It may be the biggest auto event in the world, but the Woodward Dream Cruise has plenty of company.
It’s just one of hundreds of classic car shows in Michigan this summer.
In fact, 10 auto events — from Livonia to Menominee in the Upper Peninsula — are being held the same weekend as Saturday’s 21st annual Woodward cruise.
With so many shows, car buffs can stay in western or northern Michigan and get their fill of everything automobile.
The same can be said about residents in other states, which also have auto extravaganzas throughout the summer.
And yet, year after year, the faithful make the trek to Metro Detroit and its 16-mile ribbon of asphalt, Woodward Avenue.
Organizers don’t keep attendance records, but estimated turnout has jumped from 250,000 in its inaugural year in 1995 to 1 million in recent years.
“The Dream Cruise is what it is: It is the granddaddy of them all,” said Tony Michaels, the executive director.
Among those attending the Woodward event are organizers of other car shows.
Ron Rogers is chairman of the Motor City All-Family AMC Meet, a Livonia confab that is always held the day after the Cruise.
His routine never varies: He goes to the Dream Cruise on Saturday and his own event Sunday.
“It makes for an enjoyable, long weekend,” he said. “It’s a delightful, car-related week.”
He usually takes off from work the week before so he can meander along Woodward in his 1974 AMC Javelin AMX.
He bought the car 41 years ago.
With so many towns holding car events on so many weekends, how does the Dream Cruise prevent them from diluting its popularity?
How does it remain vital?
Organizers have a one-word answer — consistency.
Year after year, the Dream Cruise is the third Saturday of August, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., on Woodward from Ferndale to Pontiac.
The rules never change: no alcohol, no drag racing, no flouting of traffic rules.
“Everyone understands the consistency,” said Michaels.
The other classic car events sometimes ask Dream Cruise organizers for help in planning their soirees.
Michaels’ advice to them is to keep it simple.
Set specific times. Establish the rules. Work with the police.
And one more thing, said Michaels: Don’t turn it into Mardi Gras, that festival of drunken debauchery.
As for the folks who return to the Dream Cruise year after year, what they like best is that it’s so dang big.
If you like a certain type of car built between 1908 and 1970, you’re likely to see it Saturday along Woodward, not just once but several times.
“The bigness,” Pat Richardson said when asked his favorite part of the Cruise. “I’m a Dodge man, but there are so many others to look at.”
It’s the biggest
The Dream Cruise bills itself as the biggest one-day celebration of car culture in the world, and it’s hard to argue.
Those million people who attend ogle some 40,000 customs, classics, exotics, muscle cars and hot rods.
Those other classic car events in Michigan don’t necessarily trace their lineage to the Dream Cruise.
More than a handful were around before the Cruise.
The Past and Its Wheels car show in Marysville began in 1993. Rogers’ event in Livonia began in 1987.
The Marinette & Menominee County Antique Auto Show in Menominee goes all the way back to 1972, when some of today’s Dream Cruise classics were brand new.
Who’s your granddaddy now?
“We call it a museum of cars,” said William Chartrand, chairman of the Menominee show.
A group of friends who liked to drag race and fix their cars together were looking for a way to show them off, said Chartrand. They started a car club and seized upon the show, which, this year, is the same day as the Dream Cruise.
Menominee sits on the border of Michigan and Wisconsin, so the friends are divided by their loyalty to the Lions and Green Bay Packers.
When it comes to old cars, however, they stand as one. They love them.
Admittedly, the Menominee affair is nothing like the size of the Dream Cruise.
The Upper Peninsula event features 200 classic cars and draws 1,000 spectators, said Chartrand. Still, it’s a big deal in their region.
It’s an eight-hour trip from Menominee to the Dream Cruise, but Chartrand says he knows at least one club member who will be making it.
Marysville’s dual events
Another event on the same weekend as the Dream Cruise is the Past and Its Wheels on Aug. 16. It’s part of a two-day event: Rumble in the Park is on Saturday.
The sponsor, the Blue Water Region of the Antique Automobile Club of America, said it wasn’t worried about being at the same time as the Dream Cruise.
Region president Gary Minnie said the events are so far from each other he didn’t think the Cruise would steal away any of his attendees.
Marysville, just south of Port Huron, is 55 miles from the Dream Cruise. Marysville offers a more tranquil tableau, Minnie said. It’s less crowded than the Cruise and held in the tree-lined Marysville Park along the St. Clair River.
Minnie said it draws 80 cars each day but wasn’t sure how many people normally attend.
“They’re stiff competition, but we fill a niche,” he said.
Follow the Dream Cruise online
Photo gallery: Humorous sights from Dream Cruises past.
This week: Follow the scene on Woodward, with our stories, photos and video of events all week long. Go to detroitnews.com/autos.
Saturday: Contribute to our live coverage with your Instagram photos; use the hashtag #dreamcruise. On Twitter: Follow @detnewscruise
Here are some other classic car events on the same weekend as the Dream Cruise:
Motor City All-Family AMC Meet, Livonia, Aug. 16, greatlakesamc.org
Rumble in the Park, Marysville, Saturday, willsautomuseum.org
The Past and Its Wheels, Marysville, Aug. 16, willsautomuseum.org
Back to the Bricks, Flint, Saturday, backtothebricks.org
Cruzin’ Flat Rock, Flat Rock, Saturday and Aug. 16, downtownflatrock.com
Marinette & Menominee Antique Auto Club Show, Menominee, Saturday, facebook.com/mmntiqueautoclub
Sources: Auto clubs and museums