The stars come out for Somernites Cruise — so much so that somebody might need to consider lining North Main Street with a giant red carpet.
Last week, the Somernites Cruise team built excitement for the 2015 season — its 15th in existence — by making an announcement each day about what the line-up would hold in store for the popular classic car show that’s put Somerset on the enthusiast’s map.
One big theme this year is celebrity guest appearances. A number of famous people — along with famous cars — highlight the ‘15 slate.
“With it being our 15th anniversary season, we wanted to do everything everybody enjoyed most in the last 15 years,” said Cruise Team Member Mark Hansford. “We listen to people who bring their cars, we listen to their feedback, and they’ll tell you what they like. They show up in months that have special displays or celebrities, and show up in numbers. ... They may not always be able to go to a show in California and see these stars, see these cars. If we can, we like to bring them to people.”
Those with TV and movie nostalgia on the brain will have much to feast on this year, with celebrities from sitcoms like “The Munsters” and “Happy Days” and the hit film “American Graffiti” making appearances — along with the cars that stole the show.
“Most of (these guest stars) are tied to pop car culture,” said Hansford. “That’s something we’ve been building toward. We’ve always wanted to present TV or movie icons associated with car culture.”
Coming this year to downtown Somerset:
• April — The first Somernites event of the season will feature the Orphan’s Showcase Corral, featuring cars by manufacturers that are no longer in business. Also, the first 1,000 show cars through the gates will receive a free limited addition 15th anniversary poster.
• May — The star-studded motor will be revving up early in the year, when none other than Butch Patrick — the actor who portrayed Eddie Munster on the quirky 1960s sitcom “the Munsters” — will be rolling into town, along with tribute cars portraying two of the ghoulish rides on the show, Drag-u-la and the Munster Koach.
Additionally, a Somernites favorite, David L. Browning, will be appearing as “The Mayberry Deputy,” and participants should ready their ears for the Nostalgia Dragster Reunion and CackleFest, which promises to be loud and proud.
“It’s where everybody starts all their hot rods up — your windows rattle and the ground vibrates. It’s sensory overload,” said Hansford. “It may be heard a mile or two away. It’s a neat thing they do in a lot of the major once-a-year car shows, and we’re going to do it in May.”
• June — Another popular car culture piece of entertainment is the 1977 Burt Reynolds film “Smokey and the Bandit,” and there will be a special Somernites display this month featuring the memorable vehicles from the hit movie, all to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project, which helps injured service members.
“People think of the cars or of Burt Reynolds or Sally Field, but actually, the 18-wheeler in that movie is still iconic,” said Hansford. “You rarely see those. We found some folks in Tennessee (who) take this truck to car shows and it benefits the Wounded Warrior Project. ... It’s something new we never even thought about. It just fell into our laps and I’m glad it did. I think it will be neat.”
• July — In what could be a huge month for Somerset and celebrity appearances in town, the stars of the 1970s smash sitcom “Happy Days” will making these days (yours and mine, of course) even happier. Anson Williams (who played Potsie, Don Most (Ralph), and none other than “the Fonz” himself, Henry Winkler, will be in town for the show’s yearly Corvette Summer Showcase, signing autographs and meeting fans.
“The idea for (‘Happy Days’) grew out of ‘American Graffiti,’” said Hansford. “It did really well and ran for years and years.”
The event will happen a year later than Cruise organizers had originally planned on, but that just makes the anticipation all the greater.
“We tried to book this last year, and there was a scheduling conflict with Henry Winkler,” added Hansford. “He was filming a TV pilot and couldn’t commit to come. We thought we couldn’t have a ‘Happy Days’ reunion without Fonzie; it just wouldn’t work.”
Better still, the original yellow Ford seen in the opening credits of the show will be on hand. A car collector from York, Pa., found the vehicle at an auction out in a field, and had it authenticated to discover that it was, in fact, the same car from “Happy Days.”
“It’s a neat story,” said Hansford. “(The owner) doesn’t do a lot of public appearance with that car. When he found out Henry Winkler and the guys would be here, he was more than happy to be here. They’ve only signed autographs with that car once before.”
• August — “We’re trying something new,” said Hansford, that being the Coker Tire Challenge Road Rally. Sponsored by Chattanooga, Tenn., company Coker Tire, the event will be a more localized version of a multi-state affair Coker puts on.
“It’s not a race in that its about who gets there first. Its based on who can get closest to a set time,” said Hansford. “They’ll map out a course, get a baseline time, and whoever gets closest to that time will be considered the winner.”
So nobody will be in too big of a hurry — it’s a safe event that will be held over a two day span Friday and Saturday, with cash prizes and the opportunity for businesses and teams to enter.
Along with the new, there’s the old and familiar as well.
“August is always the Mustang Alley show, it’s one of our biggest,” said Hansford. “Last year, about 700 Mustangs were here.”
• September — In 2013, three of the stars of the 1973 George Lucas classic “American Graffiti” visited Somerset for the 40th anniversary of the film’s release. This year, two more will be appearing — Paul Le Mat, who played Milner, and Mackenzie Phillips, who played Carol.
“Everybody remembers (Phillips) from (the sitcom) ‘One Day at a Time,’” said Hansford. “Also that month, we’ll have the original yellow ‘32 Ford Coupe that was in the movie. We’ve never had the actual car. Last time (the stars) were here, we had cars, but they all tribute cars, fan-made. We’ll have more this time, but the actual car used in the film will also be here.”
Plus, it’s the 10th anniversary of the “Power Cruise,” where folks drive in from six different cities.
“It’s hard to believe we’ve done 10 of those,” said Hansford.
• October — To close out the season, Somernites Cruise will feature Tri-Five Chevys, welcome the Hot Rod Round-Up, and give away a 1969 Roadrunner (sponsored by Don Marshall Chrysler Dodge Jeep Nissan), and a 20-foot enclosed trailer provided by Gatormade.
“Tickets are still $5,” said Hansford of the raffle cost. “They’ve been $5 for 15 years. We don’t see any reason to change now.”