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Route 66 News

City of Springfield to promote car cruising on Kearney Street

In a historic reversal, the city council of Springfield, Missouri, earlier this week voted unanimously to promote car cruising along Kearney Street — a prominent Route 66 alignment — on certain Friday nights this summer.

The city now will encourage motorists to cruise on Kearney Street from 6 to 10 p.m. the second Friday of each month from April through September or October. Classic cars will be the favored vehicle, but they are not required.

I’ll let the Springfield News-Leader give the context on why the city council’s act was a big deal:

Decades ago, Kearney Street drew hundreds of people to show off their cars, hang out with friends and meet new people. For hours, motorists would drive up and down the stretch of road as spectators gathered just off the curb.

The raucous crowds brought some business, but also problems, like litter, vandalism and miles of bumper-to-bumper traffic.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Springfield cracked down on cruising in different parts of town, leading to a citywide cruising ordinance. “No Cruising” signs are still posted on Kearney.

Jesse Jantz, a co-founder of Midwest Auto Alliance, explained why he was a supporter of cruising on one of Springfield’s main drags.

“This would drive traffic to areas on weekends for car enthusiasts to stop and watch cars going by and cruising into the lot. And along with that, those cruisers will grab a hamburger from McDonalds, an ice cream cone at Dairy Queen. They’ll stop for a drink at Taco Bell, go in for a bite at Kearney Street Cafe.”

Other business owners on Kearney also spoke enthusiastically for the proposal.

Tonya Pike, secretary for the Route 66 Association of Missouri, told the newspaper she remained skeptical of the rosy forecasts for the return of cruising on Kearney — mainly because many cruisers from the 1970s and ’80s have moved on to other interests, and cultural change has made the car less important in daily American life. But she also said a well-organized event might do well.

It goes to show one man’s nuisance becomes another man’s nostalgia.

I suspect the burgeoning success of Springfield’s Birthplace of Route 66 Festival was a big impetus for this move. It’s probably not a coincidence the council chose the second Friday of the month — that happens to coincide with the festival Aug. 11-12. And organizing a few cruises now could lead to a really amazing event by the time the festival rolls around.

(Image from a car cruise by CErixxson via Flickr)

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6 thoughts on “City of Springfield to promote car cruising on Kearney Street

  1. DynoDave

    Great news! I hope they put some effort into making it a success. Extra places to put garbage, bathroom facilities, a friendly police presence, the help of local car clubs (if there are any) in self-policing the activity, etc.

    Personally, I think Tonya doesn’t have a clue. LOL

  2. Allan Hunter

    I am from Mn. but I suggest more of the Classic cars that was what there at that time, yes
    there some hot rods as they were called. But who am I nobody listens to my ideas anyway.

  3. Allan Hunter

    to Tonya Pike, then you come to MN. and other places in the nation and se for yourself how these cars show are revered. We have many cars
    shows in Mn. and stop being so skepitical. ThankYou

  4. DynoDave

    I agree on the general enthusiasm for these types of events, Allan. Here in Michigan, and back home in Illinois, it’s non stop car cruises (every night of the week in season) and shows every weekend. The enthusiasm for the hobby is as strong as ever. Done right, it will succeed. And the events that succeed do so due to proper prior planning and support from the organizers and communities.

    I was just at a Cars & Coffee meet the Saturday before Easter in Springfield, IL, and it’s bulging at the seams. The event is new this year. So they’ve met there maybe 3 times prior? And already they are thinking about how to get more space.

    I have found that many of the general-isms made about millennials just aren’t true. And I hire and work with them every day. Folks tend to paint with far too broad of a brush with generational assumptions about behaviors, in my opinion.

    And let’s hope that someone who is the Secretary of the Route 66 Association of MO is wrong, because if there’s a loss of interest in cars, that doesn’t bode well for the road (and road trip), does it? Besides, as the economy has finally started to limp out of a long recession in just the last few years, we are finding that very same demographic that wasn’t buying cars, now buying them. (Several auto industry mags have written articles on this.) Not due to some big shift in their core beliefs, but because for half a decade or more, they couldn’t find work. Kids with college degrees completing for minimum wage jobs, 30 hours a week, and living at home still. I know because I hire them. And not at wages that you would hope a college grad would earn, unfortunately. And I say that not just as an employer, but as parent of two teens in college. They simply could not afford automotive independence.

    If the event fails, you can’t blame such platitudes as “cultural change (that) has made the car less important in daily American life.” Instead, look at the organizers and ask why it failed.

  5. Pingback: 'Blight' designation may boost Springfield's Kearney Street - Route 66 News

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