Cruisin oldies plan unsanctioned Paso revival
May 21, 2008
By DANIEL BLACKBURN
“Old habits like you are hard to break.” – Country western singer Ronnie Milsap.
Hold the obituary on Paso Robles’ famous Memorial Weekend custom vehicle cruise.
Some longtime participants, quoting Yogi Berra in proclaiming, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over,” are fashioning an under-the-radar celebration that likely will attract hundreds of customized vehicles and their fun-loving owners, just like the past three decades. This year, though, there will be at least two significant changes. The show will go on without the permission of, or permits from, Paso Robles city officials; and fewer people will be spending three full days in town, spending their money.
Sponsors of this year’s “non-event” are hoping to help salvage some lost revenues for downtown businesses hurt by the cruise’s absence. They have dubbed the impromptu gathering “The First Annual No-Cruise Night.”
The West Coast Kustoms Cruisin’ Nationals have been centered in Paso Robles for nearly 30 years, and related festivities stretch over the Memorial Day weekend. The event’s top attraction has always been the seeming-endless “cruise” of beautifully-customized automobiles, trucks and sundry vehicles down Spring Street to the cheers of thousands of onlookers.
People would bring folding chairs, ice chests and food to last for hours. Families planned vacations around the long weekend, and many of those had standing reservations at nearby hotels, which were always booked to the rafters. Local businesses would clean up, many reporting five-fold increases in revenues over the weekend.
Last year, Paso Robles Police Chief Lisa Solomon told the city council that her officers were encountering increased problems during the event. Its sponsors subsequently were informed that they would be required to pay a $30,000 fee for additional law enforcement, and abruptly decided to take their show to Santa Maria. A cruise will occur there Saturday morning.
But old traditions, long-held hotel reservations, fond memories and a measure of rebellion is bringing the cruising cars, their owners, and their fans, back to their old haunt, Paso Robles… unofficially, that is.
During the day, a steady flow of show cars into Paso Robles is expected. A slow cruise down Spring Street will be held “sometime early Saturday evening,” according to Joe Torres, vice president of Hunter Auto Body. Torres has been around the cruise event most of his life, and he said he doesn’t want it to disappear. He’s helping by organizing a variety of other Saturday events, including a 5 to 9 p.m. barbeque benefiting the local historical society, and music by the Dirty Boys Band, at Hunter Auto Body, 1236 Railroad Street in Paso Robles. Libations will be flowing. Many of the old gang will be there, said Torres. And that is where the classic cars will be found.
“We’re just trying to keep the cruise custom alive in Paso,” he noted. “People in this town look forward to this every year. So we’re going to get as many of the cars as possible out here, to show to the public, and we’re going to have a good time. There’s a possibility of a very large turnout,” said Torres, as word of the non-event is spreading.
“It’s just a free cruise, and I hope everybody will bring their families out,” added Bear, president of the Dirty Boys Auto Club which is sponsoring the barbeque and providing the music.
A reporter-photographer team from Hot Rod Magazine will be at the “underground” car show, said Ron French, co-owner of the historic Pine Street Saloon, located right across from Hunter Auto Body. French said he expects “a big Saturday, but it won’t certainly be anything like the three days it used to be.”
Other, “official” events in the city over the weekend will include locally-owned cars in the park; a Friday night dance, also at the park; and a Saturday antique car auction at River Oaks Hot Springs Spa.