KEARNEY — Brad Kernick connects with cars and with the memories that accompany those vehicles.
“I think most people who own classic cars like to relive their childhood,” he said in an interview promoting the upcoming Cruise Nite events. “It takes them back to a fun portion of their lives. For most, that would be high school or that era. Males, particularly, are very intrigued by cars while growing up.”
For some, that interest never falls away.
“To have a classic car — or to see a classic car — that rekindles those happy memories,” Kernick said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
Kearney celebrates its automotive heritage each July when Kernick and other members of Central Nebraska Auto Club present Cruise Nite. The six-day event, July 16-21, typically draws hundreds of classic, vintage, restored and collectible vehicles to Kearney. The largest event, the Show & Shine in Downtown Kearney: The Bricks on July 20, will feature 500-600 vehicles.
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“We get temporary control of the downtown area and we’ll have a whole bunch of cars down there,” Kernick said. “Over the past several years we’ve had cars from eight or nine states that come to participate in our event. We’ll have a nice food court in the City Hall parking lot that will feature all different kinds of food vendors.”
Cruise Nite began more than 30 years ago with an opportunity for owners of classic cars to gather and show their vehicles. During the decades, the event has grown to include various aspects while keeping true to the celebration of central Nebraska’s automotive heritage.
“Last year we added tours of Blueprint Engines,” Kernick said. “We’ll do that again this year.”
One of the most popular events, the classic car tour of assisted living and nursing home facilities on July 17, brings the restored cars to residents who may have difficulty attending other events.
“We have added a stop at the Central Nebraska Veterans’ Home into the tour,” Kernick said. “That was something that needed to happen and we feel good about that. That event has continued to grow and grow. It’s kind of cool to see people sitting in lawn chairs in parks and, of course, the residents of the nursing and assisted living homes, they turn out in great numbers to see the cars.”
The parade of cars follows a schedule so the residents can see the most number of cars in the shortest length of time.
“If it is extremely hot, those senior citizens won’t have to sit out in the hot, hot, hot any longer than they have to,” he said.
The Cruise Nite steering committee brought back the Engine Building Contest, featuring Southeast Community College students. Two teams attempt to reassemble two engines. The first group to start the engine wins. The teams usually can get an engine running in less than 15 minutes.
“To see those young people work their tailfeathers off to try and get that engine reassembled, against the clock, is pretty interesting,” Kernick said. “That will be well-attended. And if you’re a young person wondering, ‘What should I do with the rest of my life?’ you might see that and go, ‘You know what? That might be a good thing for me to do as a career.’ So, it’s kind of a recruiting tool for Southeast Community College.”
Cruise Nite gives an opportunity for a diverse group of people to share their love of classic cars.
“That’s one thing about the automotive hobby — there are different strokes for different folks,” said Kernick. “Some people like sports cars, other people like muscle cars and others like race cars. My son loves pickups and trucks. That’s what really catches his eye.”
As a board member of the Classic Car Collection. Kernick recognizes that different people enjoy different types of vehicles. He compares it to eating as a restaurant.
“If you and I go into a restaurant, I’m pretty sure we’re not going to order the same thing,” he said. “It’s the same way with cars. People go with what they like. That’s what is cool about it.”