Show’s over for cruise night event

Jack Guthy made it over to the King Kullen parking lot in Wading River last Thursday just in time to check out the few remaining classic vehicles parked at the impromptu car show known as Wading River Cruise Night.

Mr. Guthy said he was “gabbing” with some of the classic car enthusiasts when a panel truck advertising “Signs” pulled into the property.

“Activity began on the lawn bordering the road side of the parking lot,” said Mr. Guthy, of Wading River, describing the work crew that hopped off the truck to erect a string of signs along the parking lot.

Each sign read, in plain black and white: “No loitering, trespassing or soliciting. Car shows are not permitted …”

After six years of gathering to talk life and cars every Thursday during the warmer months in Wading River, the signs marked a death knell to the event.

“A number of us walked over to investigate. Slowly, the remaining exhibitors began to drift off. That was the end of a grand community tradition,” Mr. Guthy said.

Ron Tallon started Wading River Cruise Night — an informal gathering where self-described gearheads showcased their cars — in 2004. He died a few years ago, but Cruise Night lived on.

However this month, following a story in the Riverhead News-Review, property owner Charles Serota asked the car enthusiasts to leave, citing complaints from tenants that they were taking up too many parking spaces.

At the request of the Riverhead Police Department, participants moved to another part of the shopping center’s parking lot for the May 13 event. Apparently that wasn’t good enough.

“When the first pole was going up and we saw that bloody sign, we said the hell with it and everyone drifted away,” said Mr. Guthy, who has been a Cruise Night spectator for the past four years. “I felt I had just witnessed the end of an era.”

Jim Yantz, owner of the Ace Hardware store at the Wading River Commons shopping center, said he was in favor of the cruise night’s new spot. “It’s beneficial for everybody for it to move to the other end,” Mr. Yantz said. “It’s wide open and a safer location.”

But Mr. Serota had also expressed concern about liability issues, because the event isn’t run through an organized club. Car owners have resisted forming such a club, citing costs and tradition.

“A cruise night and a car show are two different animals,” said Charles Cali, president of the Riverhead-based Long Island Moose Classic Car Club. “A cruise night is when a group gathers to talk about their cars. A car show is an activity that’s planned: Car owners and spectators are charged a fee and awards are given out.”

However, there will be police patrolling the area and classic car enthusiasts will be asked to leave, said Riverhead Police Lt. David Lessard.

“We have to comply with the owner’s wishes,” Lt. Lessard said.

Mr. Cali said he plans to challenge the signs.

“If we go there to buy something, which we do, we’re not loitering,” he said. “We’re not trespassing and, as for solicitation, we’re not selling anything.”

Despite the signs’ other warning — “car shows are not permitted” — Mr. Cali and other cruise night regulars said they plan to challenge that, too, and will continue to gather at King Kullen.

“It’s just hard to believe for someone to say you can’t do that anymore,” Mr. Cali said. “It’s like taking away an ice-cream pop from a kid.”

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