To the amazement of onlookers, flames shoot out the exhaust pipes on Les Sanders’ black 1950 Mercury Coupe as he drives up and down Colby Avenue with many others in classic and custom automobiles during one of the many popular Cruzin’ to Colby events held each summer in Everett. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Cruzin’ in reverse: Everett car show will return after all

Classic car aficionados learned bad news late last year, but there’s been a turnaround. Shiny hot rods and other vintage rides will cruise downtown Everett again this Memorial Day weekend.

Cruzin’ to Colby, a car show that has drawn big crowds since 2000, is on again for 2017. It was early December when members of the Seattle Rod-Tiques car club, the show’s sponsor, said they wouldn’t be putting on the two-day spectacle.

Now, though, a longtime restaurateur who got the wheels rolling for Cruzin’ to Colby 17 years ago has come to the rescue. Joel Starr, former owner of Everett’s now-closed Flying Pig Restaurant, heads a group of about 25 people working to bring cars and crowds back downtown May 28-29.

Helping the 57-year-old Starr is Dale Newman, founder of Everett’s Massage Clinic and Industrial Massage. Along with hosting Cruzin’ to Colby in the past, Starr and Newman worked together to put on Everett’s Thunder on the Bay Fireworks years ago.

“It is a go. It’s so exciting, they’re really going to do it,” said Carol Thomas, the city of Everett’s cultural arts manager. Thomas said Starr contacted her about putting on Cruzin’ to Colby after reading that the sponsoring car club was bowing out for 2017.

In a Herald article published Dec. 5, Seattle Rod-Tiques president Wayne Soderquist said the closure and ownership change of Everett’s Holiday Inn on Pine Street was a big reason the club wouldn’t organize the show this year. The hotel, which had been Cruzin’ to Colby headquarters, is being renovated to reopen as a Delta by Marriott.

Soderquist, of Everett, also said the job of putting on Cruzin’ to Colby had become too big for Rod-Tiques members. It’s an all-volunteer effort, and many of the 30 or so club members are seniors, some in their 80s.

“They couldn’t do it anymore. It became overwhelming,” said Starr, who lives in Everett and is a consultant with a restaurant management company.

As soon as he read in The Herald that Cruzin’ to Colby wouldn’t be happening, Starr contacted Soderquist and Lonnie Meadows, a Rod-Tiques member who had been co-chairman of the car show. “I adore these people,” said Starr, adding that about six Rod-Tiques members are lending expertise to the group staging this year’s event.

In 2016, Cruzin’ to Colby drew about 800 cars and thousands of spectators.

Starr said hotel and parking problems have been solved. The new Courtyard by Marriott on Colby Avenue will be the event’s headquarters, he said. And the Everpark Garage on Hoyt Avenue, owned by the city and managed by the Downtown Everett Association, will shelter the antique cars.

A sock-hop dance that’s been part of Cruzin’ to Colby is planned this year at Tony V’s Garage, a Hewitt Avenue bar and music venue.

With Cruzin’ to Colby 2017, Starr is coming full circle.

Starr said he helped launch Cruzin’ to Colby as a way to boost business for the Flying Pig, the brew pub and restaurant he opened in 1997 at 2929 Colby Ave. Before 2000, the Seattle Rod-Tiques had car events at a shopping center, and at the Herfy’s Drive-In on Evergreen Way.

The year after opening the Flying Pig, Starr saw how few people were on the street over Memorial Day weekend. With the idea of bringing a car show downtown, he went to a Seattle Rod-Tiques meeting. “I told them, ‘If I get the street, would you bring the show?’ The rest is history,” Starr said.

With Newman and other downtown business owners, Starr said he worked with the city on car show logistics. “It was a great partnership,” he said. He stepped away from Cruzin’ to Colby when he no longer ran the Flying Pig or Tailgater Joe’s, another restaurant and bar on Hewitt.

Joking that he’s “not a car guy,” Starr said he drives a Chevy Silverado truck.

When the last weekend of May arrives, car fanatics will again be showing off V8 engines and chrome, reliving times when Colby looked like a scene out of “American Graffiti.” Starr will be the one to thank for saving a local tradition.

“The reason Dale and I wanted to do this, it’s important for Everett. It’s important for downtown,” Starr said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Cruzin’ to Colby

The Cruzin’ to Colby car show is scheduled for May 28-29 in downtown Everett. A controlled cruise will be 1-5 p.m. May 28, followed by the “show-and-shine” car show 9 a.m.-4 p.m. May 29. A sock-hop dance featuring the Wright Brothers Band is planned for the evening of May 28 at Tony V’s Garage, 1716 Hewitt Ave. To learn more or get involved, email: info@cruzin2colby.com

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