Sure, the calendar said it was Oct. 22 — nine days shy of Halloween — but that didn’t keep an array of scary characters and displays from inhabiting downtown Mount Airy Saturday afternoon.
The occasion was the last in a five-month series of cruise-ins sponsored by the Downtown Business Association, with Saturday’s gathering shrouded by a Halloween theme.
As has been the case throughout this cruise-in season, North Main Street was filled with muscle cars, street rods, antique trucks, hot rods and others that made the central business district resemble a used-car lot for classic vehicles.
And there were the usual crowds of auto enthusiasts. Those not cruising the streets or sidewalks were taking advantage of open hoods to poke their heads into engine compartments representing numerous makes and model years while discussing cubic inches and horsepower.
Yet there was something noticeably different about Saturday’s cruise-in, as evidenced by one white Shelby sports car parked near the Moore Avenue intersection. In the passenger seat sat a ghoulish character with rotting skin and a corncob pipe clinched in his (its) teeth.
A drive-in serving tray was perched on the window, containing what appeared to be a couple of brains, a severed hand with the bone protruding out and the obligatory bottle of Texas Pete hot sauce to make everything go down better.
The haunting display caught the attention of more than a few passersby, including Kaylyn Waldrop, a teen from Dobson who gazed at the scary sight with no small degree of apprehension.
“That’s a pretty good car for a Halloween display,” she said while walking away.
Across the street, a black Dodge muscle car sat in front of an antique mall, covered in cobwebs with its hood secured by a chain its owner might have borrowed from a dungeon.
And while inanimate objects were doing their part to carry on the Halloween theme Saturday, the same was true of human attendees — or what appeared to be humans, who were dressed in a variety of Halloween costumes.
That included Gary and Elaine Gray of Cana, Virginia, who wore black outfits and white makeup on their faces to give them a ghostly appearance.
The Grays had heard about the Halloween theme surrounding Saturday’s cruise-in and crept across the state line in the hopes of winning a costume contest as part of the event, which also offered an award for the vehicle best exemplifying that theme.
“We won first place last year,” Elaine Gray said of the same gathering in 2015, when they portrayed Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf.
They also drove a shiny black 2004 Ford Mustang to Saturday’s cruise-in, which drew pretty of onlookers not only for its sleek appearance but a skeletal figure that sat behind the wheel.
Adding to the atmosphere were the songs being played by cruise-in disc jockey Kelly Epperson of local radio station WSYD, which included the theme from “Ghostbusters,” “Stray Cat Strut” by the Stray Cats, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell on You” and more.
All in all it was a good way to end the 2016 cruise-in series that was held one Saturday every month from June to October, featuring a different theme each time. Besides Saturday’s focus on Halloween, others featured Fifties, Sixties, Seventies and beach themes.
“It’s getting bigger every cruise-in,” Downtown Business Association spokesman Phil Marsh said Saturday as he maneuvered his way along North Main Street crowded with classic cars and spectators. Some came from as far away as Wilmington, Marsh said.
The popularity of the event has grown so much that the vehicles on display had to be parked along adjoining streets such as Moore Avenue and Franklin Street in addition to North Main, he added.
Vehicles boasting shiny chrome and shimmering paint schemes were plentiful in any direction one looked.
“Probably 175 or something like that,” Marsh said of the total vehicle attendance Saturday, when car owners began arriving well before the official cruise-in start time of 4 p.m.
Turnout was great by both them and the public at large, despite cool temperatures and windy conditions.
“I was a little bit worried about that,” Marsh said of the impact the weather might have on attendance Saturday.
“But they started rolling in here.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.