Saturday evening was reminiscent of the Greeneville of the past as hundreds of vehicles of all types and sizes cruised Tusculum Boulevard.
Auto enthusiasts brought out their classics, customized vehicles, dune buggies, motorcycles, hot rods, sports cars, low riders, modified pickup trucks and even a few racing cars to cruise Tusculum Boulevard.
Organizers estimate that more than 800 cars participated in the event that began around 6 p.m. and lasted until 10:30 p.m., crowding the entire length of Tusculum Boulevard during most of that time.
At one point, cars were backed up to near the Sonic Drive-In on East Andrew Johnson Highway to get on the boulevard, and traffic was backed up to the Greene County Courthouse on Main Street as people tried to enter the other end of the street.
“We needed this event as a community with all that is happening right now,” said Tommy Bennett, one of the organizers.
“This shows what we as a small town can do,” he continued. “This is common ground that everyone can come out to enjoy … and show mutual respect for each other.”
There were no accidents reported during the event, and organizers heard no negative comments, just positive feedback. Bennett said he saw about 50 small business owners during the event and all were appreciative and positive.
While cruising has been banned along Tusculum Boulevard for two decades by the town, the street was where young people used to come to hang out together and have fun, he recalled. Saturday’s event was allowed by the Greeneville Board of Mayor and Aldermen on a trial basis. Organizers are seeking to have monthly cruising events.
In the past, there were not many places that young people in the community could gather, and cruising allowed people to do that, Bennett said.
Part of the inspiration for the event was to share the impact cruising had on many people, he said. “For some of us, cruising led us to our businesses, and we formed friendships that you can’t put a price on.”
While cruising events draw car enthusiasts of all ages, Bennett said organizers hope that it also introduces young people to car culture and interests them in an activity that can lead to a career and help build character and self esteem.
Tamara Wilcox, who owns a business along Tusculum Boulevard, was taking a video of those cruising by East Gate Shopping Center before joining the long procession of cars.
As a teenager, Wilcox said, she enjoyed cruising with her friends in Greeneville and hopes the events continue.
“This gives people something fun to do that they can enjoy together with friends and family while staying safe and healthy,” she said. “It will also be good for many of the locally owned businesses because it brings people back to Tusculum Boulevard.”
Response to a brief video clip of cruising led to the event on Saturday. Bennett said he occasionally looks at photos or videos he has taken in the past to reminisce about past days, and a few months ago, discovered a short clip of cruising on Tusculum Boulevard.
In posting the 10-second clip to Facebook, Bennett said there were numerous comments from people remembering their days cruising, sparking an idea to organize an event for the community in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which ultimately resulted in permission from city officials for Saturday’s event on a trial basis.
Town officials expressed a desire for some standards to be put into place for the event, and rules were in place to make it a family event by organizers.
The cruising event not only brought out Greene Countians, but also attracted people from the surrounding region, including the Tr-Cities and Knoxville, according to organizers.
The cruising event also attracted some participants to the Ridge Runners Car Show earlier in the day at the Chantz Scott Chrysler Dodge Jeep dealership in Greeneville.
More than 90 cars were registered to be on display, with more than 100 cars participating when car club members’ vehicles were added, according to car club officials.
The club had more than the typical local car enthusiasts bringing their cars to display. With other shows canceled or postponed, Ridge Runners President Herb Plemons said the car show drew people from Knoxville, Bristol and Sneedville who came to display there cars.
“We have more than we expected,” he said. “The cruising event has also attracted some to the car show.”
Several car owners were planning to participate in the cruising event, he said. Several of the cars on display were on Tusculum Boulevard during the event.
The car show also drew a large crowd of people to see the classic antique cars and customized hot rods that were part of the show.
“This is one of the best turnouts we have had in recent years for a show,” Plemons said. “People have been cooped up this year, and this gives them a chance to get out.”
Good weather this year also helped, he said, as the past few events have experienced rainy conditions. The show this year was also well publicized with the cruising organizers also promoting it, he said.