Today is the 24nd annual Woodward Dream Cruise, billed as the world’s largest classic car event. It takes place in my back yard. Well, to be exact, it’s about 1/2 a block away from my front yard! More than a million people and 40,000 classic cars are expected to visit us today on Woodward Avenue, between Pontiac, MI and Ferndale, MI. It’s big, it’s fun, and it’s FREE!
There are more parties in my neighborhood scheduled for today than at any other time during the year, including 4th of July and Super Bowl Sunday. And the fact is, although this is officially a one-day event, it has been going on unofficially for the past week.
In August 1995, Nelson House and a group of volunteers looked to relive and recreate the nostalgic heydays of the 50s and 60s, when youth, music and Motor City steel roamed Woodward Avenue, America’s first highway. That year, 250,000 people participated—nearly ten times the number expected. The rest, as they say, is history.
Ted’s, Totem Pole and The Varsity, Hollywood, Wigwam and Suzie Q’s, and, of course, Big Boy. These old-time drive-ins and restaurants that dotted Woodward Avenue were the places to see and be seen during an era remembered perhaps most famously by Hollywood in American Graffiti and Happy Days. These locations were the turnarounds, stopping points and social hangouts for the cruisers of the era.
Today, the Woodward Dream Cruise is the world’s largest one-day automotive event, drawing an estimated 1.5 million people and 40,000 classic cars each year from around the globe—from as far away as New Zealand, Australia, Japan and the former Soviet Union. North American cruisers from California, Georgia, Canada and all points in between caravan to Metro Detroit to participate in what has become, for many, an annual rite of summer.
It has mushroomed to include the length of Woodward Ave from Ferndale (at the city border with Detroit) to Pontiac, a distance of 16 miles, encompassing nine communities, although only six have official events.
The car companies and automotive suppliers have eventually taken up sponsorship/major participation – Ford is this year’s primary sponsor – with official presence along the route. All along the roadway beautiful classic cars are parked where passers-by can look and even touch. Thousands of other cars are cruising the 8-lane boulevard from one end to the other, which is open for general traffic throughout the event, although they ask that the curb lanes be reserved for the classics.
My town is Ford Country. The major cross street is closed to traffic and, among other attractions, contains Mustang Alley.
Events range from car shows, a car parade, a 1950’s style drive-in with carhops, dance exhibitions, music, and old-time outdoor movies. Bus service is free along Woodward all day on Saturday, so that those attending can easily visit the events in all of the participating cities. There is a real A&W restaurant with carhops about a mile from Woodward in the town I used to live in – Berkley, MI. It is next door to my veterinarian’s office.
While most events are free to the public, there are special fund-raising parties and other events, as well as sales of official merchandise, that keeps the Cruise rolling from year to year.
It’s quite a spectacle!
More about the events: Woodward Dream Cruise 2018