Climate conditions and road construction teamed up to put a huge speed bump in the Clinton Township Gratiot Cruise, reducing the number of participants and spectators by more than half.
Sunday cruisers woke up to gray skies and experienced on-and-off showers and downpours for the rest of the day. State road construction closed the far two right lanes of Gratiot between 14 Mile Road and Wellington Crescent, the boundaries of the cruise.
Still, for those that came out for a couple of hours of taking in the muscle cars while dodging raindrops, the event was a good time.
David Rose, 34, of Fraser, drove over to Gratiot to let his sons, 2-year-old Remington and 5-year-old Felix blow off some steam at the Family Fun Zone behind the McLaren Macomb building on Gratiot at Metro Parkway (16 Mile Road). That’s where the bulks of the family activities were set up.
“It’s kind of awkward this year with all of the construction,” he said. “But I just wanted my two boys to get out here and do the Touch-A-Truck and let them experience this all again.”
Rose said after grabbing a bite to eat and visiting the activities, he planned to head out on to Gratiot to take a look at the classic cars.
“With the weather and all that, we’re just trying to make the best of the situation,” Rose said.
Now in its 20th year, the Clinton Township Gratiot Cruise celebrates Macomb County’s largest procession of hot rods, roadsters, motorcycles, antique vehicles, pickup trucks and other wheeled contraptions that gather on Gratiot Avenue between 14 Mile Road and Wellington Crescent for a day of family fun.
The National Weather Service forecast called for on-and-off showers lingering until about 1-2 p.m., and then the threat of occasional thunderstorms afterward.
Cruise day is usually a big deal along Gratiot in south Clinton Township, attracting about 100,000 people to take in the street parties, displays and car shows.
There were hardly any parties between 14 Mile and 15 Mile roads, and only a handful north of 15 Mile. All of the major dealerships, which normally are bustling on cruise days, had no action.
Steve Carollo of Shelby Township said his wife deemed Gratiot suitable to drive so he brought out his 1966 Corvette to the cruise. The vehicle is basically rebuilt with a new engine, transmission and chassis.
“This a very trustworthy vehicle that you can drive almost anywhere and not worry about it breaking down,” he said.
Carollo said all the cruisers knew ahead of time about the road construction, but the weather was more unpredictable. He said cruisers risk getting dirt and debris under the car while it’s moving so most cruisers would rather park at a car show for several hours.
“Right now, I’m still waiting for the roads to dry,” he said. “I’d like to cruise a bit before I head home.”
Gratiot is in the middle of a Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) $22.6 million resurfacing project from 14 Mile Road to Wellington Crescent, which also happens to be the cruise boundaries. Two lanes of the road in each direction is closed for construction.
Because of the closures, MDOT isn’t allowing the cruise to temporarily shut down any lanes to allow for the VIP lap which traditionally opens the cruise, committee members said. The VIP lap, where police the cruise route to let the dignitaries take a ceremonial ride through it, will return next year.
Jim Tignanelli, chairperson of the cruise planning committee, said he’s always impressed by the grit of “car guys” who show up in inclement weather and on torn-up roads who show up on the first Sunday of August to hang out with each other and make up the event’s infrastructure.
“It reminds me that we survived COVID and still had guys here and their cars in the parking lot sitting six feet apart and whatever, and you had 100,000 people and more EZ Up pop up tents than you thought were possible, and all the things that could wrong and we survived,” Tignanelli said.
“And these guys know that next year is another year, and we’ll be back and let’s keep moving on.”