Car enthusiasts cruise to the Village

Claremont’s Village welcomed back Cruise Night Saturday evening, showcasing an overwhelming turnout of classic cars almost a year after the show was stripped from the streets of the city. 

For the first time in Cruise Night history, which was first brought to Claremont by Ron and Sandy Coglietti of the Village Grille about 15 years ago, the city shut down roadways to allow cars and car enthusiasts the freedom to roam between their favorite retro roadsters.  

More than 100 cars crammed into the streets swarming with locals happy to see the event return to town.

“We are walking down memory lane,” said Volunteer Cindy Brown of Connie & Dick’s Service Center. “It’s really wonderful to see the kids walking through and learning about our history.”

Hundreds of car enthusiasts roamed the blocked-off streets of Second Street and Harvard Avenue, filled to capacity with the flawlessly restored classics from shiny Bel Airs to Bonnevilles. A DJ serenaded the crowds with 1950s croons to set the mood.

“I’ve always had a thing for vintage, and I love cars,” said Evan Hardenburger, 17, of La Verne. “It’s a neat way to bring the community together. It’s festive.”

Eddie Garnica of Chino was thrilled when he read about the event’s return in a local newspaper.

“I love this area, and was glad to see [Cruise Night] was coming back,” Mr. Garnica said, who brought his 1964 Chevy pickup in hopes of claiming one of the event’s coveted trophies.

Cruise Night returned to Claremont after a 10-month hiatus due to controversy over the city’s weekend ritual. Parking issues, growing costs, and bad blood among shop owners sparked attendance in the event to dwindle, and forced Ms. Coglietti to call it quits.

“I was tired of fighting with other merchants and with the city,” Ms. Coglietti said. “I didn’t want to do it anymore.”

Though the city had originally refused to grant Ms. Coglietti’s wishes to close down Yale Avenue or other streets nearby to make room for the cars, residents weren’t ready to see the event speed away.

“It was really sad. This should be a huge opportunity for these businesses. They should really market to the ‘Cruise Night’ experience,” Ms. Brown said.

The issue was brought up for discussion at City Council last May with an overwhelming amount of support from the public, including Ms. Brown.

“It’s an important part of our history, and something we need to keep here in the city,” Ms. Brown added. “It’s something we should be proud of.”

And the city finally agreed. On May 10, city council unanimously voted to provide a permit for the event and help provide partial financial support.

Through the permits, the city saw that portions of Second Street and Harvard Avenue were closed down, provided spaces for the car showmen to park without fear of being ticketed.

With Cruise Night back on the map, car showmen came to Claremont in droves. So many, in fact, that Ms. Coglietti and volunteers were forced to turn about 30 cars away for lack of space.

“I was really surprised,” Ms. Coglietti said. “In the past we could have had that many, but there wouldn’t be enough space to park. My son and I were really pleased with how it turned out.”

Cruise Night frequenters, like Hugh Walker of Upland who has been participated for the last 5 years, were pleased to once again show off their collector’s items.

“I love Claremont. I do all my shopping here, I bank here, I’m happy to once again have my cars here,” Mr. Walker said, proudly standing by his award-winning 1962 Chevy Covair.

Cruise Night will continue in Claremont on Saturday, September 10, and Saturday, October 8, but locals are hoping the event will become a regular occurrence once again.

“It’s one night a month where people can get out and enjoy themselves for a few hours,” Ms. Brown said. “For now, we get three months, and we’ll see what happens from there.”


—Beth Hartnett


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