Downtown prepares to host fourth Cruisin' the Heartland

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By Sarah Bennett

Downtown streets will close this weekend as vintage cars bring nostalgia to Elizabethtown with Cruisin’ the Heartland.

This marks the event’s fourth year and the city’s second outing organizing Cruisin’, which originally was managed by the Hardin County Chamber of Commerce. Activities for the car enthusiasts kick off at 5 p.m. Friday with a poker run.

Cars go on display Saturday when gates open to the public at 11 a.m. Activities stretch into the evening with a concert at 7:30 p.m. by The Monarchs closing the schedule.

Elizabethtown Events Coordinator Sarah Vaughn said as of Wednesday morning, 75 owners have pre-registered their vehicles. More will register Saturday, but Vaughn estimated about half of the total participants do not register their vehicles.

Because many choose not to register, Vaughn said it is difficult to count the number of participants. However, she estimates between 1,200 and 1,400 car owners attended in 2012. The city anticipates about 1,800 will attend this year, she said.

Vaughn estimated 30 to 40 percent of the vintage vehicles come from outside the Hardin County area, which she said has a significant economic impact for the city.

Elizabethtown Police Department spokesman Virgil Willoughby said downtown streets will begin shutting down between 9:30 and 10 a.m. Saturday.

Mulberry Street will be closed from Poplar Street to College Street and West Dixie Avenue from North Miles Street to Central Avenue, Willoughby said. He advised area residents to expect those roadways to be closed from 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday.

New additions to the event this year include Friday’s poker run, Vaughn said, as well as a Bud Light beer tent, which opens at 7 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. Saturday near the Historic State Theater.

Those with alcoholic beverages must stay within the theater’s premises, Vaughn said. Visitors who intend to consume alcohol should ensure a designated sober driver is available, Willoughby said.

“This is a family event so make sure you are responsible for your actions,” he said.

Cruisin’ also has expanded its kids’ area this year, which is sponsored by The Cecilian Bank, Vaughn said. Activities available to children include bounce houses, face painting and a rock climbing wall.

Based on feedback from last year’s event, the number of food vendors has been increased, Vaughn said.

She added city staff also is working with more volunteers this year, which number at 85.

Willoughby said EPD will have seven to eight officers and cadets on site. The cadets will operate golf carts provided by the city to assist in the transport of anyone who is handicapped or has difficulty walking, he said.

The event is free and Vaughn said downtown Elizabethtown gives Cruisin’ the nostalgic environment that makes it unique.

“Without the downtown area, it would be just another car cruise,” she said.

Sarah Bennett can be reached at (270) 505-1750 or sbennett@thenewsenterprise.com.