The 2019 Kenosha Classic Cruise-In car show — also known as “The Downtown Car Show” — will once again take over the streets of downtown to kick off Labor Day Weekend in Kenosha.
Tony Pontillo, the car show’s main organizer, said the show continues to grow in popularity each year.
“The downtown business owners tell us this is their busiest day of the year,” he said.
That popularity means show organizers have a problem: What to do with all those cars.
But that’s a good problem to have.
The show started with about 80 cars and has grown to feature more than 1,800 vehicles.
Pontillo says about 8,000 to 10,000 people attend the car show, coming from this area and from Chicago, Milwaukee, Indiana and Minnesota.
“We’ve had people come to this show from all over,” he said. “This is one of the biggest car shows in the Midwest, and it’s the biggest free car show in the state. We even have people coming from Canada now — we’ve gone international.
“People love that the show is free, and we know that helps keep it so popular.”
The 16th annual show is Saturday (Aug. 31). It is free to the public and exhibitors and is open to all makes and models of vehicles. Dash plaques will be awarded to the first 300 entries. The show is put on by the Kenosha Classic Street Machines group.
The Cruise-In takes over Sixth Avenue and adjoining side streets, which are closed off to traffic for the event. For many people, it brings back memories of “scooping the loop” in downtown Kenosha, Pontillo said.
New this year
Besides all the vehicles in the show, the Kenosha Police Department’s Motorcycle Unit will perform riding demonstrations from 1 to 3 p.m. on 55th Street and Seventh Avenue.
Visitors will be able to meet with the officers, take photos with the unit and see the new 2019 police motorcycle.
Busy day downtown
The show is always the Saturday of Labor Day Weekend, and visitors can combine this with other downtown events.
“Lots of men and women come downtown,” Pontillo said. “The women go to the HarborMarket and then come to the car show later to meet their husbands, after shopping at the market. You can go to the Cheese-A-Palooza Festival in HarborPark, too.”
He suggests visitors park near the Municipal Building — 52nd Street and Sixth Avenue — and ride the streetcar to the car show and other Saturday events. People can also park in the lot behind Reuther Central High School at Sheridan Road and 58th Street “and then just walk half a block and get on the streetcar,” he said.
To make this even easier for people, streetcar rides will be free on Saturday.
Food and beverages — including pizza, brats, hot dogs and hot beef — will be available for purchase from participating downtown restaurants, and donations of non-perishable food items will be collected for the Salvation Army’s food pantry. Each year, Pontillo says, the show collects about 1,200 pounds of food, plus cash, to be donated.
Proceeds from the sale of concessions at a trailer at Sixth Avenue and 58th Street will benefit breast-cancer research.
Cars, cars, cars
Besides the classic cars, new-car dealers are also at the Cruise-In, showing off their latest models.
Cars that have been part of the Classic Cruise-In include a Sunbeam Alpine British sports car, a 1902 Rambler, a 1956 Ford Customline, a Dodge Coronet, a Chevrolet Bel Air, Pontiac Catalina, Ford Falcon, AMX and Gremlin, a 1965 Thunderbird, a silver DeLorean and flashy Cameros and Corvettes — all on display by their loving owners.
Besides all the vehicles on display, visitors will likely see Elvis — in fish form as King Elvis, the Kenosha Kingfish mascot, who frequently stops by the car show — along with the band All the King’s Men, performing Elvis tunes. And keep an eye out for “Scoopy,” the Culver’s Frozen Custard mascot.
Pontillo works for several months to organize the show, contacting organizations, car clubs and city officials, he said. Club member Bob Koos also works on the show each year.
“It’s worth it,” Pontillo said, “when thousands of people come downtown for the show.”