Downtown Cruise Night could be a beautiful thing

06/03/2010 12:00 AM |

It’s apparent the owner of two shopping centers in Eastport and Wading River wants nothing to do with impromptu car shows taking place on his properties.

That’s sad news for the participants and the people in those hamlets who, over the course of several years, have come to enjoy their slices of Americana on Thursday nights during the warmer months.

The staff at this newspaper can’t help but feel responsible, given the fact that the landlord started chasing the car lovers from his parking lots immediately after we ran a feature story about the Wading River Cruise Night, which was just embarking on its sixth year.

That’s why we’re especially encouraged by what’s been happening since then.

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter was quick on his feet when he publicly invited Wading River Cruise Night participants to start meeting in downtown Riverhead. The parking lot behind East Main Street has a well-kept boardwalk, manicured picnic areas, plenty of eateries and great views of the Peconic River, where a car lover or two might want to drop a fishing line. Maybe classic boats will show up and make it a surf and turf combo event.

Car enthusiasts are starting to take Riverhead’s supervisor up on his offer. About a dozen Wading River castaways showed up in downtown Riverhead last Thursday after “no car show” signs appeared at the strip mall they had called home since 2004, some 10 miles to the east.

Meanwhile, similar signs went up at a King Kullen shopping center in Eastport, eight miles south of Riverhead. As in Wading River, those signs will likely be a death knell for the impromptu car show there — at least in its current form.

Downtown Riverhead would be the logical choice for those spurned classic car lovers as well. The result could be a bigger and better cruise night, one with participants from both the north and south shores. It could grow into a truly regional event. That would mean more foot traffic for a struggling downtown and a therapeutic jolt to the heart of the county seat.