Downtown Cruise Night picks up speed

Pride and joy were on display in downtown Riverhead for the second week in a row last Thursday, after an impromptu car show called Wading River Cruise night was booted from Wading River. The second downtown event drew three times as many cars.

Martha Zarro had just finished a class at Peconic River Yoga when she noticed all the classic cars parked along the waterfront.

As the Riverhead resident made her way back to her car, she and her husband decided to take a quick stroll down memory lane.

“Oh my goodness!” Ms. Zarro said as she came across John Pettit’s 1969 Javelin AMC ST. “I learned how to drive stick with this car.”

Mr. Pettit’s monster green classic was one of about 35 vintage automobiles parked along the waterfront, marking the second week former participants of an established “impromptu” car show at the King Kullen shopping center in Wading River have been meeting in downtown Riverhead. Two weeks ago, signs that read “no car shows” were placed in the King Kullen parking lot, where what came to be know as Wading River Cruise Night had been meeting on Thursday nights for six years.

George Edwards of Coram didn’t mind driving the additional 10 miles to the new location, but he said while the new spot is nice, it’s a bit hidden from the roadway.

“People that own the cars want people to see them,” Mr. Edwards said about cruise nights. “There’s no traffic here yet. Once more cars come down, then we’ll have more traffic.”

The relocation took place about a month after a story first appeared in the News-Reviewabout the Wading River custom. The shopping center owner, Charles Serota, had ordered the car enthusiasts to leave, citing complaints from tenants that they were taking up too many parking spaces.

Mr. Serota had also expressed concerns 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.

The move to downtown Riverhead came at the suggestion of Town Supervisor Sean Walter.

And many drivers said Wading River’s loss is Riverhead’s gain. Some of the car owners were already thinking of ideas for next week, including making more room for cars by parking in the west lot.

“It might take some time to gain momentum,” said cruise night regular Steve Shauger of Baiting Hollow. “We have a good turn out tonight. Hopefully we can make it a win-win situation for the businesses and the participants.”

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