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August 14, 2013

Dream Cruise turns 19

Largest car show yet to fill Memorial Park

By Robert Guttersohn
C & G Staff Writer

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Participants in last year’s Dream Cruise drive along Woodward Avenue in Royal Oak. Before the avenue is filled with thousands of cars, more than 1,000 runners are expected to use Woodward as their track for the second annual Cruise in Shoes 5k run.
Dream Cruise President Greg Rassel speaks during an Aug. 6 press conference at Duggan’s Irish Pub in Royal Oak. He is expecting 1.5 million people to descend upon Woodward Avenue for the Aug. 17 Dream Cruise. Dream Cruise run expected to grow in second year
 

ROYAL OAK — The Woodward Dream Cruise is nearly two decades old, and yet the number of classic cars that will be on display Aug. 17, particularly in the city’s Memorial Park, continues to grow.

Dream Cruise President Greg Rassel is expecting 500 juried classic cars to fill the park sitting along 13 Mile Road between Woodward Avenue and Coolidge Road.

“This is the largest number we’ve had,” Rassel said in a recent interview.

The figure trumps last year’s number by about 150 cars.

Rassel attributes the growth of the classic car show in the park to its atmosphere.

“It’s an atmosphere where you can hang out with fellow cruisers and walk around the park without the headache of driving,” he said. “I think it’s just you can enjoy the cruise more casually.”

A challenge for law enforcement

The event is expected to draw 1.5 million people and 400,000 automobiles to the nine communities along Woodward Avenue in Oakland County.

“It’s a great event,” Police Chief Corey O’Donohue said at an Aug. 6 press conference. “Considering the number of people, we have relatively few problems.”

O’Donohue said that is because of the coordination between the communities’ police forces, the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department and the Michigan State Police.

The Royal Oak Police Department is “in a much better place compared to last year,” he said, referring to the passage of the public safety millage in November. “But it’s not just Royal Oak. There’s a real cooperation among all the agencies along Woodward that is really unprecedented in law enforcement.”

After each Dream Cruise, officials evaluate what they did wrong and right, in an effort to improve the subsequent years’ safety. One key factor is the police force’s zero tolerance for alcohol and for reckless driving.

“When you nip those in the bud, everything else goes relatively smooth,” he said.

In later interview, O’Donohue would not say the exact number of law enforcement officials that will be present throughout the weekend but did say it will be about double the size of the entire Royal Oak Police Department, which is currently at 69 officers. And despite all 69 of them being on duty throughout the weekend, O’Donohue said they look forward to the event every year.

Event’s economic impact

Rassel said the economic impact of the cruise is hard to measure, but playing host to the premier event for classic-car enthusiasts is good for Royal Oak and metro Detroit. He said he has seen people across the country who have never actually been to the event wearing Woodward Dream Cruise T-shirts and hats.

“There are winners and losers, just like with any event,” he said. “I think overall it’s a plus to the region. In that one weekend, southeast Michigan — in particular southeast Oakland County — is the centerpiece of the automotive world.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Robert Guttersohn at rguttersohn@candgnews.com or at (586)218-5006.