As many as a million people, along with 60,000 or more classic cars, were expected to turn out for the 2020 Woodward Dream Cruise.

As has been the case with virtually every automotive event since late winter, the Woodward Dream Cruise has been canceled due to concerns about the worsening coronavirus pandemic.

The annual event, which runs along one of the Motor City’s main thoroughfares, traditionally attracts more than a million classic car fans and as many as 60,000 muscle cars, sports cars and other “cruisers.” While the communities along the route have voted to put the event to bed for this year, it’s widely expected many will still turn out on August 15 to cruise Woodward without official sanction.

“The timing right now is not right for this,” said Joe Valentine, the city manager of Birmingham, the tony northern Detroit suburb that is at the center of the roughly 17-mile route of the Woodward Dream Cruise. The fear, he explained, is that the gathering would have drawn fans from across the country and risked creating new outbreaks of COVID-19. Detroit was one of the country’s first epicenters of the disease.

(Geneva Motor Show now cancels 2021 gathering as pandemic expected to linger.)

The Dream Cruise has a history of attracting some crazy participants, including this driver who rigged his car to ride upside-down.

“The nine communities that comprise the Woodward Dream Cruise route, the leadership, they have a responsibility to the public, to their constituents, to the people who live in those communities,” added Michael Lary, the president of the Woodward Dream Cruise board.

The announcement came as a surprise to few. Since the Geneva International Motor Show was canceled in late February – just days before it was scheduled to begin its annual media preview – one automotive event after another has been scrubbed.

That includes the North American International Auto Show in Detroit which was to have been held in June for the first time this year after abandoning its traditional January timetable. The New York and Paris auto shows also have been canceled and the show in Los Angeles is widely expected to follow, though an official announcement has yet to be made.

Official events are canceled, but many cruisers are still expected to cruise in mid-August.

The classic car community also has been hit hard by pandemic-fueled cancelations. Even before a final decision was made on the 2020 Woodward Dream Cruise, organizers called off the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance considered the most prestigious of all collector car events, which was also to have taken place in August. And the October meet of the Antique Automobile Club in Hershey, Pennsylvania also has been canceled.  A smaller version of the Dream Cruise held on Detroit’s far east side in August also has been canceled.

(“Whichever way is necessary,” Detroit Auto Show will be back in 2021, organizers promise.)

This was to have been the 26th running of the Woodward Dream Cruise, an event that started out almost by accident before becoming one of the largest automotive gatherings anywhere in the world.

In the 1960s and early 1970s, Woodward was one of the country’s most popular strips for muscle car fans who would cruise the wide boulevard, alternately racing and stopping at the various drive-in stands along the way. In 1995, a local muscle car club in the suburb of Ferndale decided to try something different, recreating the cruising days to raise money for a local charity. They expected a few hundred participants. Thousands showed up.

Virtually all automotive events worldwide have been scrapped since March, including the North American International Auto Show, Detroit’s convention center turned into an emergency treatment center for COVID-19 patients.

Automakers delay product launches in wake of pandemic.)

Each year after, what became the Woodward Dream Cruise grew larger, surviving bad weather and even a regional power outage that shut down gas stations across Michigan – a problem for fuel hungry muscle cars.

How many cruisers will actually turn out on August 15 is uncertain. Corporate sponsors like Ford, as well as communities along the route have canceled events, and local businesses have been encouraged not to rent out space to those who normally park and watch the cars go by for hours on end.

The reality is that it’s difficult to completely halt a more or less ad hoc event like the Dream Cruise, even if the official gathering has been called off, said Kurt Metzger, mayor of Pleasant Ridge, one of the nine communities along the route.

Many cars will still turn out in mid-August, he told, “and folks can sit in lounge chairs and watch. If we can keep down the number of out-of-town visitors, and eliminate the tents and other reasons to cluster together, we may survive August 15 without driving a late August spike” in COVID-19, as is happening in many other parts of the country.

(Auto sales still struggle under weight of pandemic, but June showing strength.)

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