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Medford Cruise will return this year

MEDFORD — Left idling last year due to the pandemic, Medford Cruise organizers are gearing up for a scaled-down but much-anticipated return to car enthusiast normalcy.

This year’s event will be held a few months later than normal, Friday and Saturday, Aug. 27-28.

Some activities and events will be reduced, but the main components — the all-comers cruise and show & shines for classics and newer rides — will still take place, said Medford Cruise Association board President Bill Maentz.

Board members decided that moving the event from June to August would increase the odds that social distancing and gathering restrictions could help minimize the chance of a repeat cancellation.

Having to cancel last year’s 35th anniversary event was disappointing and set the organization, which donates proceeds to kid-focused charities, back by thousands of dollars.

“For the organization itself, it was really tough when we had to make that decision to cancel,” Maentz said. “We refunded thousands and thousands of dollars worth of registrations. There were a lot of folks who actually didn’t take the refund and donated to us to make sure we could still help out as much in the community as we could.

“Our groups we work with didn’t get the normal size of gifts we usually do, but we were still able to at least do something.,” Maentz added.

Playing it safe, board members decided to plan for a two-day event this year. Before COVID, the event had evolved since the mid-1980s into a “10-day, 14-event celebration of car culture in Southern Oregon.”

“We’ve had one board meeting so far, but we rolled into this year saying, ‘OK, what do we do to make this happen? The first thing we all agreed on was we had to at least move it to August,” he added.

“It’s always been Father’s Day, but we wanted to move it as far away from right now as we could to give it the best chance to be successful. It’s really expensive to book it and then not book it.”

The pared-down event will include a poker run Friday and a concert in the park that same night. Schedule details are still being worked out.

“We’re still working on our schedule, but we’re working on maybe one car event that night, too,” Maentz said.

“And then we’ll do our two big car shows on Saturday — the older cars and newer cars.”

The popular drive-in movie in the park and musical events are still up in the air, Maentz noted, and will be based on cost and pandemic restrictions in place by summer.

Board member Arleen Parker, of Medford, said with so many car events still being canceled, she was hopeful the Cruise could happen.

“It’s an outdoor event, so we feel like we can maintain the social distancing pretty easy. We’ll have hand sanitizers available. People can wear masks, and we’ll keep them going in one direction,” she said.

“Hopefully by then it’ll be a lot less restricted. I think a lot of shows were canceling out of liability concerns, but we’re an outdoor show so we feel like, OK, we can do this. Everybody is excited to see the show still go on. People are ready to get back to some normal, and I think this will be a big part of it.”

Maentz said a successful event this year would help rebuild lost reserves and get some money into the coffers of struggling nonprofits.

“It’s our fiscal responsibility to do the best job we can with what we have. In the end, we take all the money and give it to the kids. It’s been a really hard road, but I’ve always been the guy who looks at the world with rose-colored glasses,” he said.

“We’re all resilient, and it’s all going to be OK.”

Maentz said support from local car groups was a driving force for the board. Cancellation of last year’s event, he noted, was marked by an informal show of support.

“The night we would normally have had the cruise, we had about 200 cars show up and they cruised anyway,” he said.

“It was everything I could do to not officially say, ‘Yay! Go! Go! Go!’ It just warmed my heart to know that they all care so much about these kids. People who show their cars are very faithful to our event every year, and everything we do is for the kids in our community.”

To keep up on details, see medfordcruise.org.

Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.

Bill Maentz, Medford Cruise Association board president, shows off a classic Mustang GT 350 in downtown Medford. After being canceled last year due to the pandemic, the Cruise is schedule for Aug. 27-28. Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune