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Rev up your engines, polish up those tires and wipe down the chrome because Cruisin’ the Heartland returns to town this weekend.
Last year’s even was expected to draw 300 cars but organizers were thrilled to see about 950 cars from six states lining the streets of downtown Elizabethtown.
“We were very happy for the first year,” organizer Rik Hawkins said. “It felt like you’d walked back in time with all the chrome, glitter and muscle cars.”
He said the location of the event with vintage buildings downtown helped draw a crowd.
“I wanted Cruisin’ to show people that downtown is a great asset,” Hawkins said. “We just need to have the right events and the right combination of things happening there.”
Hawkins grew up in Elizabethtown and said he is glad to see it come to life again.
With a large population of Americans in their 50s and 60s, Hawkins said, these types of events are not only perfect for them but also for their children.
The baby boomer generation no longer has kids in college and many have some expendable income to fund hobbies such as vintage cars.
As someone who loves vintage cars, Hawkins wondered if he would be a part of the last generation to care about them but he has seen younger generations with vintage cars and knows the dream will be kept alive.
Last year’s show had an intergenerational audience sharing stories about the cars they remember.
Cars are connections to people’s memories relating to specific times in their lives, Hawkins said.
Vintage cars combined with music from that era and the nostalgic setting allow people to share those memories with their kids and grandkids, he said.
Memories are what connect Larry Adwell to his vintage cars. His 1964 Impala is the car he used to drive when dating his wife, Carmen.
For Adwell and others, the look of the cars is another draw. He said the older cars have a sportier look and unique body styles.
He’s also restoring a 1956 Chevy two-door sport that is like the car he had when he was younger.
“You get a lot of pride in restoring them,” Adwell said.
As he works on a car he takes pictures so he can watch the “transformation from an old junker into a beautiful car.”
There are a few changes this year to build on the momentum from last year. Events will take place on Friday and Saturday.
Because of NASCAR coming to the state of Kentucky this year, Friday night “Talladega Nights, the Legend of Ricky Bobby” and Saturday afternoon “Days of Thunder” will be shown at the Historic State Theater.
Also on Friday night, classic cars will be seen cruising around town as eight or more restaurants allow cars to cruise and provide special discounts to cruisers. Some will have a 1950s and 1960s theme that night.
For Saturday, the WAKY Oasis will have many themed contests in the First Federal gallery and the food court will be expanded from last year.
Two concerts will cap off the evening with the Headstones starting a street dance outside and Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours in concert in the State.
A shuttle service also will transport people to Swope’s Cars of Yesteryear museum.
Planners chose a fifth Saturday so the event would be one of the only vintage car events that day and it is the weekend before the Street Rod Nationals in Louisville. They are hoping to get some of the early birds for the Street Rod event to come to Cruisin' the Heartland.
Organizers are prepared for 1,500 cars this year and Hawkins has already received phone calls from seven states including one person who came from Iowa last year.
Hawkins said the future of this event looks good.
“There’s a great love of vintage automobiles in this area and downtown E'town is a perfect place to do it and that’s a good recipe to continue to do this,” he said.
Barring bad weather, Hawkins expects the event will lead to a good time.
“There’s something in each of us, in our memories, that an old car stirs something to life,” he said. “When you come to an event like this you are more likely to see cars that meant something to your family over the years, which makes it fun.”
Becca Owsley can be reached at (270) 505-1741 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Schedule of Events for Cruisin’ the Heartland July 29-30
“Talladega Nights the Legend of Ricky Bobby” 8 p.m. Friday at The Historic State Theater. Admission is a $2.00 donation.
Parking Saturday will be along the Historic 31W Corridor and US Hwy 62 including downtown Elizabethtown
Cruise parking opens at 11:00 a.m. Saturday
Breakfast for Cruisers served from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. at The Pritchard Community Center
“Days of Thunder” will show at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Historic State Theater. Admission is a $2.00 donation.
A free street concert featuring the Headstones 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours plays at 8 p.m. at the Historic State Theater. Tickets are on sale at the Historic State Theatre and the Elizabethtown Noon Rotary Club.
New this year: SWAP Meet. Vender spaces will be available. Contact Hardin County Chamber of Commerce.
New this year: 50/50 Drawing. Tickets will be sold for $1.00 each. The winner will get half the earnings.