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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
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"Splish Splash" bathtub cruiser on Woodward Avenue
This whimsical cruiser, the "Splish Splash," is always a crowd pleaser on the Dream Cruise. Photo: Caron Hall, August 15, 1998

Woodward Ave. Dream Cruise

Stretching 16 miles on Woodward Avenue, the Woodward Dream Cruise is a mid-summer classic, the world's largest festivity of the car culture. This auto parade, featuring classic cars, hot rods, antique and unique cars was established in 1994 to celebrate and remember Woodward Avenue's unique cultural contribution to American car history. The Dream Cruise travels along America's best known and oldest car cruising corridor. During the '50s, the Woodward "strip" stretched 22 miles from downtown Detroit through suburbia into the country. On summer nights, the area swelled with teens and young adults in Fords, Chevys and Valiants.

The parade route passes through seven Michigan cities: Berkley, Birmingham, Ferndale, Huntington Woods, Pleasant Ridge, Pontiac and Royal Oak. Originally intended as a one-time fund-raiser for a children's soccer field, the event has continued and grown. In 1999, the Dream Cruise attracted 1.2 million visitors, creating an economic impact for the area of $75 million.

Sometimes called the boulevard of dreams, Woodward's history stretches back to 1896, when Charles Brady King drove the first car down the avenue. A few months later, Henry Ford followed in his new automobile. On August 4, 1924, Woodward made history again, when it became the first concrete paved highway in the world, creating a primary link between Detroit and Pontiac. In 1926, the boulevard was widened to eight lanes. By 1960, it was one of the most heavily traveled routes in the world.

Dream Cruise festivities focus on America's "wheels culture" and "Motor City spirit" during 1950s and 1960s. Entertainment includes Buddy Holly, Marilyn Monroe, and Elvis Presley impersonators, a Friday night street dance, concerts featuring bands like Danny and the Do-Wops, games, sock hops, and swap meets. A drive-in food lane was added in 1998, and a drive-in movie, showing a teen thriller from the '50s, was added in 1999.

The free family event is supported by corporate, media, and government sponsors. Funds raised from sales of commemorative tee-shirts, key chains, stuffed animals, and other merchandise, and refreshments is donated to charities. The project is documented with a history, newspaper clippings, festival programs, a videotape, CD, tee-shirts, 29 photos, and memorabilia from Woodward's once popular dining spots: the drive-in Totem Pole; Hedge's Wigwam, "a unique air-conditioned cafeteria"; and Ted's Drive-in. A collection of essays includes "local car legends" and "cruisin' memories stories.

Originally submitted by: Joe Knollenberg, Representative (11th District).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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