Judging by the sights and sounds in downtown Mount Airy Saturday afternoon, it was as if a giant magnet had been placed in the central business district.
That magnet seemed to be attracting every muscle car, street rod, antique automobile, classic car and all other notable four-wheel conveyances from within a 500-mile radius — seemingly representing each model year and color of the rainbow.
But no invasion by some force was taking place — it was just the annual Mayberry Cool Cars and Rods Cruise-In series roaring into town for another season.
And earplugs were optional.
The first installment Saturday of the 2018 cruise-in series spearheaded by the Downtown Business Association picked up where it left off last October when the final city cruise-in of 2017 was held, with unique vehicles arriving early and often.
“There were some here yesterday (Friday) — they were from Michigan and Ohio,” Downtown Business Association President Phil Marsh said.
Then on Saturday, vehicle owners began showing up by 9 a.m. and the traffic really intensified around 11 a.m. — a good five hours before the cruise-in’s “official” start.
If the aim was to secure a choice spot along North Main Street downtown, or any spot for that matter, then this reasoning was sound, given that nearly inch of space was filled on each side of the street before 4 p.m.
Vehicles were parked diagonally all along the downtown corridor from Pine Street nearly to Independence Boulevard, in addition to side routes such as Franklin Street and Moore Avenue. Not to worry, that still left one full lane for others that weren’t stationary to cruise through.
Saturday’s temperatures nearing the 90-degree mark only added to the white-heat intensity of the event despite its “Cool” Cars and Rods title.
“It’s getting better all the time,” Marsh said of the five-month cruise-in series held on the third Saturdays.
“People really like the town.”
Along with being mechanically impressive, the Mount Airy cruise-ins are aesthetically pleasing.
“People have told me, ‘y’all have some of the prettiest cars of any cruise in I’ve been to,’” Marsh said of the array of eye-catching paint jobs on display.
As their muscle cars and other vehicles sparkled in the sunlight, the owners sat in shaded areas of the sidewalks to chat with passersby about their unique rides, occasionally rising to crank the engines.
“The people, the cars, you don’t see a stranger,” said Joe Beck of Mount Airy, a veteran of the Mount Airy cruise-ins that began in April 2010. “I’ve been coming since they started.”
The events provide a kind of rallying point for car enthusiasts of every taste, who enjoy a camaraderie fueled by their shared appreciation of the best of automotive history.
“I’ve been a street-rodder for probably 40 years,” Beck said as he stood beside his beautifully restored, bright-red vintage Chevrolet pickup.
“People are very, very friendly,” he added of the crowds attending the monthly cruise-ins downtown. “It’s a family thing.”
As Beck spoke, the Beach Boys song “Good Vibrations” and other tunes emanated from the sound system at Carlos Jones Gazebo (aka cruise-in headquarters), adding to the festival atmosphere of the event.
Memories and motors
Many of those attending Saturday’s cruise-in were not only enjoying the cars, but using them as a kind of vehicle to take them on journeys into the past.
“It’s back to my happy days memories — what they bring up in the back of your mind,” Dean Brown of Mount Airy said of looking at certain older models and the reminiscences accompanying them.
“Just the old memories a lot of them bring back,” explained Brown, who is a member of the city council, “my old girlfriend riding with somebody else.”
Aside from the nostalgia, Brown appreciates the fact that so many tourists visit Mount Airy for the cruise-ins and contribute to the local economy.
Yet for him on Saturday, it was all about the cars.
“I always go to these shows,” Brown said of the cruise-in series, expressing a special fondness for one of the most-popular older cars often seen at such events, the iconic 1957 Chevy.
He did have one regret, though.
“I haven’t seen a ’49 Plymouth,” Brown said.
“That’s the first car I ever had.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.