HOLDREGE — Engines revved, horns honked and cars lined Fourth Avenue in Holdrege.
It was the eighth consecutive week that people have traveled from near and far to cruise through Holdrege on Friday night.
Mike Borden of Holdrege had the idea in March to do a cruise night as a way to support local restaurants during the coronavirus pandemic.
For the first cruise night on March 27, Borden gave $100 to two local restaurants — J.B.’s Sports Bar and Grill and Country Cookin’ — and challenged them to match his donation to give $10 gift certificates to customers who come to their restaurant during cruise night.
Borden’s goal was to promote all the restaurants in town as a way to bolster their business during this difficult time. He shared about the event on Facebook and encouraged citizens to support local businesses.
“It was more of a community-oriented, ‘Hey, let’s do this, and let’s see if we can save all our restaurants.’ Some are busier than normal. Some are very thankful that they have Friday nights to have enough business to keep them going. It’s blown up into more cars and more revenue,” Borden said.
Cruise night also has become an event that provides entertainment while respecting social distancing guidelines.
Classic cars roll down Fourth Avenue, and onlookers watch from parking lots. Some even set up chairs and bring their family to see the cars. The number of vehicles participating has grown each week, and Borden counted more than 300 cars from 12 different counties cruising the streets or in parking lots last week.
“It’s the first time I have sent an invite out that I have had this many people come to the party,” Borden said with a laugh. “I’ve seen kids 16 years old, and I heard one lady, her mom was bombing Fourth. She’s 90.”
Along with promoting local restaurants and providing entertainment, the event also provides citizens a chance to give back to those in need. Cruise night on May 1 brought in three pickup truckloads of items and $952 in cash for the local food pantry. More than $4,000 was raised Friday for the Christian Charity Fund.
“They actually support families that are having trouble with their mortgage, the rent, utilities, prescriptions, car repairs and other basic needs. I was told yesterday with COVID-19, those that haven’t needed it are now needing it,” Borden said.
For Memorial Day weekend, Borden is challenging people to bring out their American flags on Cruise Night. If they have a family member in the military, he encourages them to hoist the flag of that branch of the service.
Borden and his wife, Rhonda, plan to continue to organize and promote cruise night for at least four weeks after restaurants are able to welcome customers inside their facilities.
“Experience tells me that as long as there is an organizer or group doing it, they will come out. I’ve heard a lot of people my age or younger that said there is no reason to quit,” Borden said. “They’ve got somewhere to go. They have a purpose.”