By JOHN KLINE
THE GOSHEN NEWS
GOSHEN — It will be cars, cars and more cars in downtown Goshen Friday afternoon and evening for the kickoff of the fifth annual First Fridays Goshen Cruisin’ Reunion.
Set to begin at 5 p.m. and run through 9 p.m., the annual Cruisin’ Reunion is typically the largest First Fridays event of the year, drawing thousands of car fans and curious onlookers to Goshen’s downtown to watch the hundreds of noisy cars, trucks and motorcycles rumble along Main Street while taking in the local entertainment and enjoying a wide variety of food.
And if the predictions of longtime event organizer Don Riegsecker hold true, this year could be the best year yet for the event.
“People like cars, you know what I mean?” Riegsecker said of the popular event. “People just like cars. So if you have an event where you have cars, people will show up.”
Crediting its connection to First Fridays and Goshen’s longtime love affair with all things cruising, Riegsecker said the annual Cruisin’ Reunion is usually a pretty sure thing as far as success stories go. That is, of course, if the weather cooperates.
“Last year it was really hot, so we didn’t get as many people early, and I think some people chose not even to come downtown because it was so hot,” Riegsecker said. “Then a year before last we had some rain, so that hurt the turnout a little bit also. But the year before that, the second year we held it, we had really great weather for that one, and the turnout was just incredible.”
If local weather reports are to be believed, it’s looking good that Friday’s Crusin’ Reunion will boast weather very similar to that blowout second year, news that has fellow event organizer and Downtown Goshen Inc. President Gina Leichty all smiles.
“The forecast for this year looks like it couldn’t be any more ideal,” Leichty said. “Last year, we had 105 degrees with a heat warning. But in 2010 we had a very similar forecast to this year, and that was a great turnout. So that’s really exciting.”
While much of this year’s Crusin’ Reunion will mirror reunions of previous years, this year’s event does boast one significant change — no staging or preregistration. Instead, Leichty said, things will be a little more simple and laid back this year.
“In previous years we staged the event at Goshen Middle School and had drivers come into town from a couple different routes,” Leichty said. “That proved to be fairly difficult logistically to manage, so what we’re doing this year is just having people bring their classic cars downtown at 5 p.m., and there will be no registration and no entry fees. So basically, if you can squeeze in, you’re in.”
In addition to the Cruisin’ Reunion, First Fridays this month will also feature plenty of additional entertainment options for attendees young and old.
Beginning at 5:30 p.m., rising contemporary jazz saxophonist and MEGAWAVE Records artist Kris Brownlee will take the stage at 234 S. Main St., Suite 4, followed by the funk, soul and classic rock stylings of Mr. Jones and The Groovetones at 7:30 p.m.
Many local car dealers will also be on hand Friday from 5 to 9 p.m. showcasing fast and furious autos at the Wheels and Deals car show along Lincoln Avenue between Main and Third Streets.
In the mood for something a little more upbeat? The Goshen Elks Lodge may have just what you’re looking for.
“Another really fun event will be a sock hop at the Elks Lodge,” Leichty said. “They’ll have a DJ playing 50’s and 60’s music, giant pork tenderloin sandwiches and a cash bar. They also built a street patio along Main Street where people can eat, listen to the music and watch the cars go by, and everybody is invited.”
And for those who enjoy a little beer with their entertainment, the Goshen Professional Firefighters Local 1443 will be back to First Fridays this month with their beer garden on West Lincoln Avenue. All funds raised will go toward Scott Thomas, a Goshen paramedic and firefighter living in Warsaw who has been diagnosed with brain cancer.
First Fridays is a monthly event highlighting businesses, artists and entertainers in downtown Goshen. Downtown Goshen Inc. is a not-for-profit group focused on the growth and vibrancy of the city’s commercial core.