PILOT MOUNTAIN — Expectations were high for last Friday night’s annual downtown race car display, which was to be followed on Saturday by one final cruise-in event to end the summer season. And then the rains came.
Though neither was officially cancelled, a steady series of showers mixed with occasional downpours to effectively end plans for both events. Anticipating the weather’s effect, organizers had cancelled an appearance by The Part Time Party Time Band.
Jerry Venable, one of the events’ primary organizers for the sponsoring Mount Pilot Now organization, waited on Depot Street Saturday to see if any car owners would brave the elements to make an appearance. While a few out-of-town visitors had made the trip to Pilot Mountain, most of those stopping by were local residents who had left their classic cars at home but wanted to voice their appreciation to the volunteers that have made the series possible.
“We hate to see this happen on our last show of the season,” Venable said, “but it’s already been a great year. The people have come out and the number and quality of cars has been really, really good. Both our 50/50 drawings and our t-shirt sales have been tremendous. We’ve had some showers this year but we can’t complain. It’s been a really successful season.”
He noted that event t-shirts are still available by calling (336) 401-6187, with merchandise to be sent to the purchaser.
“And word is still spreading about this,” he continued. “We’re still seeing new faces from places we’d never heard of. Just last month we had a guy come from Woodland, MI, home of the biggest cruise-in in the United States. Theirs is so big, he said this one was more fun.”
Among those stopping by Saturday were David Underwood and John Andrighetti, from Oak Hill and Beckley, West Virginia, respectively. The friends have become cruise-in regulars but this time, because of the weather, made the trip without Andrighetti’s ’67 Chevrolet Camaro.
“The people here deserve a pat on the back for what they’ve done,” Andrighetti said. “We’ve met some good people. They’re the best and I enjoy the cars, the dance floor and music and the atmosphere.”
Underwood agreed, while also noting the surrounding landscape and natural beauty.
“And a majority of car people are always willing to talk to you like they’ve known you for years,” he added.
In a Saturday afternoon sampling of downtown businesses, owners also expressed disappointment at the rained out weekend but were enthusiastic about the effect the cruise-in series has had on their summer season.
Mount Pilot Antiques owner Cook’e Jessup makes a point of extending business hours during cruise-ins.
”It definitely draws business,” she noted. “I can’t say enough about the cruise-in and the people who get it together. They should be commended. I hated to see the bad weather this weekend but we’ve had a super year and met some really nice people. The cruise-ins are fun. It’s my favorite time of the year. My business depends on it in the summer and I dread the 6 months without it.”
Johnny Redding, owner of Sopper’s Restaurant agreed.
“For us,” he explained, “the winter months in Pilot Mountain are slow. This (cruise-ins) gives us something extra to get through. When we see twice as much business on a Saturday, that helps, and it draws new people to town. We get so many people who didn’t know we were here.”
Donna Chilton of Mount Pilot Country Store also voiced disappointment with the weekend weather but was quick to praise the overall effect of the cruise-in series.
“It was sad to see this last one rained out,” she said, “but we’ve had better overall weather than last year and business has been great. It’s been a great season for us. It’s been wonderful for us and for the downtown. I’d love to see downtown thrive and we need more things like this. We’re thankful for all this has meant for us.”
“The town and businesses have recognized how much we need this,” Venable said. “The town has been very cooperative and supportive. Visitors are blown away by what we have here.”
Dean Palmer may be reached at 336-351-4131 or firstname.lastname@example.org.