Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines! While you can’t Cruise the Gut this summer, on July 15 you can definitely Cruise the Couve.
“When it was clear that (Cruise the Gut organizer) Phil (Medina) was going to back out, a bunch of local businesses all sat in a room and figured out how to move forward,” said Bryan Shull, the owner of Trap Door Brewing in Vancouver’s Uptown Village.
“The businesses that stepped up to help from Day One … are all on Main Street,” he said.
Shull is now the project manager and owner of a new organization called Cruise the Couve, which has jump-started the mobile homage to vintage cars that Medina launched in 2009 but decided not to stage this year — taking much of Vancouver’s car-loving community by surprise.
Hot rods and worshippers would have swarmed downtown Vancouver anyway, Shull said, and area merchants would have welcomed them. What would have been missing, though, is the infrastructure and organization needed to keep a mass takeover of downtown by big moving machines from getting out of hand.
CRUISE THE COUVE
These are the businesses that have stepped up to save what’s now called Cruise The Couve:
• Steering Committee
Trap Door Brewing
Tip Top Tavern
Salmon Creek Outfitters
Uptown Barrel Room
• Top sponsors
Columbia Credit Union
NW Wine Distributors
“This event has its own weather,” Shull said. “Angry people would have shown up anyway, blaming the city for this and that. Even if it was half the size it was before, that would be 10,000 or 15,000 people showing up — with no infrastructure.”
Shull, who said he lives and works on upper Main Street, desperately wanted to avoid that. “I’m looking out for my neighbors and my neighbor businesses,” he said. “I’m trying to protect our reputation.”
Fortunately, he said, a great group of local merchants and sponsors came together quite quickly to rescue Vancouver’s summer cruise tradition — and, he added, render it a bit more orderly and less impactful than it used to be.
“There’ll be more garbage and recycling receptacles and more restrooms,” Shull said. “Previous management did a great job, but you can’t know when another 5,000 people are going to show up.”
The whole thing will rev up just a little later in the day, Shull added: official hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, July 15. But, he added, infrastructure including street barricades will start taking shape at 7 a.m.
“We don’t encourage people to save parking spaces earlier than that — but we know they will,” Shull said.
Upwards of 20,000 people are expected to attend, he said.
Other than additional conveniences and cleanliness, Shull said, expect the cruise to be no different than it’s ever been.
“It’s going to look and feel exactly the same,” he said. Details are still being worked out, but Shull assumes the route map will be just what participants are already used to: chiefly driving along Main Street, occasionally peeling off to drive down Washington or up Broadway.
“The only thing that’s really different is the brand and ownership,” he said. The group has applied for official status as a nontaxable nonprofit agency, he said; once that’s been granted, a standard nonprofit board of directors will be created.
Meanwhile, he said: “The annual food drive is on, so people can bring cans of food for Share House.” Dairy Queen is no longer participating, he said, so all the food will be collected at a site at 16th Street off Main.
Hunter Pearson is no longer with us, but his beloved Jeep — and his family — will be part of the inaugural Cruise the Couve.
Pearson was the Columbia River High School senior and football star who drowned at Lacamas Lake on May 27.
“Last spring, Hunter bought a 1985 vintage CJ7 Jeep,” his mother, Marina, wrote in an email to The Columbian. “He and his brother Connor decided to drive the Jeep in last year’s Cruisin’ the Gut event and got great feedback about his Jeep from all the vintage car enthusiasts.
“After his accident, I noticed he had this year’s event marked on his calendar again. We decided we would drive his Jeep for him as a family to honor Hunter,” Marina said.
When she heard about Cruisin’ the Gut not happening this summer, she said, she was very concerned. So she asked her employer, CenturyLink, for support — and got a pledge of “at least $2,000.”
“I learned our community is amazing through the outpouring of love and support for Hunter,” she said. She said she believes that same kind of popular outpouring can propel Cruise the Couve well into the future.