Celebrate the Cruise

It’s been 30 years since the Webster City Cruisers first established their yearly showcase of classic cars.

Now, hundreds of cars from all eras will join in the massive convoy celebrating the anniversary of the Cruise to the Woods.

For the anniversary, the one-day cruise has been expanded into three days of activities, on Friday, Saturday and Oct. 6, said WC Cruisers board member Mike Cupp.

“Friday, we’ll have friendly grudge racing” at the Humboldt Drag Strip, Cupp said. “Street cars only.”

This will be just a fun event for people to try out their cars. There will be no eliminations or cash payouts, he said.

Though they will use electronic timing, the races will be started by a hand drop. “We’re not even going to use the lights,” he said.

Participants can race as many times as they want. Registration will be from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and racing will go until it’s done, Cupp said.

Saturday will feature games at the Webster County Fairgrounds beginning at 11 a.m., he said. A cruise, starting about 2 p.m., will go from the fairgrounds down through Dolliver Memorial State Park, into Lehigh, and back through Brushy Creek State Recreation Area, along with a scavenger hunt.

Drivers will gather at Citizens Credit Union around 5:30 p.m. to “scoop the loop” and show off the cars in Fort Dodge. A concert featuring Richie Lee and the Fabulous 50s will be from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Best Western Starlite Village Inn and Suites.

The big cruise itself will be on Sunday as usual.

“There could be as many as 800 to 1,000 cars,” Cupp said. “There are 10 different cruise routes, starting at the far edges of Iowa – Nebraska, Minnesota, Missouri – merging into a huge caravan of beautiful classic automobiles.”

The cars leave Stratford at about 11 a.m., and travel up through Dolliver Park to the fairgrounds. Cars will still be leaving Stratford when the first ones reach Fort Dodge, Cupp said.

Those who don’t want to take the ride can go straight to the fairgrounds beginning at 8 a.m. Ten trophies for the board members’ favorite cars will be awarded at 3:30 p.m.

Cupp hopes turnout will be good for the 30th anniversary. In recent years, more than 1,200 cars have participated.

“Barring any unforeseen weather, we’re hoping it will be a record turnout this year,” Cupp said.

The show gets around 1,500 cars nowadays, said club treasurer Dave Niggemeyer. It’s consistently grown since the early days.

“It started out with a couple guys who had older cars, who would just drive around town and cruise different places,” Niggemeyer said. Eventually they established a tradition of meeting up with five or six friends to a cruise to Briggs Woods, in Webster City, on the first Sunday of October. Then word got around to other car clubs, like the Fort Dodge Idlers.

“Next thing you know you had 20, then you had 40, and then they just decided to form a club and turn it into something,” Niggemeyer said.

The Idlers helped with the first show, said Vice President Barb Briggs.

“We had 75 cars that first year. Then it was the following weekend, that the actual WC Cruisers club was started. Before that we were just a group of friends running around calling ourselves the WC Cruisers,” Briggs said.

She and her husband Mike Briggs are founding members of the cruse.

The club added another route to the cruise, and people started coming from Ankeny, Barb Briggs said. Then they added more routes.

“By 1995, we had over 600 cars, and we were literally outgrowing Briggs Woods,” she said.

The show was then held at the Dayton golf course for a few years, then John F. Kennedy Memorial Park north of Fort Dodge. That location worked well until flooding nearly caused a last-minute cancellation.

“The Friday before the car show we got a call that they had 3 1/2 inches of rain on already soaked ground, and would not allow us to have the car show there,” Briggs said. “What do you do with 1,000 cars?”

Organizers quickly searched for another place that could hold all the cars, and parking for the spectators, and settled on the county fairgrounds.

“We ended up sharing the fairgrounds with two other events that first year,” she said.

Since then, the show has been at the fairgrounds every year and fills the whole space.

“We literally have cars over very inch of that fairgrounds. It’s a different type of show than any other car show,” Briggs said.

The reason it grew so much is the travel aspect.

“It’s because of the whole concept of the cruise,” she said. “People who have cars like to drive them. They like to cruise. They like to see the cars as far as you can see in front of them.

“What they do is, they start at towns, up in Minnesota, Nebraska, Missouri, they’re starting out there, they’re stopping in towns along the way, picking up more cars.”

“I think the magic for it is the fact that a lot of times, it’s the last weekend of the car season that people actually drive their cars,” said Niggemeyer. “And they want to do that. You get to drive around, go through some areas where you can see the colors in the trees, and you’re with a lot of other guys that got their cars out before you put them away.”