By SCOTT WEISSER
THE GOSHEN NEWS
Don Riegsecker had his concerns early Friday afternoon.
Dark clouds were overhead, and the event Riegsecker was organizing — the fifth-annual Goshen Cruisin’ Reunion — was set to get rolling at 5 p.m.
“July’s kind of potluck,” he said of the local climate.
Mother Nature came through, though, and not just by holding off the rain. The temperature was considerably more moderate than the 2012 downtown swelterfest.
“I think we were about 20 degrees cooler than last year,” Riegsecker said.
Weather no doubt boosted turnout, and one organizer speculated that this summer’s cruising event may have had record attendance.
“I thought it was a perfect night,” said Gina Leichty, director of Downtown Goshen Inc. “It looked like we had record crowds. ...The weather held up, and it looked like everybody and their brother came out for a really good night.”
Leichty said turnout for the 2010 Cruisin’ Reunion had been the biggest ever. She said police had estimated that attendance at 15,000 to 18,000 people.
“It looked like a comparable crowd to that,” Leichty said of Friday’s turnout.
The automobile cruise-in has been the July First Fridays event in downtown Goshen for five years now, but the inspiration for it dates back further. It’s a resurrection of sorts of the era when automobile cruising downtown was a local and regional social draw. City officials put the end to cruising in the mid-1980s.
Goshen police said Saturday afternoon there were no event-related incidents reported Friday, and no major traffic-related issues. Extra officers had been assigned downtown Friday night to assist with the crowd and traffic control.
Riegsecker praised the work of those police officers, and said he’d talk to Goshen’s police chief in the next week or so about the cruise-in event.
One thing Riegsecker liked about Friday’s festival was the staging on the south side of the courthouse. Lincoln Avenue was blocked off there, making room for vehicle sponsors, a beer garden and food vendors — he said the line at the Bowers Drive-In replica was 30 to 40 people deep the whole time. Attendees could also enjoy entertainment on the lawn. Riegsecker described it as a family friendly area.
“I hope we continue to do it that way,” he said.
Leichty pointed out the number of gatherings and vehicles she saw along Pike Street Friday outside the official scope of First Fridays.
“It was evident to me that people on their own initiative had planned parties around the event,” she said. “...It shows a great way for the community to come together.”
Reviewing Friday’s cruise-in, Leichty said the event probably could have used four or five more food vendors. The Elks Club was sold out of tenderloins by 7 p.m., she said, and The Olympia sold of out of food and closed early Friday.
Riegsecker also took stock of the demand.
“When people are running out of food,” he said, “you know there’s quite a few people down there.”