PILOT MOUNTAIN — With this season already off to a record-setting start, organizers of the “Hot Nights and Hot Cars” cruise-in series are hoping to use the Independence Day holiday to build on that success.
Several additions are planned for Saturday, mixing with familiar regular features to provide a full afternoon and evening for cruise-in fans.
A tribute to veterans is planned for the “Gasoline Alley” bandstand area during the evening’s first intermission, expected to take place around 7 p.m. To add to the patriotic atmosphere, some 1,000 flags will be distributed among those attending. Veterans in attendance will be brought forward for recognition while being greeted by a sea of waving red, white and blue.
“We do this each Independence Day,” said Jerry Venable of the sponsoring Mount Pilot Now group. “We want to honor our veterans and what they’ve done to keep us safe and free.”
With cruise-in favorites The Fantastic Shakers taking the stage, the bandstand area is expected to be full. The award-winning beach music band, hailing from Lincolnton, has been performing for some 37 years. Over that period, the group has garnered a pair of “Show Group of the Year” awards and three albums of the year while lead singer Bo Schronce has been named male vocalist of the year on four occasions.
“We always put the Fantastic Shakers on for the Fourth,” Venable said. “It doesn’t matter that it’s vacation time or what the weather is, they always draw a crowd. The Fantastic Shakers assure that the bandstand will be full.”
Attendees are invited to bring lawn chairs for comfort as they relax or join in the dancing as the band provides a lively set of classics from over the years.
A longstanding favorite, Larry Laney and the Petty Museum will bring a pair of the Petty family’s classic cars from Randleman for display. In addition, for the holiday cruise-in, the museum will offer a special treat for youngsters by also providing hundreds of die-cast models of a Petty classic to be given away while supplies last.
Other features will be familiar to cruise-in fans, with the expected return of attractions including the Advance Auto Parts Classic Ride of the Month.
This month’s featured classic will be a 1970 Plymouth Road Runner convertible, owned by Turk Bates of State Road.
Also returning will be the popular drawings, featuring a 50/50 cash prize as well as a diamond dinner ring, courtesy of Gilley’s Jewelry, and a stay at a local bed and breakfast inn.
While official hours for the cruise-in are from 3 to 9:30 p.m., the event’s popularity generally causes the downtown streets to fill early as car owners claim prime parking spaces.
Owners of antique, classic, street rod, pro-street and muscle cars will be to cruise Main Street or park in one of the several designated lots. Lots are divided, with primary Main and off-Main locations designated for “classics” while secondary lots and side streets fill with spectators.
To ease parking congestion for spectators, a courtesy “park and ride” shuttle bus service will again be offered with stops at specified downtown locations every 20 to 25 minutes from 3 to 10 p.m. A bus will be carrying attendees from the two Key Street PART park-and-ride lots to the downtown area and returning them to their cars. The #1 lot is located behind RBC Centura Bank while the #2 lot is beside Surrey Bank & Trust.
Also aiding in downtown congestion, Venable suggests that cruisers and others take advantage of alternate routes into town. With most traffic flowing from Key Street into Main Street, Venable noted that drivers can avoid some delays by using the Highway 52 Bypass to enter Main Street from the east end of town and, if desired, circle against the flow of Key Street traffic.
“We’re expecting another pretty good show,” Venable said. “It’s already been a phenomenal year. The crowds have been unbelievable, bigger than ever. And we’re continuing to see new faces as people hear about us and then find us to see for themselves.”
Dean Palmer may be reached at 336-351-4131 or firstname.lastname@example.org.