The city of Escondido held an informational meeting on Cruisin’ Grand Tuesday night, with Teresa Collins, deputy director of communications, telling those “attending” the virtual meeting: “We are committed to Cruisin’ starting on the 18th, just days after the governor’s announcement. It’s more than a definite maybe.”
The “meeting” included an appearance by an enthusiastic Steve Waldron, founder of the two-decade-long festival, who declared, “I look forward to having an incredible amount of people!”
Collins facilitated the meeting, which included Downtown Business Association members. She noted that the city employee who worked the longest to bring back Cruisin’ Grand, Amber Tarrac, director of economic development, was hired away to the East Coast. Her replacement is being sought right now.
Collins said, “I stepped in for some of her responsibilities.” In previous weeks, she said, the “city has been in a holding pattern about Cruisin’ Grand. We are very excited to move forward.”
A different look
Cruisin’ Grand will look a little different from previous years, said Collins. “Cruisin will end up more of a car show from the jump with a complete closure of the downtown footprint similar to the street fair.” This is chiefly for the safety of the street side dining. “That way the restaurants and retail and the k-rails will still be in place but (owners of the classic cars) will be able to park cars on the side. It will look different, it will be a static display,” with Grand Avenue closed between Escondido Avenue and Ivy, with Maple, Kalmia and Juniper closed from Second to Valley Parkway.
“This year it will be very fluid,” said Collins, “and just because we are starting with this—it may change. There could be some permanent recommendations on how to maintain that outdoor dining.”
She praised Waldron, “Steve has been very committed. He in no way wants to impede anyone’s livelihood. He wants to add to it. Uber deliveries will go away on Friday nights, but we are more than willing to allow restaurants to reserve spaces on municipal spaces. Parking will be allowed in the alleys, which will remain open.”
The long, hard closure
For at least the first time when they close Grand Avenue, the city staff will probably need at least three hours ahead of when the festival starts to block off the streets. “They need two to three hours to perform a hard closure,” said Collins. “They will close from north to south. They will start at Escondido Boulevard and move down.”
She added, “We will probably err on the side of closing earlier. We know this creates a burden for restaurants and retail not used to closing this early. But as we learn the logistics, we can roll that back.”
This means closing the streets at noon on the first Friday, the 18th. “We want to give our team the most time for the first one,” she said. They will place “no parking” signs along Grand Avenue more than 72 hours prior to the event. The signs will be attached to the K-rails.
“We don’t ever want to tow anyone’s car. We’ve never done that in twenty-one years. This is a joyful event,” said Collins.
The city, she said, supported Waldron this year in securing funding for the event. “We worked with him,” said Collins. “His ability to fundraise the last year was nonexistent. We wanted to bring it back the first chance we could. We will work with him to bring the appropriate restrooms, three bands and DJ’s at the same locations. It will have the same familiar qualities.”
She added, “Hopefully the sign of Cruisin’ coming back is a positive force for our community.”
This is Cruisin’ 2.0
Waldron recalled 21 years ago approaching the DBA with the idea that grew into Cruisin’ Grand. “It has this fantastic reputation but my concern is on opening night we are going to be overwhelmed with the people that are going to show up.” He said Facebook and calls he has gotten indicate a huge crowd. “This is Cruisin’ 2.0 with the barricades. I look forward to having an incredible amount of people. That is one of my concerns. There are going to be a lot of folks visiting from other cities.”
He added, “I have an amazing staff. Our main concern is the downtown businesses. We really want to see you guys succeed and see the event succeed.”
Questioned about parking, Collins said, “The cars won’t be parked where they are now. We need room for people to walk around the vehicles.”
Cars will be parked in one lane of traffic, each way. One lane each way will remain open for emergency vehicles but NOT traffic. When a vehicle’s owner wants to leave, the vehicle will be “walked out.” She added, “Those restaurants’ businesses will be directly affected because they won’t be able to park on Grand. Only vehicles part of the show will be let in to park.” Spectators, restaurant goers and shoppers will be on foot.
The future of outdoor dining will be discussed at the June 9 city council meeting. She told the group, “We are still totally open to feedback on what you want to see. It is still in the crystal ball of the unknown.” The K-rails will likely be left in place at least for a while. “We will need some direction from our elected officials, after our staff update.”
Waldron added “the alleys will remain open to your customers for public parking. They can also be reserved for Uber Eats.”
Collins concluded, “Our team determined it was the safest way for cars and businesses to coexist.”
Samantha Nowicki, co-owner of Manzanita Roasting Company, in The Grand building, said they want to park their classic 1934 Buick in front of the building, which was built in 1937.
Waldron said they could certainly do that and advised parking it early in the day.
Collins said people become accustomed to not parking modern cars along Grand. “We’re introducing a new layout. The old customers will notice it looks different. I envision a very activated, energized downtown these evenings. How we start on the 18th may not be how we end later.” She asked any businesses intending to offer Cruisin’ Grand specials to let her know so she can put them together on the city’s website.
Two special nights may require special handling: the Fire Truck (Heroes’) night, near September 11 and Nitro Nite. “They are still committed to bringing the fire trucks but don’t know if they can drive up and down on Grand,” said Collins. “Nitro Night wouldn’t be able to pull it off with street side dining but we will cross that bridge later on.”
Waldron added, “These car guys are really excited to come, so bear with us. On Heroes’ Night they are bringing in the old Rose Parade fire truck team from the 1800s, which will spray water.”
Where will Cruisin’ Grand visitors park? City staff will be asked not to park in Parking Lot 1, between Valley Parkway and Grand, said Collins. “You are more than welcome to park in the city hall parking and the Center has about eight hundred spaces.”
Waldron added, “A lot of cities are very envious of downtown Escondido because of Cruisin’ night. A lot of films have been shot there. We’ve got a great reputation.”
Collins reiterated that the noon closing, “won’t stay noon forever. We are committed to finding the right timing. We know lunch time business is very important. Steve’s team is great but they have never done this before; while we are familiar with closing off for the street fair.”
Some asked about current law allowing patrons to carry open containers of alcohol from a business. One commented, “That is something that has never been allowed in the history of Cruising. Yet it’s an important part of brewery and winery business. That quickly becomes public intoxication. How is that alcohol presence that wasn’t present before going to work?”
Collins said, “The rules are still in place from ABC (Alcoholic Beverage Control.) I can pick up my food and order a to-go beverage but I still can’t eat it or drink it outside. This isn’t turning into Las Vegas. We will have a police presence. We don’t envision this turning into a giant party. This is a family-friendly event. If we see that becoming a problem that will be something that we will certainly address.”
She was also asked if the police will be on foot to patrol. She said she wasn’t sure yet whether it will be a bike patrol, foot patrol or both.
Waldron commented, “The police have always been very respectful. They are always highly visible. You see them on the streets. We’ve had some issues with homeless people but never a hot rodder or the general public. We don’t want to tarnish the event so car guys are very respectful of the event. You won’t have an issue with them.”
Asked about bands, Waldron said look on the Cruisin’ Facebook page to see what band is playing a particular night. “We have people come who aren’t car people who want to listen to music,” he said. “Every band is family friendly, Do wop and 50 and 60s rock and roll. We even have Sinatra impersonators.” You can find out more by visiting Cruisingrand.net.
Asked how they pick the bands, Waldron said, “Bands send us clips and we listen and they can submit a request to play. We had fifteen to choose from. In 2019 we had 300 requests because bands like to play here. We’re getting overwhelmed with bands right now.”
The event is still looking for sponsorships. Waldron told how a sponsor can benefit. “We do an awards ceremony on Broadway in the evening. We bring in the winning car. Owners get to talk about their car. The person who built it and owns it. The sponsor hands them the trophy,” he said.
He added, “We are behind on a lot of things this year. It takes money to run Cruisin’ Grand. The city has been very generous but there is a lot of overhead.”
There are different levels of sponsorships. Sponsors are mentioned in flyers. During the sponsor’s night the DJ announces the sponsor’s text. The sponsor presents the trophy to the winner car.