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Royal Oak

Instead of avoiding, Royal Oak block embraces Dream Cruise

August 16, 2014

» click to enlarge «
From left to right, Karen Anderson, Mary Anne Anderson, Kelly Vesprini and Melanie Clark stand in front of classic cars parked on the front lawns of Ravena Avenue during the Woodward Dream Cruise Aug. 16. The block embraces the cruise.
A classic car drives down Ravena Avenue in search of parking Aug. 16. The homeowners along the block let cruisers park their cars for the day on their front lawns.
From the left, Lily Wienclaw, 8; Amelia Wienclaw, 6; Ally Vesprini, 9; Averi Anderson, 8 and Gianna Vesprini, 7, stand by their lemonade stand Aug. 16. The children of Ravena Avenue have taken advantage of the foot traffic the Woodward Dream cruise generates.

Throughout the last 20 years, the Woodward Dream Cruise has grown into what it is today: 1.5 million car enthusiasts descending on state Route 1 to cruise or to gaze at cars.

For many Royal Oak residents living near Woodward, the annual event can be a headache to avoid. One block of Ravena Avenue, though, has learned to embrace it.

“You have no choice but to embrace it,” Melanie Clark said Aug. 16, the date of this year’s cruise. “It’s fun, and you might as well make money on it.”

Every Dream Cruise and the days leading up to it, the homeowners on the block just west of Woodward Avenue give up their front lawns and charge day rates — $20 — for people looking to park their classic cars. There’s no competition among the households. If one person’s lawn is full, they guide them to one that isn’t.

During the first Dream Cruise, Clark had to learn how to manage the cars, but there were fewer cars back then.

“It was a car here, a car there,” Clark recalled.

As the cruise has grown, the neighborhood residents have become experts at fitting cars on their lawns like a game of Tetris.

“We’re about all the houses that do it,” said Ravena resident Mary Anne Anderson. “Other people, you know, don’t really want to put cars on their lawn.”

And the parking demand isn’t just there for one day.

As Royal Oak residents know, the cruise has grown from one official day to several unofficial days leading up to it.

Clark said that cars began parking on her lawn almost a week before the cruise this year.

“I don’t drive for a week,” Clark said, holding an oval sign with the word “parking” written on it. “I’ve got enough food. I don’t go anywhere.”

The neighbors also play security for the lots.

“I’m out here 9 to 9,” Clark said. “I babysit the cars.”

At the opposite end of Ravena, the neighborhood kids take advantage of the foot traffic on their block by setting up a lemonade stand. Proceeds from sales go to Detroit Goodfellows.

Averi Anderson, 8, thought of the idea three years ago while wrapping gifts to be donated to the Goodfellows.

“I thought that we should do something for them,” Averi said. “I thought of a lemonade stand so that I could collect money for them. So now, every year, I do a lemonade stand.”

The first year, she raised $100 for the Goodfellows, an organization that provides gifts for children in need at Christmas. As of midday Aug. 16, Averi and her friends had raised $150.

The block is at the epicenter of the cruise, intersecting with Woodward between 13 Mile and Normandy roads.

“This was the heart,” Shad Garner, a 51-year-old who now lives in the home where he grew up, said of the cruise’s first year. “And it has stayed that way.”

But too much of anything can be bad.

Garner said people begin cruising as soon as the weather warms up in April.

“Ask me how many times I walked up and down Woodward this year,” he said, then formed a zero with his fingers and thumb. “Because I see it everyday.”

Of course, who needs to walk to Woodward when living on a block where the cars gather anyhow? All Garner needs to do is sit in his yard and he and the rest of Ravena get a show.

“I can sit right here and watch cars up and down,” he said.

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