Escondido’s Cruisin’ Grand car show never truly ends. Like the day after Christmas or Mardi Gras for some, planning immediately began for Cruisin’ Grand 2016 after the 2015 version ended on Oct. 2. That 2016 event will be the 17th incarnation of the annual rite of spring and summer.
Swaying with the rhythms of spring and summer, almost in sync with the Major League Baseball season, the big show of vintage vehicles and fellow travelers begins the first Friday in April. As many as 500 vintage vehicles line block after block of Escondido’s main drag during each show.
For each week thereafter, thousands, of people check out the fabulous cars, venues, music and food that turns Grand Avenue into a grand spectacle of all vehicles olden and/or fast. Best of all, it’s free.
That was April, now it’s October and the final Cruisn; Grand event was the grandest of them all, Nitro Night was the dynamic culmination of nearly six months of fun. Nitro Night “ends the season with a bang, or more like a roar,” the official program said.
The goodbye show featured 20 historic nitro dragsters from the “Golden Years” of top fuel racing, i.e. 1960s Southern California. These nitro-fueled beasts push-started into 200 miles per hour at regional tracks featuring weekly 8-car or 16-car elimination fields. National events featured 32 cars. Super-duper special event competitions could have upwards of 100 dragsters vying for a 64-car elimination field.
The nitro dragsters at the car show’s last hurrah on Oct. 2 were faithful representations of actual cars from the 1960s. They either were recreations of original cars or recreations of original cars that had ben destroyed or vanished. Some of the current owners were quite faithful to the past. In fact, they raced the cars in the 1950s and 1960s.
Vintage car and car show aficionados come from near and far, sometimes very far. Many times they go from show to show depending on date and inclination. Many times, they choose a show and a spot and never deviated from form.
Retired airline pilot Bill Hussar and buddies always stakes out a spot by Georgia’s School of Dance, so serious is the Escondido resident, he reserves the spot around 2 p.m., some 3 1/2 hours before the show officially begins.
“We got used to a certain area,” Hussar said. “We like to sit back and watch the people walk by. Later, they’ll give out awards and I’m getting one later.”
Hussar had a finely restored California Highway Patrol car. He was hanging out with Valley Center’s Harvey Williamson, himself the owner of a vintage Plymouth sedan. Retired, the men said most of the car enthusiasts were older folk with their childhood-era cars. However, more than a few younger people also were there for the show.
Actually, the two men were at Ground Zero of the car event. A few doors away, the man with the plan himself, Steve Waldron, owner of Top End Tees, looked out on the event he had engineered, saying, “It’s been a good year.”
Waldron continued, “I was raised around hot rods and ∂rag racing in Los angeles. We thought that this would be a great venue for a cruisn’ night because of the appearance of the buildings. This has been befitting the downtown businesses and the city has been very good to work with.”
With car people, business people and city people all on the same page, Cruisn’ Grand will resume en Fuego come April.
Waldron said organizers tried to add new features every year and next year would be no exception. However, he smiled and declined comment when asked what those new featured might be, so no spoiler alerts this time unless they’re intended for rear car spoilers.