Expanded Cruisin’ the Gut revs up downtown Vancouver

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If you go

• What: Sixth annual Cruisin' the Gut.

• When: Noon to 11 p.m. Saturday.

• Where: Along Main Street between Sixth and 28th streets, and on Washington Street from West McLoughlin Boulevard to Seventh Street.

• Cost: Free. Participants are encouraged to visit local businesses and bring five nonperishable food items for Share House.

• Information: cruisinthegut.com

If you go

What: Sixth annual Cruisin’ the Gut.

When: Noon to 11 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Along Main Street between Sixth and 28th streets, and on Washington Street from West McLoughlin Boulevard to Seventh Street.

Cost: Free. Participants are encouraged to visit local businesses and bring five nonperishable food items for Share House.

Information: cruisinthegut.com

What started as a nostalgic effort to bring back the glory days of cars cruising along Main Street has turned into one of Vancouver’s biggest annual events.

Phil Medina, 38, founded Cruisin’ the Gut in 2009 as a throwback to his high school days cruising Highway 99 and in honor of the stories he grew up hearing from his mother, grandparents, aunts and uncles.

In just six years, the event has grown to a massive downtown event that’s part classic car parade and part homecoming.

“Last year it was as big as it’s ever been and it seems to just keep getting bigger each year,” Medina said.

Cruising was a popular practice for Vancouver’s teenage crowd from the 1950s until perhaps 20 years ago, when the Internet started to soak up the social scene. At the event, people come from all over to share stories, meet old friends or just hang out and watch the cool rides, he said.

“I think we’ve had some people come from Canada, Arkansas, Colorado, Nevada and California,” Medina said. “It’s turned into a destination.”

Each year, it draws thousands of people — and more than 1,000 classic cars — to downtown, where businesses often have special food, drink and merchandise deals.

This year, organizers are introducing a new vendor area at the corner of 16th and Main streets.

The cruising is expanding as well. Beyond the Main Street downtown route, the parade of cars can also cruise down Washington Street from West McLoughlin Boulevard to Seventh Street.

“We’re going to take over downtown,” Medina said.

Medina founded the event mostly because he wanted to find a place where he could cruise again in his turquoise 1961 Chevy Parkwood station wagon. He also wanted to get the community involved and support downtown businesses and Share House, a charity that helps homeless and hungry Clark County residents, he said.

“This is a free event, and all we ask is that people bring five or more cans for the food bank,” Medina said. “That and that they support local businesses.”

Food donation spots will be set up along the route at Turtle Place Park on W. Seventh Street, Dairy Queen at 2707 Main St. and in the new vendor area.

Mark Brislawn, a member of the Slo Poks Car Club, said the event is something his group looks forward to every year.

“We always take our cars and occupy a corner,” Brislawn, 64, said. “We’re car people and this is a big car event.”

The Slo Poks have been around for more than 60 years, and he said he loves Vancouver, where he’s lived for several decades, for its enthusiastic car culture.

“There’s just a lot of car activity in this area, with hot rods and classic cars,” Brislawn said. “It really goes back to those cruising days back when I was a kid.”

He sometimes brings a few different cars to the event, he added.

“Sometimes I drive one car down with my family, and when they get tired or too hot I drive them back, get another car and then drive back,” said Brislawn, who graduated in 1968 from Fort Vancouver High School. “Sometimes I get emails from the gals I knew from high school and I’ll pick them up and we’ll cruise and laugh. They’re all grandmothers now.”

Medina suggests setting up along the sidewalk early for those who just want to watch the scene. The cruising starts hopping around noon but will begin earlier, whenever people start to show up, he said.

“I get there and set up about 6:30 a.m., by noon, there’s not much space left if you want to set up chairs and watch,” Medina said. “But we hope everybody comes down. It’s family-friendly, and we want people to come support the businesses that make everything happen — that and drive safe.”