for a 22nd year, and is scheduled to run from 6 to 10 p.m. June 3 to Sept. 16.

Every Friday evening last year, an average of 6,000 to 7,000 people crowded East Seventh Avenue in downtown North St. Paul to see the vintage vehicles, which are all at least 40 years old.

But the weekly event is widely regarded as much more than a car show. It provides a time for many to gather.

Clay Rivera, owner of Clay's Barber Shop, says that the best part is getting to watch people mingle.

He often runs into people he hasn't seen in years and enjoys getting the chance to catch up with them.

Carolyn Howard, who owns La Garage with her husband, Del, agrees that it is a great community event, adding that she loves that "you don't need even one penny to enjoy it." Though several vendors sell a variety of American street food during the Friday night get-together, there is plenty to enjoy for free.

Complaints dwindle as crowds swell

Though most people agree it is a fun summer event and an economic boost for the city, it has not always been that way.

John Pontrelli, a former North St. Paul City Council member who helped to get the event started, admits that there was some hesitation at first among community leaders and homeowners near the downtown district, and that there were a number of complaints.

Pontrelli and Mayor Mike Kuehn now work together to set up annual meetings prior to the first car show of the season so that residents and merchants have an opportunity to raise any questions or concerns that they have, though fewer and fewer people have been attending in recent years, and sometimes no one shows up at all.

Pontrelli and the rest of the volunteer History Cruzers say they have done as much as they can to quell any negativity through their own personal help. At the Tuesday city council meeting to renew the license for the car shows, city manager Jason Ziemer mentioned that the History Cruzers have "taken on quite a bit" of the workload themselves over the years as far as the set up of temporary barricades along East Seventh, take down and maintenance go.

They have also been proactive in hearing the concerns of the people and tackling them head on, Ziemer says.

Pontrelli explains that many people now feel comfortable contacting him directly, asking for help to do things such as setting up cones to ensure that there is enough parking for personal events such as graduation parties that occur in the neighborhoods during the car show and that he is happy to do so.

Visitors enjoy eating, shopping

It seems clear that the dedication of the History Cruzers to work with the city has paid off.

Most North St. Paul businesses now seem glad to have the influx of additional summer customers. Howard even says that the car show was a big factor in her and her husband's decision to open their store in North St. Paul.

She and Rivera both agree that the event brings in a lot of new customers to their businesses. Rivera says that Fridays often become his busiest day during the summer.

This increase in business is exactly what Pontrelli hoped to accomplish with the car show when he started the event.

Kuehn says the History Cruze car shows definitely provide a unique opportunity to showcase the town. They draw in people from all over Minnesota and even some from other states, boosting business and bringing people together.

The variety of activities and wholesome atmosphere provide fun for everyone, the mayor adds.

Although some people may have been skeptical when the car shows were getting started over two decades ago, the Friday night events are now regarded as a positive time for the city and bring additional customers to local retail businesses, he says.

Rivera likely speaks for many when he says, "I just hope they never quit!"

Elizabeth Jaeger can be reached at ejaeger@lillienews.com or 651-748-7814.

 

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