It was a brisk and blustery summer rainstorm, minus thunder and lightning, that might have been fun if it had not come in the midst of the city’s most popular outdoor event.
Cruise Night 2013 was interrupted, but not stopped, at about 3:45 p.m. Saturday when the first splash of rain drops hit patrons and performers on the main stage set up at the foot of Second Street.
But the second leg of the storm, which hit a little over an hour later, was a deluge that knocked down at least one tent, sent patrons to huddle under awnings and vendor tents and, alas, spelled the end of the show for some of the expensively restored vehicles on display.
As storm clouds and predictions of more rain accelerated, organizers rushed to hand out more than 25 trophies for the best vehicles in the show. They were often in competition with the revved-up engines of the muscle cars making their way down St. Louis Street to exit the show.
Brian Knight, perennial Cruise Night emcee, wowed the crowd with showman-style promises that the rain was only temporary and a fireworks show from Blackburn Park was planned for later in the evening.
From 10 a.m. when the Ridge Rodders car club registered the first antique vehicle to 5:30 p.m. when patrons scurried for cover, it was a heck of a street party, organizers said, and Cruise Night 2013 was gearing up to be the biggest in the downtown car show’s 10-year history.
The event emerged this year from an informal cruise to a bona fide car show with professional judges, living up to its billing as the city’s largest outdoor event.
Adam Kraus, chairman, said spearheading the volunteer effort to organize the event had given him a new respect for what Cruise Night means to the city.
The crowds and vehicles filled seven city blocks. One organizer said the largest number of cars in the event history had registered for the event. Also, parked outside the perimeters of the event on downtown streets, were a number of obviously restored, pre-1980 vehicles.
By 1 p.m., Big Chief and the Smoke Signals from Labadie were filling the air with country music. In the Pacific Eagles booth, Peggy McDermott and Amanda Prince cooked up street tacos, trying to stay ahead of the crowd.
The Eagles booth was in good company, one of 50 refreshment and gift vendors, motor scooter raffles and pony rides — also a record number — many participants noting that Pacific Cruise Night organizers had approached them at other car shows and invited them to come to Pacific.
Offerings at other booths included rice and bean platters, Lions burgers, Bourbon chicken on a stick, jambalaya and crawfish, chicken teriyaki kabobs, along with the traditional funnel cakes and any number of hamburger and hot dog booths.
Karen’s Pony Rides, Robertsville, set up in the shade of the Bank of America drive-through on Second Street.
On the backside of the lot Pacific police, fire and Meramec Ambulance personnel had emergency vehicles and tents where patrons could seek help if needed. Members of the Valley Park Fire and Rescue team, on hand to assist Cruise Night emergency services, patrolled the car show area in their rescue vehicle to reassure patrons and participants.
At entry points on St. Louis, Union, First, Second and Third streets, members of the Pacific Police Explorers club and the Meramec Valley School District JROTC manned checkpoints to keep non-show vehicle traffic from driving into the area.
As organizers worked through their list of winning vehicles and handed out trophies, owners stood in front of the stage awaiting announcements.
Bob Rauscher, a 1975 Pacific High School graduate who brought his 1970 Corvette from Kansas City for the hometown event, was rewarded. His car took first place in its class.
Second place went to fellow Kansas City resident Alan Larremore for his 2001 Corvette.
Doc Klestinske, Pacific, who took his prize vehicle home when the rain started, but returned for winner announcement was all smiles when his 1962 409 Impala was named Best of Show. Built at the beginning of the muscle car era, when only a limited number of the model was built, it was the right car to win, the proud owner said.
No lightning accompanied the storm and Brian Knight, the omnipresent and exuberant voice of Cruise Night, continued an ongoing monologue to urge patrons to stay during the storm.
“This will be over and we will go on,” Knight said. “We’re going to have a fireworks show from the bluff at 9:30.”
In an impromptu salute to some of the winners, Knight waved his hat in the air and urged winners to face the camera.
“This is the best of the best,” he said to the remaining crowd. “This is what downtown Cruise Night is about.”
Perhaps to Knight’s credit, when the squall subsided, patrons filtered out from under cover into the wet streets.
In addition to the chairman members of the Cruise Night 2013, committee members were April Aubuchon, Loyd Harris, Floyd Blake, Stephen Flannery III, Ron Sansone, Mike Bagwell Jr., Bill McLaren and Brenda Wiesehan.
The Ridge Rodders car club was an event cosponsor with the Pacific Partnership.
The city of Pacific sponsored the fireworks exhibit, which was shot from the bluff in Blackburn Park at 9:30 p.m. It was organized by Alderman Carol Johnson.