The chrome was shiny. The classic whitewall tires were scrubbed clean. Along Colby Avenue in downtown Everett, cars were king.
That was the weekend scene from the 1950s into the late 1980s. And for the past 17 years, Everett’s cruising culture has been revived on Memorial Day weekends. The annual Cruzin’ to Colby, organized by the Seattle Rod-Tiques, has been a two-day blast from the past since 2000.
Car fanciers have come to see “American Graffiti”-style hot rods, muscle cars and other antique rides. A controlled cruise followed by a car show, the Cruzin’ to Colby spectacle has been a rite of spring in Everett. But there’s sad news.
Members of the Seattle Rod-Tiques have decided not to put on the show for Memorial Day weekend 2017.
“We’re all sad about the fact the show is ending. It’s one of the biggest events in the history of downtown Everett,” said Wayne Soderquist, the car club’s president. The 2016 show featured about 800 cars and brought thousands of people downtown.
There are several reasons the club won’t be putting on the show, first among them the change in ownership and renovation of the Holiday Inn on Everett’s Pine Street. The hotel, expected to reopen next summer as a Delta by Marriott, will soon be closed.
The Holiday Inn has been Cruzin’ to Colby headquarters. With its large parking lot and proximity to Pacific Avenue, it has been the staging area for the classic cars. Car show participants have stayed at the hotel, which has also been the venue for the event’s sock-hop dance.
The club is now based in Snohomish County, but kept the Seattle Rod-Tiques name from earlier times when most members lived south of the county line.
Helen Meadows, Seattle Rod-Tiques treasurer, said the Holiday Inn has been a gracious host, providing affordable room rentals and ballroom space. “It’s difficult to find a hotel in Everett that could accommodate us,” the Everett woman said. Her husband, Lonnie Meadows, has been car show co-chairman along with Soderquist, who also lives in Everett.
Losing a venue isn’t the only problem. Club membership is dwindling. Soderquist, 68, said there are now about 30 Seattle Rod-Tiques members, some in their 80s. Helen Meadows is 67; her husband is 71.
Cruzin’ to Colby is run by volunteers.
At 64, club vice president Fred Young said he’s on the lower end of the club’s age scale. “We’re all getting older,” the Camano Island man said. “We lost three or four of our members in the last year.”
Members cited one more roadblock to hosting a car show in the future. The city plans to demolish buildings and build new ones as part of a Service Center Redevelopment Project in the Cedar Street area. That could require changes in staging Cruzin’ to Colby, they said.
Young said the decision not to run Cruzin’ to Colby was made by club members voting. It wasn’t unanimous, but a majority chose not to put on the show.
Yet the decision may not mean the end of Cruzin’ to Colby.
“The club did vote against it, but there are some people interested. They want to continue with a show in Everett,” Soderquist said. He said the club owns the rights to the Cruzin’ to Colby name, but could possibly sell it or lease it. He didn’t disclose an organization or individual interested in taking over. “I can’t say what’s going to happen in the future. We hope somebody picks it up,” Soderquist said.
“We’re hoping that, too. It would be wonderful for the community,” said Helen Meadows, who with her husband owns a 1934 Chevrolet coupe and a 1951 Chevy sedan.
Cruzin’ to Colby has been a help to local charities. This year, Soderquist said, the club raised enough to donate $10,000 to Camp Fire for Camp Killoqua and $10,000 for Providence Hospice of Snohomish County’s Camp Erin.
“It’s been all about the charities. Nobody gets paid,” said Soderquist, whose vintage cars are a 1928 Studebaker Dictator and a 1950 Chevy Deluxe.“We’ve been trying to figure out how much we’ve given over the years. It’s well over $100,000.”
Club members said the city has been cooperative in helping with permits for the cruise and show. Carol Thomas, Everett’s cultural arts manager, has talked with Soderquist in hopes the group will find a way to keep Cruzin’ to Colby going.
“It’s a huge loss to the city. It’s a great event that drew hundreds and hundreds of participants,” Thomas said Friday. “There are other downtown hotels, and over Memorial Day weekend it might be possible to secure other places to park downtown,” she said. “Probably the bigger issue is they are losing key volunteers, and it is so much work.”
For now, the club is taking its foot off the gas. There is time to decide what’s next, and to reminisce.
Helen Meadows said that “back in the day” she borrowed a neighbor’s 1960 Chevy Impala to cruise Colby. “It was all we had to do back then,” she said.
Young grew up in Sultan, but drove to Everett to cruise. He has mixed emotions about putting the brakes on Cruzin’ to Colby. “We’re exploring other options,” he said.
“It’s not an easy thing to have to give up,” said Soderquist, who hopes someone will keep an event like Cruzin’ to Colby going in Everett. “I’d be happy,” he said.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Seattle Rod-Tiques, a car enthusiasts club and nonprofit organization, is based in Snohomish County. Information: http://seattlerod-tiques.com/