I saw this article and I think it deserves a ‘guest post’ on my blog. It’s just about a local cruise in Illinois, but the car club calls itself the ‘Dream Machines’ car club, which sounds great to me. I don’t know why, but they didn’t include pictures. I always include pictures. Sorry, but it’s a good look at the latest craze in America; classic cars and hot rods. That’s why I hope they enjoy my novel, Dream Machines. Enjoy.
It’s Labor Day weekend in the Illinois Valley, and that means it’s time for one thing — the Dream Machines Car Club Streator Car Show and Cruise Night.
Sure, there are other events going on — notably in Toluca, Paw Paw, Mendota and Pontiac, some of those celebrations with more than six decades of history — but today’s Cruise Night celebration is the undisputed king.
If there was any doubt about which event wears the crown, last year put it to rest. After a threat of rain abated, Dream Machines Vice President Mike Starjack said more than 500 vehicles took part. He also told The Times between 15,000 and 20,000 people came out to see the vintage cars. Those numbers are on pace with 2010, the last year where Cruise Night coincided with great weather, which drew 545 cars and at least 20,000 spectators.
That’s a two with four zeroes — a larger number than the population of any single town in La Salle County.
Some taverns and restaurants point to Cruise Night as their biggest of the year in terms of traffic and revenue. Cars come in from several states. Perhaps not every hotel room in town is booked, but clearly Cruise NIght has a social and economic impact. It’s no wonder the organizers of the Streator Tenderloin Festival chose Labor Day weekend — they knew when it made the most sense to tap in to a huge number of visitors.
Cruise nights are common throughout the region, so what’s the big deal in Streator? Anyone can have a car show. In Streator, the real attraction is the cruising: getting those vintage vehicles out on the road, slowly going up and down the main streets, listening to classic music and restoring — if only for one night — some magic memories of the past.
In many ways, Streator is a perfect backdrop. Many families have called the town home for generations. The people are proud of the town’s work ethic, and nothing says “elbow grease” like getting under the hood of your classic auto and turning a wrench yourself. Anyone with money can buy an old car. But only someone with passion, skill and dedication can restore it to glory.
The physical scenery itself helps, as Streator itself has a classic look. Not much of town is ultra-modern, and that’s the way many folks like it. Streator looks and feels like home, and these classic cars and their owners fit right in. Cruise Night hearkens back to the days when the Roamer — America’s answer to the Rolls Royce — was built in Streator.
It seems almost preposterous now to think America’s leading luxury car could be built in a small town in the middle of Illinois. But that’s the way things worked in the early 1900s, and Cruise Night and the Dream Machines Car Club help us all tap into that nostalgia.
The cruise route is from Main Street to Park Street to Kent Street to Vermillion Street to Hickory Street to Shabbona Street and back to Main. Members of the Dream Machines Club are selling tickets all day for the choice of a restored 1975 Plymouth Duster or $5,000 in cash.
The people who continue make Labor Day weekend special in Streator every year deserve praise for their efforts. It’s a labor of love for sure, and the beneficiaries are numerous. Hats off to everyone involved. The months of planning and preparation are complete. Tonight, the party begins. Live it up, step back in time and enjoy one of the greatest weekends of the year.