The Woodward Dream Cruise is a cultural phenomenon in greater Detroit, the largest one-day celebration of classic car culture in the world. Unlike Concours d’Elegance, which focuses on high-end luxury automobiles, The Dream Cruise is more of a rallying point for muscle cars, hot rods and the people who love them. This year’s big event takes place August 15, but some die-hard enthusiasts extend the event by a week in either direction.
Anyone can ride in the Woodward Dream Cruise, and anyone can be a spectator. There are no tickets to purchase; you simply camp your family somewhere along Woodward, turn up the boom boxes and party. The best place to observe the spectacle, according to its fans, is near the half-way point, or between 12 and 13 Mile Roads. Since the stretch runs 16 miles, there is plenty of room for everyone. There are no rules for riding in the Dream Cruise; if your car is street legal, you can join the crowd, even if your ride is held together with duct tape.
Expect to see muscle cars, loud cars and one-of-a-kind custom-welded creations wrought by automotive hobbyists in their home garages. There will also be soccer moms in 11-year-old mini-vans sweeping past the crowds, covered with stickers denoting the various child-of-the-month awards their kids have won. Business owners with advertising plastered on their vehicles will be certain to get hours of exposure as they travel the circuit endlessly throughout the day.
Families usually take coolers loaded with their favorite beverages and picnic foods, but all of the restaurants will be open and packed wall to wall with patrons from the one million-person gathering. Expect extremely long lines to get restaurant seating, but also consider the many spaghetti, fish and chicken dinners the churches sell on Cruise day. There will be food trucks and stalls set up to handle the unusually strong demand for fast food, and all the standard fast-food businesses will be open and packed with customers.
Every business along the avenue will be open, if not to sell goods, then to sell parking spots in front of their stores. Most of the churches which line the Avenue (there are dozens of them) will sell parking for the day, as will private homes located within three blocks to either side of the event. You may have to park six or seven blocks away from Woodward Avenue; if you do, be certain to read the signs well. Traffic police have a field day writing tickets for improperly parked cars. Many residents block the space in front of their homes to prevent outsiders from taking up their spaces; if you see a dinette set placed in a parking spot, do not assume it was taken to the curb as refuse and load it into the bed of your truck.
Be particularly alert to safety issues during the Dream Cruise. Fox example, if you camp out at a red light, there will be a back-up of cars immediately in front of you and your family will be inhaling carbon monoxide all day. Similarly, if you camp out at an open stretch, be very careful of your children’s whereabouts, because muscle cars zoom by endlessly. Sitting in the sun without UV protection is especially dangerous for young children; take sun block and use it generously. For extra protection, take an umbrella which has UV protection.
Romero Anton Montalban-Anderssen is the winner of the 2009 first prize in journalism from the Detroit Working Writers Organization. He has seasonal residency in Detroit Michigan, The Italian Riviera, and Honolulu Hawaii. His work can be found at Examiner.com.