Auto enthusiasts weigh in on Niles car show venue change
Published 9:15 am Friday, July 24, 2015
Underneath the shade of large trees and just steps away from the St. Joseph River, Bob Kasperzak sat in a folding chair behind his 1965 Ford Mustang Convertible on a warm and sunny Wednesday evening.
The Jones, Michigan, man said he’s been coming to the Kar Club’s Bring It Cruise In events for the past several years and that he is enjoying its new venue at Riverfront Park.
Organizers were forced to move the weekly summer car show from downtown Niles to the park this year because of the Main Street Bridge replacement project.
“I like it here, personally,” Kasperzak said. “I think it is less disruptive to the community and it seems safer. A downside is it’s farther away from downtown businesses.”
A few vehicles north of Kasperzak’s Mustang sat a shiny red 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air.
Like Kasperzak, the Bel Air’s owner, Ralph Szczepanski, is a regular at the Bring It Cruise Ins.
While he said he is also enjoying the park, Szczepanski prefers having the show downtown for its look, feel and proximity to shops and restaurants.
“A lot of people like the downtown,” said the Osceola, Indiana, man. “It’s convenient if you want to get something to eat and if you’ve got a wife or girlfriend they’ve got something to do other than look at cars.”
Marc Milhander, who started the Cruise In in 2011, said he plans to return the car show to downtown Niles next year as long as it gets approval from city officials and is not cost prohibitive.
“I think it is just charming downtown in general and there is an economic benefit for the businesses,” he said, adding that downtown business owners by and large are in favor of bringing it back to Main Street.
As for car owners and spectators, Milhander said he’s received mixed feedback about having the car show in Riverfront Park.
He said some are saying that the park provides a more family friendly atmosphere because of its proximity to a large playground and ample green space. He has also heard people say they enjoy the backdrop of the river and the shady space.
“I don’t disagree with any of that, but 60 to 70 percent of the people I talk to want it back on Main Street,” he said.
The Bring It Cruise In and Car Show begins each Wednesday at 5 p.m. and runs through the end of August.
For more information, visit The Kar Club on Facebook.