ASHAWAY — For Rhode Island gearheads, race fans, and general car-loving families, cruise nights around the area have provided entertainment and a sense of community.
Each week folks of all ages gather to trade tips, listen to music, share a beverage, and talk about their favorite hobby. The atmosphere is a relaxed and friendly drive-in feel. Fifties music fills the air, and people wander in among the cars or plant themselves on a beach chair with a group.
“Almost everyone here is a friend. They bring their car, eat some good food, and sit around telling tall tales. It’s a great way to get together,” said Don Oster of Wakefield, a retired South Kingstown Police Station clerk.
Most have loved cars their entire lives and have a bit of a tinkerer in them.
“I’ve always been what you call a gearhead, since I was 13 years old. I could always take things apart, but now I kind of know how to put them back together,” Oster laughs.
For others, like Duke Place of Charlestown, it’s a love of speed that lured them into hot rodding.
Many have more than one vehicle they are working on. Place brought his boatcar, a perpetual crowd gatherer, even though it’s something he put only a few hundred dollars in. It’s a combination of a 1986 Monte Carlo chassis and small powerboat hull. He shares pictures of his truck and his grandfather’s car, other pet projects.
John and Cheryl Hodis of Charlestown began the cruise night here four years ago. They had both retired, John from tractor-trailer driving and Cheryl from hotel housekeeping, and were looking for a way to fill the void. They took their 1996 Thunderbird out of storage, visited other car shows in the area, and found they really enjoyed the night out.
Cruise night started out as one night a week, and now the effort is nearly a full time job with four shows running each week from April to October.
“We love doing it. We meet a lot of nice people, you know?” says Cheryl.
Now John says they only get about a month and a half off before they have to begin plans for the next season.
Pavilion Steak House in Ashaway has been home to the Friday Night Car Cruise from the beginning. The word around the field is that it’s the best-attended car show in Rhode Island. They average around 150 cars, but get as many as 250.
“It’s the Cadillac of car shows in Rhode Island,” says Steve Tudino of Bonnet Shores.
It’s not just fun and food; each of these cruise nights is also partnered with a charity to raise money for local causes. Tudino leads a 50/50 raffle at the Pavilion to benefit the Rhode Island National Guard Soldiers and Airmen Relief Fund, a nonprofit organization providing military families with money for groceries and other necessities.
For more information about cruise nights, email John Hodis at email@example.com or search for him on Facebook.