Commonwealth Journal

July 25, 2013

‘American Graffiti’ celebration headlines Somernites Cruise

By CHRIS HARRIS, CJ Staff Writer
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset — There aren’t many months you can call up a Somernites Cruise team member to talk about the latest edition of the classic car show, and the first thing they want to talk about isn’t the hot rods themselves.

This July, however, marks the exception to that rule.

For team member Mark Hansford, the first things to come to mind about this weekend’s Cruise were the 40th anniversary of the release of George Lucas’ classic film “American Graffiti” and the giveaway of a once-in-a-lifetime kind of trip for automobile enthusiasts.

“The big thing (this month) is the ‘American Graffiti’ celebration,” said Hansford. “Back when we started this thing 13 years ago, we could never have envisioned being at a point where there was enough interest to get (celebrities) to the show, or to be able to financially afford it.”

The celebrities, however, are here. Cindy Williams, Candy Clark and Bo Hopkins, stars of the 1973 car culture favorite “American Graffiti” will be present at the Cruise today and tomorrow, thanks to the sponsorship of Citizens National Bank.

The stars will be at Somernites on both days signing autographs (probably for about $10 or so a pop), meeting their fans and introducing a special screening of “American Graffiti” at the Friday Night Block Party this July 26 in downtown Somerset.

The screening will begin at dark, likely around 9 p.m. There will be a question-and-answer session with the celebrities beginning at approximately 8:30 p.m. (possibly later).

According to Hansford, the special event is just a sign of the growth Somernites has experienced over the years, to land appearances by three Hollywood stars with such staying power.

“They’ve all three had really successful careers and continue to work,” he said.

The other big July attraction is one more giveaway for an event that already has so many opportunities to win something incredible. The “ultimate door prize” will award one lucky winner a trip to the Barrett-Jackson Classic Car Auction in Scottsdale, Arizona.

“It’s probably the premier car auction in the United States,” said Hansford. “It’s the bellwether event that gives the idea of what prices classic cars will be at auctions. It gets about four or five days of coverage on the Speed Channel. It’s that big.”

The winner gets two passes to the even, two round-trip airline tickets, a hotel room for two and a rental vehicle. The drawing for the giveaway will be at 6:30 p.m. on the Fountain Square; you must be present to win.

The way to enter is to simply show up with a classic car or truck; everyone who comes through the Cruise gates will win one free chance. You can also buy chances with every $5 worth of Somernites Cruise merchandise — shirts, hats, raffle tickets for other ongoing giveaways.

The Somerset-Pulaski County Convention and Visitors Bureau is sponsoring this very special opportunity to visit the massive car auction.

“It’s one of the most amazing events,” said Hansford. “We had members of the team who got to go and said you ever get the chance, you need to go.”

What else is there to do at Somernites Cruise this weekend? Oh yeah. The cars. The showcase event features Chevy Camaros and Pontiac Firebirds. Usually, June is the month to see these favorite American vehicles, but they swapped months with the Corvette “show and shine” this year.

“It’s probably not the biggest showcase area, but it is a real popular one,” said Hansford, noting that Firebirds aren’t produced anymore, adding to the exclusivity of their appeal.

And even though they weren’t the cars featured in “American Graffiti,” the autos that were in the movie will be making an appearance at the Cruise too — Hansford noted that the stars of the film might even take photos for fans with the cars themselves!

This month’s “Fun Run” Saturday morning is headed for the Gator Made trailer facility on Ky. 461. Production isn’t ongoing on Saturday, but participants will be treated to a special tour of the facility. Meet for breakfast at the South Hardee’s location on South U.S. 27 near the Somerset Mall, then leave at 9 a.m.

Other regular events, like the Early Bird Meet-and-Greet at Danny’s Rod Shop on North U.S. 27 today at noon and Cruise-a-Palooza at the mall at 7 p.m. Saturday, and the “ultimate door prize” for August will be unveiled — Hansford offered no clues as to what it is, other than that it has “four wheels.”

This marks two weekends in a row that Somerset has had a special guest that’s ended up bringing in visitors from far and wide — first Willie Nelson at Master Musicians Festival, now the cast of “American Graffiti.” Certainly, noted Hansford, it’s a good time to be part of the tourism industry in Pulaski County.

“We’ve had people calling us, asking how they can find a room in Somerset this weekend — there are no hotel rooms,” he said. “There’s a youth baseball tournament here, and people going to it are having to stay in London or Mt. Vernon because they couldn’t find rooms in Somerset.

“We are tickled to death that every hotel in Somerset is packed solid,” he added. “We take a lot of pride in that — putting heads in beds and packing the town on the weekends.”