VWs

Corvettes aren’t the only car of the hour at this weekend’s September Somernites Cruise — the Lake Cumberland Volkswagen Jamboree, hosted by the Central Kentucky VW Club, will also return to downtown Somerset on Saturday. 

There are some things you won’t see at Somernites Cruise this weekend. And plenty of things you will.

The Power Cruise — a September staple, where caravans of cars head toward Somerset from multiple major surrounding cities — is a no-go this year, as COVID concerns are keeping Cruise representatives from going out and about. Also, Dennis Gage — host of TV’s “My Classic Car” — was scheduled to appear at this month’s Somernites, but that appearance has been cancelled.

But the Cruise cupboard is not bare this month — far from it. In fact, it may be one of the most varied shows of the year.

The Corvette Summer Showcase, sponsored by Don Franklin Chevrolet, GMC, Buick, will fill downtown with versions of the Chevrolet Corvette. For those who call the Bluegrass State home, the Corvette is a car of particular note — it’s been manufactured in nearby Bowling Green, Ky., for as long as Somerset’s Rep. Hal Rogers has been in Congress, and the city is home to the National Corvette Museum.

As part of that, Somernites executive director Keith Floyd said fans should keep an eye out for a special display: an original 1953 ‘Vette, the first year they were made. The car was previously owned by country music star Alan Jackson, and is currently owned by Terry Stephens, owners of Stephens Pipe & Steel, in his Russell Springs car collection. 

“It’s America’s sports car,” said Floyd of the Corvette. “Really, it’s the only American sports car.”

The National Corvette Museum will be on hand for Saturday’s show as well, offering a taste of what the facility holds for those who’ve never been able to visit before. Mecum Auctions will have a presence at the show as well.

If Corvettes aren’t your thing, how about campers? The fifth-annual “Campin’ the Cumberlands” vintage camper rally will be held this Thursday through Sunday at Pulaski County Park, out Ky. 80. An open house to view the campers will be held from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday, and as always, some of the recreation vehicles will be on display downtown at Saturday’s show, typically decorated in a unique and nostalgic style.

“It’s very popular,” said Floyd. “It just keeps growing and growing. This year looks to be our largest one yet. We’re anticipating probably 60 to 75 vintage campers out there. ... That’s a segment of the market that’s really growing. We were able to tap into that early on and get ahead of it, and we’ve got the largest vintage camper rally in the state.”

In addition to all the fun, there will be a serious aspect to this weekend’s show as well — with this month marking the 20th anniversary of September 11, 2001, Somernites Cruise will hold a special 9/11 memorial program at 5 p.m Saturday, in front of the courthouse. Floyd said it will be reminiscent of what the Cruise did after the original event two decades ago.

Floyd said they’ll have representatives from local fire departments — and of course their trucks, with sirens blaring as they come into town — and local first responders will be honored, as well as the the U.S. veterans known as the “Horse Soldiers,” who are bringing their Horse Soldier Bourbon distillery to Somerset. The Green Beret Special Forces unit was among the first to enter Afghanistan following 9/11, and later, members of that group would join together to start their own bourbon brand. One of Horse Soldier Bourbon’s key founders, president John Koko, will be speaking at the Somernites ceremony.

“We will recognize them and thank them for their service, both to our country and to our community,” said Floyd.

Following the ceremony — which will end with a special performance of “Taps,” with buglers on every corner of the Fountain Square, representing the four corners of America and citizens from all over the nation who have served in the military — the monthly Cruise out onto U.S. 27 will take on a special feel, as the fire trucks will lead Somernites participants out to the highway in a sort of parade.  

Another feature this month is the return of the Lake Cumberland Volkswagen Jamboree, hosted by the Central Kentucky VW Club. Every year, the club gathers at Somernites and has what Floyd calls kind of a “show within a show” featuring all kinds of colorful Volkswagen cars and vans.

“They usually have about 75 to 100 Volkswagens,” said Floyd, getting alliterative, “so (it’s an ideal show) if you like Volkswagens, you like ‘Vettes, or vintage campers.”

All season long, Somernites fans have been entering for a chance to win a two-carat diamond cluster, with a $4,000 retail value, courtesy of Cruise sponsors Diamond Design Jeweler. It’s finally time for the diamond to be given away, which will take place at 5 p.m. Saturday, right before the 9/11 ceremony. You do not have to be present to win the drawing. 

The Friday Morning Meet & Greet, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., will again be held at Circle K, stoplight no. 10, and also on Friday, Don Franklin Chevrolet at stoplight no. 5 will host the “Heroes Cruise-In” from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Enter your Corvette for $25, and make donations for items like food and t-shirts; proceeds go to benefit the Corvette Museum’s banquet to honor veterans, Vets and ‘Vettes. The $25 fee includes registration, a t-shirt, and a cruise of the Ky. 192 “Rattlesnake” that same day.

Gather at the Somerset Mall at 2:30 p.m. for that tour of the scenic Ky. 192 “Rattlesnake” route, and get back in time for the Friday Night Thunder Block Party at the mall, with the Don Franklin Family of Dealerships as sponsor.

Saturday morning, meet at the South Hardee’s location, stoplight no. 22, for a free breakfast, and leave at 8:30 a.m. for the Terry Stephens Car Museum in Russell County.

It could be a big show for Somernites Cruise — not just in terms of what’s going on, but in the amount of people to show up. Conditions are certainly favorable for coming out, but in the most-unusual 2021, unlike in past years, organizers aren’t especially concerned with having a huge crowd. 

“Weather is looking great; maybe one of the best weekends we’ve had in a long time, weather-wise,” said Floyd. “All our shows have been good, none of them have been great (numbers-wise). ... With the COVID numbers what they are, that’s fine. We can social distance, it’s less crowded, so we’ve really not pushed it to get any bigger. We’re comfortable with how it’s going.”

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