MORRIS – People of all ages flooded the streets of downtown Morris as cars and pickups from the early 1900s to today roared down the streets – not unlike the way they might have on a 1960s weekend evening.
“Those of us who had cars rode up and down Liberty Street for something to do and we called it ‘buzzing the gut.’ We would then park on the corners and hang out,” Herb Wyeth said.
Wyeth used to attend 30 to 40 car shows a year, and it was that love of cars and community that led him to create Morris Cruise Night in 2002.
In honor of a 1960s tradition, he wanted to offer a cruise night event for car enthusiasts, as well as showcase the downtown to those from Morris and other communities. He said he wanted the event to be twofold: enjoy the cars and raise money to give back to the community.
“Our whole goal is to raise money, not to make money. Almost 95 percent of what we make goes into some charity for donation; that is why we are a 501(c)(3) organization. The average raised is between $4,000 and $5,000 for our beneficiary each month,” Wyeth said.
Organizations apply to become a beneficiary of the funds, which include the 50/50 raffle. The beneficiaries also man the grill food station to raise funds. Beneficiaries for the rest of the season include July 14, Morris Shrine Club; Aug. 11, Grundy County Volunteer Hospice; Sept. 8, Pink Heals; and Oct. 13, All Those Left Behind Animal Rescue.
The June beneficiary was the Morris Police Benevolent Society, which was founded 10 years ago to allow active and retired police officers a chance to give back to Morris.
Morris Police Benevolent Society President Paul Burke said as a beneficiary, the society receives funds to use toward scholarships, youth sports sponsorship, Craft with a Cop event and the support of two families during Christmas through We Care of Grundy County, but that was not the only reason to be a part of Morris Cruise Night.
“This is our biggest fundraiser, but it also gives us a chance to interact with the community and meet the citizens of the town,” Burke said.
Burke said the importance of the Morris Police Benevolent Society was to “give us the opportunity to give back to the community. It allows us to get out from our typical day of police work and get out into the community. Relations are a part of police work – with this organization we can be out of uniform and meet people.”
On Saturday, thousands of spectators filled Liberty Street and side streets along the way to look at the
502 cars that registered for the car show.
Wyeth said he sees anywhere from 500 to 900 vehicles at the cruise night, which occurs once a month through October.
“We came to see all of the awesome cars, there are way more cars than a lot of other shows. There is such a variety of everything – old and new – you just don’t see old cars anymore,” said Jen Phillips of Plainfield.
Cars, pickups and Jeeps of a number of makes and models were on display, and owners proudly chatted about their vehicles to the young and old alike. Entries in the car show ranged from 97 communities, as well as Arizona, Indiana and Florida.
“This is the biggest car show around here, and it is in our beautiful downtown Morris. It’s a tight space with all of the cars in one spot, which is unique,” Wyeth said.
The event began at 6 p.m. and the registration closed at 8 p.m., but vehicles and revelers were invited to stay until 9 p.m.
Each cruise night offers the chance for participants to win awards. The night’s beneficiaries and a local each choose a vehicle to win the beneficiaries choice award and the local celebrity award.
For June, the Morris Police Benevolent Society chose Roy Spangler of Plainfield for his 1968 Modified Le Mans.
Spangler said he has owned his car since it was new in 1968. Susie Hook, from Hook’s Hideaway in downtown Morris, was the local celebrity and chose to award a 1931 Model A owned by Gary Hamilton of Seneca.
Wyeth said these cruise nights take many hours of preparation and the club currently is seeking new members to help with the events.
For information, visit the website morriscruisenight.com.