Car fans were in Goshen Friday night, but they thought they were in heaven.
Their journey to paradise began at Goshen Middle School, where drivers gathered with their cars before heading for downtown to take part in the second annual Goshen Cruisin’ Reunion. The event was part of First Fridays.
"Unless you see this, I don’t think you could explain it to anyone," Jeff Showalter said of the multi-thousand crowd lining Main Street in Goshen. "I’ve never seen the town so vibrant." He said he has been to nearly every First Friday event, missing only one in the past two years.
"It’s absolutely amazing," Showalter said.
Thousands of car fans and curious onlookers crowded the downtown area, courthouse square and Clinton Street to look at colorful and noisy cars, trucks, motorcycles pass by and take in the entertainment and enjoy a wide variety of food.
Organizer Don Riegsecker said everything came together to make the Friday program a success. He mentioned the great weather, as temperatures were in the low 80s and high 70s last evening.
Riegsecker estimated there were 500 to 600 vehicles at the staging area of the Goshen Middle School, where two groups of cruisers left at 6 p.m., one headed up Indiana Avenue to Pike Street and the second going east on Plymouth and then north on Main. The lines of cruisers were led by Goshen police officers.
"I had a blast," Riegsecker said of the cruise-in.
Showalter, who has had a career in the car business, missed the cruise-in last year but drove his 1963 Corvette convertible two laps around downtown this year. "We went two laps in two hours. Well, to be accurate, it was an hour and 45 minutes. It was 20 minutes between lights. It took 40 minutes to come up Pike Street," Showalter said, after parking his convertible on Clinton Street. "I had a blast. I’m guessing there were 500 to 600 cars in the parking lot. It is pretty cool."
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A street rodder who grew up in central Indiana returned to Goshen after being in the cruise last year.
Mike Zimmerman, who now lives in Elkhart, said he, "wouldn’t miss it. It’s fun."
Zimmerman was in the cruise-in last year in his 1937 Ford slant-back and drove his 1934 Ford coupe this year.
"I’m not from here," he said, as he grew up at Tipton, where there was also cruising by people from Kokomo, Alexandria and other surrounding cities.
"I just hope nobody gets hurt and we can keep this going."
A Goshen couple who watched the start of the cruise Friday at the back of their sports car were glad they attended.
"There are some nice cars here," said Jay Saenz, Goshen, as he sat with his 1988 Corvette convertible, waiting his place in line to leave the middle school.
"There are some beautiful cars here," added his wife, Kelly.
Saenz said they missed the cruise-in last year, and planned to drive their Corvette as far as they could Friday night. They explained that the engine might overheat in stop-and-go traffic if there is too much stopping.
"We’ll go as far as we can," Jay said.
Edna Ringler, Shipshewana, drove to Goshen Friday in her 1960 Devin roadster. The kit car was built by Bill Devin himself in California, she said, but in recent years the blue speedster was totally restored by Edna’s late husband, Joe.
Edna said she enjoys driving the sports car to shows and cruises with her friends, many of whom joined the Goshen cruise Friday.
Dave Kieper, North Webster, drove his restored 1953 Ford truck to the cruise-in. "I have three kids who live in Goshen. I remember when it was going on (cruising)," Kieper said. He added that his 18-year-old granddaughter planned to cruise Friday night for the first time, with friends in a VW bus.
Bob Miller, Middlebury, said he remembers when cruising was popular and Goshen’s Main Street was jammed on weekend nights.
"I remember coming over here and we would have to take the side streets to get through town," Miller said.
Millers is car buff and his restaurant, Das Dutchman Essenhaus, hosts an antique car cruis-in every Thursday.
Friday, he and a friend took to Goshen’s streets and rode in his restored 1951 Ford truck.
"It’s good, clean entertainment and it doesn’t cost too much," Miller said.
Marta Klotz and her husband, Devon, of Warsaw, brought her 1966 Pontiac Bonneyville to Goshen Friday. She was out of town last year and missed the cruise, but Devon came in one of his Corvettes, which had a manual transmission. His left leg was sore from pushing the clutch in.
He has a 1963 split window coupe and a 1965 convertible, he said.
"I said we should take the car with the automatic transmission," Devon said.
Marta explained she bought her yellow convertible in 1966, with her father co-signing.
"I drove it away from the dealership with three miles on the odometer," she said. And she has owned the car for 44 years.
Marta explained the route for cruising in Warsaw in the 1960s.
"We had a Penquin Point east of town and we would drive out there and turn around, then go back through downtown," she said.
Her Pontiac was restored last year at a shop at Milford. "I hope it is good for another 50 years," she said before the cruise.
"This is going to be a lot of fun," she said before leaving the middle school.
David and Diane Holderman waited Friday next to their red modern Hyundai coupe, looking at the other cars.
"It’ll be fun. They just keep coming," Diane said.
Dave estimated that there would be more people in Goshen Friday than at the opening of the St. Joseph County 4-H fair, which was occurring at the same time.
Dave explained his first car was a 1957 Ford Fairlane that his father helped paint metallic blue in 1961. After he graduated in 1963, he got a Falcon with a 290 V-8 engine, he said.
Let ’em smoke
State Rep. Wes Culver joined in the cruise in his BMW convertible. He said he missed the event last year and his son, Craig, said, "You have to come.
"They should allow burnouts just one night a year," Culver said before the event.
Todd Shidler and his wife, Susan, were riding in his white 1967 Camaro, for the second year in a row.
"I was never able to cruise. I was too young," Susan said. "We were in it last year. It was fun. We were at the Essenhaus last night. There were a lot of cars there," where an informal cruise-in takes place each Thursday during the summer.
Shidler explained he went to Arizona and bought his Camero when he was 18 and has been working on it since. He changed the engine from a six cylinder to a 350 V-8 and changed the color of the interior, he explained.