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Car enthusiasts flock to Ottawa Friday for Cruise Night

300 cars expected for 21st annual event

Those with a shared passion for cars will be gathering together in downtown Ottawa on Friday night for the city's 21st annual Cruise Night.

Event Coordinator Mike Dougherty said preparation has been going well and he's completed his "nuts and bolts" meeting with city officials to host the thousands of car fans the show has come to attract.

"Everything's set to go other than weather," Dougherty said with a slight laugh. "But I hear it's supposed to be beautiful."

Dougherty is expecting around 300 cars will be available during the show if the weather is good, which lasts from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday on La Salle Street in downtown Ottawa. Court Street also is reserved as a secondary lot in case there are more cars than there is room along the main street.

And while downtown remains under construction due to the resurfacing, Dougherty doesn't think it should be too big of an issue.

He said they've dealt with similar construction related issues with ease in its more than two-decade history.

"We would like perfect streets but we'll work around it. I don't think it's going to be a big problem," Dougherty said. "You'll have to take your time and people will have to watch where they walk."

He said one of his favorite parts of running the festivities is bringing people together.

"Cruise Night has always brought people together. Some people come home earlier for Father's Day weekend and come to Cruise Night that weekend," he said.

Memories are shared from parents to children recalling classic cars they used to drive and bonds are forged between car enthusiasts discussing their passion.

And despite its lengthy run, the event is still finding new fans.

"You get some people who've never heard of it but go and they'll say 'Why didn't I come before?' It's exciting," he said.

A secondary goal of Dougherty's is to increase traffic through downtown Ottawa. He said he recalled when foot traffic through the downtown was slim, but through hosting the event every year he'll find people amazed not only at the growing number of vehicles but the growth of the city's downtown. He said the thousands that visit the cars often drift to the local storefronts and restaurants to discover what new businesses have opened since their last visit.

Dougherty is one of the original organizers for the event and his staff of volunteers has dipped from around 25 to 15 due to some deaths and illnesses.

Still, the enthusiasm is strong to put on a good show and keep the packed crowds entertained by showcasing many vintage vehicles.

As for the future of the event, Dougherty said they always take it "one year at a time."

"We're excited to keep doing it and enjoy doing it," Dougherty said. "It brings people together with a common goal of loving cars.

"You never know," he added. "I won't guarantee we'll have it next time, but at the same time I hope to see it next year and I hope to see it another 20 years."

Event details

The event is scheduled from around 6 to 10 p.m. with an awards ceremony at 9 p.m. as well as 50/50 drawings. Winners do not need to be present to win. Streets are closed around 5 p.m. and reopen after the event's conclusion.

Road closures

Southbound traffic on La Salle Street will be detoured to Clinton Street at Lafayette Street and then back onto La Salle Street at Main Street.

Streets closed between Columbus and Clinton streets include Jackson Street, Jefferson Street, Madison Street, and vehicles won't be able to turn left onto Lafayette Street from Columbus Street.

Court Street may also be unavailable if the number of vintage cars exceeds the space available on La Salle Street.

Nonprofit vendors welcomed

Dougherty said nonprofit organizations are always welcome to set up vendors during the event to raise money. Currently, two vendors are scheduled for the event but there remains room for more organizations.

Those interested in having a space can call Dougherty at 815-228-4083

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