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Cruise Night remains a classic

Summer event is a hit despite the much-ballyhooed 'Carmageddon.'

July 16, 2011|By Megan O'Neil, megan.oneil@latimes.com
  • Mike Swenson polishes his 1958 Chevrolet pick up truck during Cruise Night on Saturday in Glendale.
Mike Swenson polishes his 1958 Chevrolet pick up truck… (Cheryl A. Guerrero/Staff…)

While California's car culture was being cursed in some corners of the Southland this weekend, it was celebrated in another.

Tens of thousands of people crammed into downtown Glendale on Saturday, browsing vintage cars, eating pulled-pork sandwiches and dancing to 1950s rock music.

Launched in 1993, Cruise Night has become a summer tradition. And despite the much-ballyhooed closure of the San Diego (405) Freeway, officials said they expected attendance to hit the 45,000 mark, consistent with past years.

"I don't think Carmageddon had an effect," said Glendale City Councilman Ara Najarian. "It is mainly drawing from our local area."

The boulevard was closed between Doran Street and Broadway, leaving visitors to walk up and down uninhibited. Restaurants offered discounts and free desserts, while bands played on stages set up mid-street.

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"This has become one of our signature events in the city of Glendale," Najarian said. "It really highlights Brand Boulevard. Every year everyone is well behaved, well mannered."

The 407 cars on display included low riders, station wagons, sports cars and novelty items. A few modern vehicles were also in the mix; local dealers showcased electric and other energy-efficient options.

Each car harbored a personal story. Glendale resident Arnold Bercovitz, a Cruise Night regular, said he has owned his 1957 Thunderbird for 41 years.

"I always wanted to own one," Bercovitz said. "My cousin got one when he graduated high school, and my folks couldn't afford anything like that."

In 1970, he mustered up $1,300 and bought his Thunderbird, driving it daily for nearly two decades. Today, it is insured for $65,000, Bercovitz said.

Jere Young bought his 1973 Mustang convertible in 1974 at the insistence of his wife, who was tired of driving the kids around in station wagons. He brought it home from the lot and handed her the keys.

"I told my wife, 'Don't ding it up too bad because we are going to keep it forever,'" Young said. "We did."

Visitors poked heads under the hoods of cars and posed for photos. Much of the charm of vintage cars lies in the love and labor invested by the owners, attendees said.

"You walk down through here and you will see a guy 75, 80 years old and he has got a car he built," said John Burrows, who had his 1967 Ford Ranchero on display. "And you start looking at it and [realize] he has done a lot of neat stuff."

Car show regulars described Glendale's Cruise Night as a can't-miss.

"This is one of the better ones," said West Covina resident Jerry Dragoo as he kept a close eye on his 1936 Chevy sedan. "It is a well managed show, and it is nice in the evening."

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