Good times on the Gut — cruising in Vancouver

Annual event is getting 'better and bigger '

By Erin Middlewood, Columbian special projects reporter

Published:

 

Fifth annual Cruisin the Gut

photoHundreds of cars, classic and modern, parade past thousands of people Saturday along Main Street at the fifth annual Cruisin' the Gut.

(/The Columbian)

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Bumper-to-bumper chrome and metal lined Main Street on Saturday in homage to the golden age of cruising in Vancouver.

Bob and Barbara Zozosky weren't going to miss a minute of it.

The couple set out a canopy at 8 a.m., two hours before the fifth annual Cruisin' the Gut was scheduled to begin.

The event drew thousands of people and cars to Main Street between Sixth and 28th streets. It's hard to know exactly how many attended, since the event is free to everyone.

"We came prepared this year," said Bob Zozosky, 47, in the shade of the canopy, surrounded by bags of food.

He and his wife would like to buy a classic car, but have yet to agree on what to purchase.

"We're window-shopping," he said. "This way, the cars come to us."

In her chair on Main Street, Barbara Zozosky, 57, reminisced about buying a '60s Ford Fairlane for $50 in 1971. She rues letting go of it. She saw one cruise by Saturday with a $20,000 price tag.

Wayne Johnson, 70, also spotted a car he used to own -- a '57 DeSoto.

"I'm glad they're not all in a junk yard," Johnson said.

He grew up in Massachusetts, where he cruised Route 5 and hung out at a Big Boy restaurant. Johnson now lives in Florida, but he makes a point of visiting his daughter in Vancouver each year for Cruisin' the Gut.

Many lining Main Street show up year after year. Victor White, 60, and his son, Marcus, 18, were checking out the event for the first time.

Victor cruised in his 2004 Cadillac Escalade, tricked out with 22-inch chrome rims, before setting up his tripod chair at the corner of Main and 25th streets to watch the cars.

He grew up in Portland, where he cruised Union Avenue in the 1960s.

"It's like being in a parade," White said. "It's something you can do with the family."

A family event is just what Cruisin' the Gut founder Phil Medina had in mind when he first passed out fliers in 2009, hoping that a few cars would show up. He grew up in Vancouver hearings stories from relatives about the cruising scene on Main Street, nicknamed the Gut, from the 1940s to the 1980s. Back then, cruising happened every weekend, so it didn't attract near the numbers that the once-a-year event does.

Medina organizes the cruise because he loves cars, but also because he loves downtown. "Every business is completely jam-packed," he said.

In addition to drawing customers to downtown, Medina uses the event to raise money for the Clark County Skills Center's automotive technology program and to collect food for Share.

The organization, which operates a system of homeless shelters, was also the beneficiary of Fire in the Park down the street. The Vancouver Fire Fighter's Union event in Esther Short Park includes a chili cook-off, a firefighter competition and music. Fire in the Park typically raises about $20,000 for Share, said Sue Warren, the organization's development director.

"The vibe is even better this year," Warren said. "There's a lot more flow of people coming through. The music is great."

Coinciding with Cruisin' the Gut doesn't hurt, she added. "It helps bring a lot of people downtown."

Indeed, crowds flowed from the park to Main Street's packed sidewalks, and back.

"I'm really pleased with the turnout," Medina said. "It gets better and better -- and bigger -- each year."

Erin Middlewood: 360-735-4516; erin.middlewood@columbian.com.