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)