Cruisin' the '50s classic car show rolls in Thursday

BRYAN EATON/Staff photoA 1926 Pierce-Arrow Series 80, seven-passenger Deluxe drew attention in front of M.K. Benatti Jewelers during the show last year. 

NEWBURYPORT A herd of Impalas, a stampede of Mustangs and maybe even a flock of Thunderbirds will converge on the city's downtown Thursday for the eighth annual Cruisin' the '50s car show. 

The show, hosted by the Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce & Industry, runs from 5 to 8 p.m. and also features live music in Market Square courtesy of Flipside.

About 250 classic cars and motorcycles from across New England are expected to take part in what is considered one of the city's premier events. To accommodate all the cars and the estimated 15,000 people expected to stop by, State and Pleasant streets will be closed to traffic starting about 2 p.m. 

Parking volunteer Bernie Casey called Cruisin' the '50s a special show. 

"Without a doubt, it's the best venue of any car show in New England," he said. "You can't beat downtown Newburyport with all the restaurants and the waterfront. It's a great venue and a lot of people would like to be in the show." 

Casey, who helps manage Cars & Coffee, a weekly gathering of classic cars on Saturdays in the Port Plaza parking lot, said he'll be bringing his newly purchased 1968 Chevelle station wagon to the show. 

"It's a fun car," he said. 

More classic cars will be displayed in the State Street parking lot and Patrick Tracy Square. Featured areas for the show include the Institution for Savings parking lot at 93 State St., where several Impalas dating back to 1958 will be parked. Disc jockeys from WXBJ 94.1 will broadcast live from the lot. 

While taking in the rocking sounds of Flipside, car fans can visit the Chamber of Commerce tent for a 50/50 raffle. Winners must be present and will be announced at 7:30 p.m. in the square.

The Chamber was responsible for obtaining the necessary permits from the city, securing sponsors, arranging police details, and coordinating dozens of volunteers from the Lions Club. Since the show began, Lions Club volunteers have assisted in keeping it rolling and parking cars. There are as many as 36 volunteers working each show.

"It's a great tourism piece," Chamber of Commerce Vice President Mark Iannuccillo said. "It really engages people who may not come to the city."

 Iannuccillo said the show also benefits local businesses, which have what he called a "captive audience." 

"Obviously, we hope they spend their money here," he said. 

Asked whether there has been any negative feedback from business owners, Iannuccillo said he couldn't recall a single instance.  

"They all seem to love it," he said.

M.K. Benatti Jewelers co-owner Matt Benatti called it a super event for the city and good exposure for business owners, adding, "And it's fun for us, I like cars."

And while people attending the car show in years past typically haven't stopped by to purchase jewelry, they often come back to do just that, Benatti said. 

Among the thousands of people expected to go back in time Thursday are Kelly Perry of Amesbury and her family. 

"It’s events like these that make Newburyport special," Perry said. "My children and I especially enjoy dancing to the band that plays every year, as well as viewing all the beautiful cars that drive near and far to join in on the festivities. In past years, we've attended with our parents and I love seeing how nostalgic they get seeing cars they drove in their teen years." Perry said. 

Staff writer Dave Rogers can be reached by email at drogers@newburyportnews.com. Follow him on Twitter: @drogers41008.

IF YOU GO

The eighth annual Cruisin’ the '50s takes place Thursday, between 5 and 8 p.m.

There is no admission charge for spectators.

Vehicles will be located on State Street, Inn Street, Pleasant Street, Patrick Tracy Square and the Harris Street parking lot.