Classic cars cruised the streets and memories filled the air as young and old gathered Friday for what was the first Ride The Strip Night.
Among the older crowd in attendance was 70-year-old Billy Jenkins, who rolled into town in a restored 1932 Ford. The Hillsboro resident said he would travel throughout Middle Tennessee in his teenage years and loved McMinnville for its great cruising.
“I’ve been doing this ever since I was 15,” said Jenkins. “Back then, I worked all summer to earn $175 so I could buy my first car. It was a brown 1950 Ford with one blue fender and one wrecked fender. Back then, we were happy just to get together and ride up and down.”
For Friday’s special trip down memory lane, Tammy Newby made sure to connect with her best friend from high school, Lori Sparkman. The two rode The Strip together in the mid-’80s
“We’ve been reminiscing about this all day,” said Tammy while sitting next to Lori in portable chairs at the edge of The Strip. “We’d have some good times out here. We’d go to Bumpers, get a cherry slush, and sit out on the hood. You had to have your cutest outfit on and your hair had to be perfect. I would tease it for hours.”
Both ladies came with their husbands, although Lori wanted to clarify one thing.
“I didn’t meet him on The Strip,” she said smiling at her husband, Kirk Sparkman.
“She couldn’t have done that,” Kirk quipped right back. “I am a good bit younger than she is.”
There were plenty of hoots, hollers and horns as everyone was eager to be seen – and heard. Traffic was bumper to bumper as cars inched along Smithville Highway before making the traditional turn to Village Car Wash.
The congestion reminded Drew Barrett of his days of riding The Strip. He is a 1988 Warren County graduate.
“It would take an hour just to do one round,” said Barrett, who noted things didn’t normally get started for him until he got off work at the skating rink around midnight. “We’d stay out here till the police ran us off.”
Greg McBride showed up Friday night in a car he made entirely from scratch. Since he just finished it last year, he said it’s a 2011 model.
“I spent many a night out here cutting donuts in this very parking lot,” said McBride while standing in front of Foodland Plus. He said his heyday on The Strip came in the mid-’70s.
Asked what he liked to do back then, McBride had a quick response, “Whatever we could get by with,” he said.
Derrick Gann didn’t hesitate when asked his favorite part of riding The Strip. “The ladies,” he said, showing a big smile.
Gann stressed his cruising days weren’t that long ago. “I’m 28 now and I started riding The Strip when I was 16. I still have the same truck, a 1985 GMC Sierra Classic.”
Ride The Strip Night, which generated momentum from Facebook postings, served as a fundraiser for Meals on Wheels. All 470 T-shirts made for the event were sold, and another 400 were ordered Friday night, according to organizer Chris Terry.
Donations were still being counted yesterday and Terry said he plans to present a check this week to Meals on Wheels. All of the canned food donations are also being processed and Meals on Wheels is hoping to have a figure on how many pounds was raised.
“I have never seen so many people in one place in my life and everybody had a smile,” said Terry. “Apparently, everybody was just itching for something to do.”