Year-end cruise-in brings thousands to Pilot Mountain


First Posted: 10/4/2009

PILOT MOUNTAIN While most towns frown on the idea of people cruising up and down the main drag, Pilot Mountain has not only embraced the idea, it has found a gold mine.
For the fifth year running, Pilot Mountain has found its niche in bringing crowds to the downtown area and that is by allowing cars to park and cruise up and down Main Street without the fear of getting stopped.
The event is called Hot Nights & Hot Cars.
Jeff and Beth Binkley of Kernersville brought their 1955 Chevrolet BelAir to Pilot Mountain for the second time this year.
This is really nice. I wish other towns would do something like this. It is such a wonderful event and its a very family-friendly environment, Jeff Binkley said. He and his wife said they hate to see the cruise-ins end for the year.
Members of the Pilot Mountain Police Department had a booth in front of town hall selling tickets for $1 to raise money for equipment over and above what the town can afford. Part-time Officer R.D. Bingman couldnt sell tickets fast enough. Officers were also giving out sticker badges and balloons to kids that came by.
These cruise-ins bring together the future and the past. Weve got old cars and new cars. Weve got people here that came all the way from Arizona and Texas. This brings you back to the days of cruising without the fear of being stopped or harassed, Bingman said.
Police Chief Darryl Bottoms said the police department started the fundraiser two years ago. He said the extra money helps them buy computers, bullet-proof vests and other equipment needed by the department.
We have good support from the community. This is a good thing for the town, Bottoms said. There is not one empty store on Main Street. This event is just a great environment for people of all ages.
Other than a couple of complaints of noise, Bottoms said it does not create any more work for his department than a regular Saturday night.
We have only written eight tickets since the cruise-in started, Bottoms said.
Mayor Earl Shepherd said the cruise-ins have been a good thing for the town.
We have these the first weekend of the month, May through October. We have a very calm crowd. Weve not had a single incident in over four years. It really is an asset to the town. People are out here really enjoying themselves, Shepherd said. The really great thing about this event is that people come here, they have a good time and go home. When we shut this down at 10 p.m., everybody will be gone.
The Fantastic Shakers played for the last cruise-in of the season.
Janie Shepherd, the mayors wife and treasurer of Mount Pilot Now, the sponsoring organization, said the cruise-ins have truly benefited the town.
This is an awesome experience. Weve worked hard, but weve had people come here from all over to experience what we have here. This is Depot Street, and its packed with people of all ages having a good time on a Saturday night. The difference between this event and say the Autumn Leaves Festival is the money that is spent here, stays here. To me this is like the song, Staying Alive. This is keeping our town alive and we are letting other people enjoy our town the way we do. I feel very fortunate to be a part of Pilot Mountain, said Janie Shepherd.
Organizer Jerry Venable said the cruise-ins were just doing OK until organizers decided to only have beach music and to allow the sale of wine, but only in a designated area.
Its just unbelievable in what we have done here in making this what it is tonight. Theres probably 10,000 people out here and maybe 1,000 cars. This thing is known all over the state and states around here. Weve had some people from Florida that come and one guys brings his car down here from Maryland. We have people that will drive five hours to get here on a regular basis, Venable said.
People started parking their cars on Main Street on Friday night in order to get a good spot. Some of the participants said they come in early Saturday morning to park their cars.
Toni and Philip Blackburn of Winston-Salem said they typically bring their 1977 Corvette, but it was in the shop getting a new engine, so they came on their motorcycle.
This is our third time here. This is something we really enjoy doing. Weve heard that this is the second biggest cruise-in in North Carolina. We will definitely be back next year, Toni Blackburn said.
Joshua Hicks was seen showing off the hydraulics on his 1991 Cadillac. He said he is a member of the Lacticity Low Riders Club, which only allows Cadillacs. The group is based in Pilot Mountain and they operate out of a shop on N.C. 268 at Venable Road.
Wed seen some stuff on the West Coast and we wanted to do that here. My dad had a Cadillac, so I wanted to fix up one like his, Hicks said.
Joyce and James Powell brought their 1933 Ford coupe to the cruise-in this weekend. James said it gets one mile to the gallon and runs on 114 octane fuel. He said five gallons of fuel costs him $58. He said they got to the cruise-in at 1:30 in the afternoon even though it didnt officially start until 4 p.m.
Next year, Hot Nights & Hot Cars cruise-ins will begin on May 1.
For more information about the monthly cruise-in, check out http://www.hotnightshotcars.com.
Contact Mondee Tilley at [email protected] or at 719-1930.

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