Deb Malewski

Contributing Writer

“It started on a dream and ended in reality,” said Eaton Rapids Car Cruise-In organizer William Hammond. 

Back in 2014 Hammond and his friends decided that a cruise-in was what Eaton Rapids needed. It had been tried in nearby towns with no luck, so they were a little nervous about trying it here. Former Eaton Rapids City Manager Jon Stoppels offered some help from the City and it took off from there. 

The event grew through word of mouth, Hammond said, along with photos of the event posted online. Locals saw the photos and told him they had cars sitting in their garage and Hammond encouraged them to bring them downtown. 

“To accomplish something like this in a small town is beyond anything that we dreamed of,” Hammond said. “I now have been to other towns to help them get a cruise-in started, but I tell them it’s not me that has to do this —it has got to be you that starts it — and most give up.” 

The event has become Hammond’s passion. He visits other car cruises and invites them to Eaton Rapids to see how it’s done. The memories that the cruise-in bring are part of the fun, he says—the cars bring flash backs to 1969 and eating chili at the West Brook Inn (the empty building next to the Library) where the hot rodders hung out after the bars closed. 

He says the Eaton Rapids police have been very supportive and helpful with the event, “bending over backward” to make the event work, and yet do not put a damper on the fun. Event organizers create and enforce the rules that they make very clear to the participants regarding alcohol and behavior. 

“Bad town to come to if you are drinking and driving a hot car because you will not be coming back. It works,” Hammond stated.

“I worry that it will die out, but it just keeps getting better,” Hammond continued. “In fact, we are running out of space on Main Street, but no one wants to park in the parking lots. Main Street is the place to be every Wednesday!”

The cars in attendance come from Eaton Rapids and towns nearby. Art Jones, from Eaton Rapids, brings his 1959 DeSoto downtown. The DeSoto was manufactured by the DeSoto Division of the Chrysler Corporation here in Michigan from the 1928 to the 1961 model year. Jones inherited the shiny black car from his father, who worked at Olds, when he turned 50.

Jerry and Susan Akin hail from Charlotte and are members of the Charlotte Cruisers Car Club. They’ve owned their 1955 red Belair for about 10 years. They own seven other cars and came to Eaton Rapids for dinner and the Cruise-In.

Dave and Kaye Persell are also from Charlotte and bring the 1965 Ford Mustang Fastback to the event that was first owned by Detroit rocker Bob Seger. The car also has the lowest documented mileage for a 1965 Mustang in the world, about 7,300 miles, according to Ford. The car originally sold for less than $3,000 when Seger purchased it, and it had flywheel problems, which created a bumpy ride. 

This past week some of the cars dropped by Island City Assisted Living before the Cruise-In to inspire some classic memories for the residents there, which was greatly enjoyed.

Head downtown most Wednesdays while the weather is good for the Eaton Rapids Cruise-In, starting about 4 p.m. While you’re there, enjoy the music by Thick N Thin near the Island.