This weekend’s Somernites Cruise opener kicks off 13th year for event
By CHRIS HARRIS, CJ Staff Writer Commonwealth Journal
Another year, another Cruise. It’s an April tradition here in Pulaski County. The first Somernites Cruise of the season always rolls into town around this same time every year.
“It’s year 13 and we’re still around,” said Mark Hansford, Somernites Cruise team member. Noting the event’s place as a downtown Somerset fixture, he quipped, “The old square has been leveled and another is on it’s way, and we’ll still be there on Saturday. I guess that says something about our staying power.”
Indeed, amid years of transformation for the town’s landscape, the Cruise has remained constant, pulling in scores of thousands of visitors each season. People who shop at local businesses, learn about the area, and — most importantly, of course — look at all kinds of cool cars.
Of course, the more things stay the same, they more they change ... and the true is same of Somernites this month.
“This weekend, we’re doing a couple of things we’ve never done before,” said Hansford. First on the list is a poker run, a game in which participants travel to different locations to “draw cards” and see who ends up with the best poker hand at the end of it.
“Fun Run” events are a normal Cruise activity, where drivers head out on a trek to some appealing part of the region to start things off Saturday. This time, however, those participating will gather at the Hardees South location at 9 a.m., get their name on a sheet, then head out on U.S. 27, visiting Cruise sponsor businesses and drawing cards.
At the end, they’ll head back to the Somerset Mall, where the “poker hands” will be record. Winners will be announced at the “Show and Shine” downtown. The best hand wins $250; second best. $150; and third, $100. There is no cost to enter the poker run, and gifts from local merchants will also be a part of the festivities.
Something else new this month — trucks. The specialty area for this April is “Hot Rod Haulers,” dedicated to showing off custom and classic trucks of all makes and models.
While trucks have been a part of the Cruise display for years, they’ve never had their own moment in the spotlight — but organizers decided to change that this year.
“We had a lot of participants who say, ‘When are you going to have a showcase area for trucks?’” said Hansford. “In the past, with the way the schedule was set up, we didn’t have any extra months. This year, we’re trying to do something new.”
Trucks for “Hot Road Haulers” can enter at the VIP gate on South Main Street by the Pulaski County Public Library; other vehicles are to enter elsewhere.
A “Super Door Prize,” a toolbox donated by Napa South U.S. 27 Auto Parts, will be available to win this month — every car through the door gets one free ticket — with a drawing at 6:30 p.m.
Attendees will also get a visit from the Bars Leaks “Eliminator” monster truck, sponsored by O’Reilly Auto Parts. The truck is a Ford F-150 Supercab with 540 cubic inch Ford motor producing 1,400 horsepower, owned by Greg Adams from Greensboro, Ind.
Also new — Cruise-A-Palooza. This fun-for-the-family event at Somerset Mall (one of the Cruise’s major sponsors this year) will start as soon as the Show and Shine ends Saturday evening, and will feature food, games, live music by local rock act OneWay, and “all kinds of neat stuff.” Cruise-A-Palooza will be an every-month event along with the Cruise, April through October.
Of course, the monthly “Rock and Roll Block Party” sponsored by Walmart will be held downtown tonight starting at 6 p.m., and there will be an new 2013 T-shirt design to make its debut at the Block Party.
Among some of the other highlights coming up later this Cruise season:
• “Big Daddy” Don Garlits and his Swamp Rat dragster drop by in May to sign autographs and fire things up with members of the Kentucky Motorsports Hall of Fame;
• “Mayberry Memories” in June, a tribute to TV’s beloved “Andy Griffith Show”;
• A celebration of the 40th anniversary of the hit George Lucas film “American Graffiti” in July with a special outdoor screening; said Cruise Team President Keith Floyd, “ “If you’re a fan of the film, Somernites is definitely the place to be to celebrate the 40th anniversary”;
• The annual favorite “Power Cruise” in September.
Themes for the seventh-moth Cruise series include:
• September: Power Cruise, sponsored by Holley Performance;
• October: Tri-Five Chevys and Streetrod Gathering.
Hansford urges people cruising on U.S. 27 to go the whole way this season. He noted that folks often just went from the intersection of U.S. 27 and Ky. 80 up to near the Grand Central Place shopping center and turned around, but the rest of U.S. 27 — both north and south — deserves more cruising attention.
“From stoplights 1 to 25,” he said, “we encourage you to use them all.”
The unique lasting power of Somernites Cruise isn’t hard to figure out for Hansford; it’s a simple concept that appeals to a wide range of people and helps keep this community thriving.
“We’ve stayed with the original idea for 13 years, that it should be free and family-oriented,” he said. “We get a lot of folks from out of town. We don’t want them to spend their money at the entrance gate. We want them to go visit a restaurant in Somerset, visit our stores and spend money there.”