FERNDALE — In 1995, Ralph Haney was trying to help a local Ferndale business set up an event that would garner business for the downtown Ferndale area when he was approached by Nelson House.
House, on the other hand, was trying to raise money to build a soccer field for the local kids and needed help getting the word out.
By combining the two efforts with Haney’s extensive experience working car shows and several car-related events, the Woodward Dream Cruise was born. Now, nearly 20 years later, the Dream Cruise is bigger than ever in the city “where the dream began,” as the 20th anniversary Woodward Dream Cruise returns Aug. 14-16.
“I have been doing car events since 1971 and did events up until 1994, when this local guy came up to me and owned a business in Ferndale and wanted to do an event at his place and have a car component,” Haney, a co-coordinator for the first Dream Cruise in 1995, said. “All of a sudden, everybody was excited about it and then Nelson came up to me about doing this thing and doing a cruise as a fundraiser because he had no idea how to raise money. Now it has escalated into this phenomenal event, and more people are getting involved. And it has continued to roll into what it is today.”
The Dream Cruise kicks off Aug. 14 with a kids’ play zone, a food court and merchants on West Nine Mile Road from 3-9 p.m. At 5 p.m. Aug. 15, the Dream Cruise will kick into full gear with a ribbon-cutting at the corner of East Nine Mile and Woodward Avenue.
Mayor Dave Coulter will serve as the master of ceremony during the ribbon-cutting and, along with a few other guest speakers, Haney will have a chance to tell all those in attendance about helping to get the Dream Cruise started.
“The great thing about it is there are many events held in cities and people want to bring everybody to their town to do these cruises, so there has probably been 25 road cruises come along since the Dream Cruise started,” Haney said. “It is a big boost to your area, and anytime you can bring thousands of people to your front door, it makes everyone pretty happy.”
The other big part of events on Aug. 15 is the emergency vehicle show from 1-8 p.m. and the Lights & Sirens Cruise at 5:30 p.m. In its 14th year, Event Director Michael Lary said the emergency vehicle show and Lights & Sirens Cruise have continued to be a popular attraction as spectators get a chance to look at old and new emergency vehicles, including police and fire.
“The emergency vehicle show is symbolic in that the message of protect and serve, and all of those vehicles show the dedication of our sworn officers, whether they are police, fire or ambulance,” Lary said. “They are all doing their duty to make sure we are protected when there is a need for the call. There is a mix of everything from police cars, ambulances and fire trucks, and we also have our own local fire department there doing aerial lift rides. And local firemen help kids hold fire hoses and shoot at a target. It is designed to be interactive and family-friendly.”
On Aug. 16, besides the actual cruising of the vehicles up and down Woodward, the biggest attraction in Ferndale is the annual Mustang Alley show. The show sees hundreds of classic and new Ford Mustangs packed into parking lots and along East Nine Mile for visitors to see.
While Ferndale will be celebrating the 16th annual Mustang Alley show, Ford is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Mustang and will do so by having a special display and raffling off a new 2015 Mustang between 5-5:30 p.m. Aug. 16.
“At the corner of East Nine Mile and Woodward, there will be a display from Ford of classic Mustangs, and not all 50 years, but (will) feature some of the very first ones from 1964 and a half,” Lary said. “Ferndale has become known as Ford country, and Ford is a big presence here and helps support funding to make these things happen. I think the Mustang is a very well known, very popular brand and 50 years is a saying a lot. It is a model that has survived for that long and never stopped or came back — it has always been.”
With so many things to do in Ferndale over the three-day weekend, there will still be thousands camped along Woodward from Ferndale to Birmingham to see all the classic cars, and even some new, cruise down the corridor.
As the Dream Cruise has continued to grow, Lary said more and more people just enjoy getting a glimpse into the past with the classic cars and keeping the tradition alive.
“I think when different generations sit side by side and starting talking about something they can connect and share with a younger generation,” he said. “Grandpa talks about having one of those and shares that history with his grandchildren, and it makes the Dream Cruise unique and interesting, and provides an educational opportunity. It’s not every day you see classic cars or unique vehicles driving down the street as free entertainment.”
For more information on the Dream Cruise in Ferndale or a schedule of events, visit www.ferndaledreamcruise.com.
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