You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who views bumper-to-bumper traffic as a good thing.
But for the past three years, one night a year in McMinnville, slow-moving vehicles have meant a great deal to hundreds of the community’s less-fortunate citizens.
The fourth annual Back to the Strip car show and cruise-in is scheduled for this Saturday, May 2. Organizers are hoping to once again turn in record-setting numbers of funds and food raised for Warren County Meals on Wheels, which provides food for many local senior citizens and others who couldn’t otherwise provide for themselves.
“We’ve been fortunate during our first three years to have great turnouts, and, more importantly, raise a lot of money and gather a lot of food for Meals on Wheels,” said Mary Walker, one of the event organizers. “This has grown every year, and we’re looking forward to it being even bigger this year.”
Beginning in 2012 when two friends decided on a whim to relive their youth by cruising New Smithville Highway, commonly known as The Strip to locals, Back to the Strip has grown by leaps and bounds.
“I called Brad Bolding and said ‘Do you want to go ride The Strip,’ and he said ‘Sure, name a date,’” recalled Chris Terry, who has been another event organizer since its inception. “We set a date, I made a post on Facebook, and bam.
“As more and more people started to talk about it, that’s when Mary came along. ‘We could do something with a charity,’ she said, and I said no. Then I thought about it, and called her back and said I was in if we did it for Meals on Wheels."
Terry continued, "Then the donations of money, food and time came rolling in, and here we are four years later with over 9,000 pounds of food and almost $50,000 raised.”
Meals on Wheels, which serves roughly 200 Warren countians a day, seven days a week, receives 100 percent of the profits from Back to the Strip, as well as all the canned and other non-perishable food items donated both before and during the event. Local businesses also show their support, with over 100 sponsors per year contributing on various levels.
"We're so grateful for our many sponsors, we just couldn't pull this off without them," Walker said. "Dennis Lann and his staff at Foodland Plus have gone above and beyond by donating their time and facility to us, and we just can't say enough about how much O'Reilly Auto Parts has helped us as our corporate partner. We're also proud to have Bill Holt Chevrolet-Buick-GMC join us as a major sponsor for 2015. But every single sponsor we have -- and all the people who buy T-shirts, enter the car show or just come out with a can of food -- are truly appreciated."
While interest has grown, the event has expanded. Last year a car show was added to the mix, with over 100 participants showing off their classic cars and trucks while attendees also enjoyed music, food, vendors and exhibitors, and fun activities for youngsters.
This year’s car show, which begins Saturday at 10 a.m. at Warren County Fairgrounds, will also feature free children’s medical and dental screenings, a bouncy house, Smokey the Bear, fire and police vehicles, and a helicopter and Rapid Response vehicle from the Erlanger Life Force. Admission is free, and donations of food items are welcomed -- including pet food, which will be distributed to those who are unable to provide for their four-legged friends.
After the fun ends at the fairgrounds, participants will head for The Strip to cruise through the night. Event T-shirts will be for sale at the Foodland Plus shopping center, where another food drop-off will be available, and all four lanes of New Smithville Highway packed with vehicles and sidewalks packed with spectators enjoying an atmosphere that organizers, and local law enforcement, have stressed will remain safe and family friendly.
For more information on Back to the Strip, you can log on to their Facebook page, or call Walker at (931) 668-3372 or Terry at (931) 607-1105.