Cruisin' together

Lewistown unites for Friday night drives
Charlie Denison
Senior Reporter
Tuesday, April 28, 2020
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Main Street Lewistown has been busy the past few Fridays as cruisers of all ages bring an old tradition back to life.
Photo by Jacques Rutten

A few Fridays ago, Judith Theatre manager Mike Arndt announced on the marquee that concessions were available for call-in customers, and his timing couldn’t have been better, as this also happened to be the first night Julie Reesor helped organize “Cruise Through Quarantine” (or #cruisethruquarantine).
“I saw this as a fun way to stay a safe distance from others while still being able to get out of the house,” Reesor said in a recent Facebook post, “and it’s always fun to get a honk and a wave.”
Many members of the community got involved with this right away.
Seeing the cars go up and down the Main Street strip felt like old times to Arndt and other Lewistown natives.
 “We used to cruise all the time,” he said. “We were pretty good at entertaining ourselves back then…I guess we had to be.”
But back then, Arndt said, it was mostly teenagers doing the cruising. That’s not the case with “Cruise Through Quarantine.”
“A lot of people coming in for concessions had the whole family with them,” said Arndt. “They’d see the marquee and say, ‘Hey, let’s get some popcorn as we cruise.’”
The first Friday was a success, as was the next Friday, and the Friday after that. There were more and more people on the road. Arndt said he couldn’t help but get excited about it.
“It’s kind of nice,” he said. “It’s bringing the town together.”
Lewistown Police Chief Justin Jenness has also enjoyed this tradition, although he and his officers also must monitor it to make sure nothing gets out of hand.

“When this idea popped up on social media I was excited to see our community thinking outside of the box,” he said. “I have encouraged people to wear their seat belts, honk their horns at friends, enjoy popcorn, roll down their windows and enjoy the nice weather as they wave to their friendly police officers.”
Jenness has also encouraged parents to teach their kids how to cruise responsibly.
Lisa Sanders has taken him up on this.
“My son Grayden cruised with me and my mom,” she said. “It’s been so much fun. He cranks up the 60s and 80s hits for us.”
For Lisa and her family, responsible cruising includes Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” and “Footloose,” Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock and Roll.”
“Grayden said he really enjoyed the whole atmosphere,” Lisa said. “It must have been my singing and dancing in the cab of his truck (laughs).”
While out cruising, Lisa said she was amazed by just how many families got involved in this activity, as some of Grayden’s friends were also out for a drive with their parents.
Jenness has enjoyed seeing this, too, and he’s also been glad to see people respecting traffic laws, for the most part.
“We don’t want to see people speeding, doing burn-outs, hanging out the windows or sunroofs or drinking and driving,” he said. “We also don’t want to see people congregating in parking lots with their friends unless they can maintain social distancing guidelines. If everyone keeps driving responsibly and we don’t have any issues, I look forward to seeing Friday night drives continue.
However last Friday Reesor said – considering Montana is moving into phase one of reopening – she’s no longer organizing cruises, but Lisa Sanders and others wouldn’t be surprised to see it continue.
Having this organized cruise brought a lot of joy to the community, Sanders said, and also grew into a charitable act, as participants were encouraged to make contributions to a food collection at Fleet Supply. Canned fruits and vegetables, canned tuna, peanut butter, boxed meals and more were donated to the Central Montana Community Cupboard, courtesy of cruisers. On Friday, April 17, more than 350 pounds of food was donated. On Friday, April 24, the Community Cupboard received 224 pounds of food, as well as a few financial donations.

Advice from an original cruiser
Steve Hughes, a Modesto, California native, can’t help but feel nostalgic when he sees cruising return to the scene. Hughes went to school with a young George Lucas, who would bring cruising to the big screen in 1973’s “American Graffiti.”
“George was a senior when I was a freshman, so when the movie came out, I was pretty blown away. I was obviously a little younger but I recognized some of those who were portrayed in the film, and of course Mel’s Drive In was a place we’d all frequent.”
Cruising really became a fad for most of the 60s, Hughes said.  
“The cruising started in the downtown area and just kept expanding,” he said. “More businesses would open and extend the drive. I was lucky. My best friend at the time was kind of rich so he’d always have a nice hot rod we could jump into. It pretty much became a nightly ritual.”
Hot rods also regularly make an appearance in Lewistown Friday evenings. People never know what kind of vehicle they’ll see hitting the strip.
“It’s great seeing some of the classics out cruising,” said regular cruise attendee Tom Spika. “The old military 6x6, the car with the pink flamingos and all of those out in their daily drivers. We do this as a community, all in a way of saying, ‘Hey, we’re still alive and going strong.’”  
Could cruising really be coming back? If so, Hughes has a few tips.
“You don’t drive fast,” he said.  “You take it easy and try to look as cool as you can.”