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Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune Custom and classic cars fill the annual Medford Cruise's Show 'n' Shine at Fichtner-Mainwaring Park.

Medford Cruise a blast from the past

Vintage automobiles, drag races, a downtown cruise and classic pop music from the ‘50s and ‘60s combine to make this year’s Medford Cruise a window to bygone eras.

Events on Friday, June 15, include a Poker Run from Punky’s Diner, 953 Medford Center, to Original Roadhouse Grill, 2699 W. Main St. Registration is $5 and begins at 7:30 a.m. Departure time is 9:30 a.m.

A car show featuring Fords and hot rods of all makes, models and years will take place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in Fichtner-Mainwaring Park, 334 Holmes Ave. It’s $5 to show an automobile, free to attend.

A free concert featuring live music by Jamie’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Legends will be from 7:30 to 10 p.m. in the park. Look for music made popular by Buddy Holly, Patsy Cline, Frank Sinatra, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond, Ricky Nelson and others.

Stoplight drag racing for vehicles made in 1979 and earlier starts at 5 p.m. at the Medford Dragstrip, 6900 Kershaw Road, Central Point. Admission is $10 for spectators; $20 for drivers.

The fun continues Saturday, June 16, with a car show open to ‘79 and older classic vehicles and ‘80 and newer cars, boats, motorcycles and more from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Fichtner-Mainwaring Park. It’s free to attend, $50 to show ‘79 and older cars, $30 for newer cars.

Though the Medford Cruise has grown to include drag racing, poker runs, all-model car shows, festivities in the park and more, the event is still wrapped around the simple idea of cruising downtown Medford.

From 5 to 8 p.m., spectators will line downtown streets to watch a long parade of colorful classic cars. The cruise starts at Heritage Motors, corner of Central Avenue and Second Street, follows Central to turn west on Main Street, turns north on Ivy, east on Fifth, south on Fir, east on Sixth, and north on Front back to Second.

“You must have a 1979 or older car to participate in the downtown cruise,” says Steve Curry, owner of Heritage Motors. “Last year about 480 classic cars participated in the show, and we expect at least that many this year.”

While most cars in the cruise are from the 1950s and ‘60s, some are much older, going as far back as the early 1900s.

“One year we had a replica of a 1903 Oldsmobile with a steering rod instead of a steering wheel,” Curry says.

Registration for the cruise and the car show in the park is $50.

The Medford Cruise Association awards about 300 trophies during the event.

“All in all, it is spectacular, and we’ve had a lot of fun doing this for years,” Curry says. “We cannot overemphasize how much we appreciate the participants, and the help we get from hundreds of volunteers, law enforcement and the staff of various city departments.”

The event began in 1985, when several local car clubs got together for a cruise through Medford and decided to do it every June after that.

“It started out with a bunch of car enthusiasts just wanting to have a fun day,” Curry says. “They did a good job, but it was not fully sanctioned by the city. There was not a designated route, and there were no street closures in the early years.”

In ‘97, the car clubs and local business leaders got together and formed the Medford Cruise Association to help organize and facilitate the event. Curry is one of the founding members of the association, which persuaded the city to close certain streets for safety during the event.

The cruise eventually became a “for fee” event in order to defray the expenses involved in organizing it — street closure sign rentals and equipment — and to raise money for local charities.

Cruise revenues go into the coffers of the Greater Medford Rotary Foundation, which distributes the money to organizations that serve youth in Jackson and Josephine counties, Curry says. Past recipients include Boy Scouts, Boys and Girls Clubs, 4-H, FFA, Wilderness Trails and others.

“Last year the Cruise gave $35,000 to the Rotary Foundation, and the Foundation added $4,000, making $39,000 available for various youth programs,” Curry says. “It’s always been about benefiting the community. Since 1997, a total $485,000 has been raised for youth and education in Southern Oregon.”

The event ends with a free movie, “Grease,” at dusk in Fichtner-Mainwaring Park. Visitors can watch from their cars as if attending a drive-in theater. Food and nonalcoholic beverages will be available.

For more excitement, hit the Midnight Drags, open to all cars, at 8 p.m. at the Medford Dragstrip.

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