In what may be a first, Tuesday Steve Waldron gave an interview over a cell phone about the upcoming Cruisin’ Grand, which is celebrating its 20th birthday this Friday. “It’s twenty years, believe it or not, bringing in some special cars throughout the year,” Waldron told The Times-Advocate just three days from the opening of Escondido’s iconic affair with the American muscle car. Six months of what organizers call “Hot Rod Heaven.”
If you don’t know Waldron, you have no idea how hard it is just to get him on a landline. Never mind a cell phone! “I’m not very good on the phone. Don’t put your hopes on this phone, the battery may die!” he warned.
That Steve Waldron was doing an interview by cell phone is just a sign of changing times, one supposes—but when it comes to Waldron, some things never change. One of them is the amazing love he has nurtured over the two decades for a festival that has come to be identified as a part of Escondido. So integral that when the city council discusses street alignments or whether diagonal parking should be employed on Grand Avenue, they all want to be absolutely sure that whatever they do doesn’t adversely impact Cruisin’ Grand.
Looking back though, not much has changed. “Everything is kind of the same,” says Waldron. “We have always had all of these great car clubs. And it’s always pre-1974 cars.”
I asked Waldron what might be new in this 20th year. He thought and replied, “We’ve been doing the German and British car nights. This year we are going to have a pre-1974 International Car Night on Juniper. We don’t know the date yet, but we are working with the San Diego Car Club Council on the date.”
As usual, the six-month long festival will move towards a climax with the fire club night that will include military vehicles in September. “We’ll have the Grand d’elegance and the Packard and Pearce nights,” said Waldron. “We also trying to get the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile out here.” This is difficult because Oscar Mayer always allow honor roll students from nearby colleges to drive the unique vehicle, but college is not in session when Cruisin’ is in full swing.
A special treat this year will be the appearance on May 10 of the “Cadmad” Pink Cadillac, a 1959 Cadillac Eldorado turned into a one-of-a-kind station wagon, which won the coveted Ridler Award at 67th Annual Meguiar’s Detroit Autorama and brought it back to Escondido. The Ridler Award goes to the number one built custom car in the world.
The car was completed by Jordan Quintal and his son Jordan Jr., of Escondido, owners of Super Rides by Jordan, which is located at 421 Venture St.
Funly enough, this isn’t the first time Escondido has been home to a Ridler Award winner. Says Waldron, “We had a Ridler car here fourteen years ago—It was built by Randy Clark. We’ve had two, believe it or not. That’s what makes this event so successful is this little area has these great car builders and car people.”
Waldron added, “We have some incredible people around here. Unfortunately, we are losing some of them because of age. There’s some great history. As I talk to you I’m standing on Grand Avenue in front of my shop. I’m looking at where an Indi car was built on a garage right over there. People don’t realize that.”
He added, “We had NHRA world champion, Ted Cyr, 1968 world champion. First world champion. He owned Escondido Motor Parts on Pennsylvania. There must be something in the water. We have little culture right here in North County that is thriving in the automobile world. We’ve got some great builders here.”
Waldron never thought Cruisin’ Grand would last as long as it has. What has kept it alive? I asked. “The community,” he said. “The people in this community have just adopted this event. They love it. I just feel honored to be a part of it. Really.”
When Waldron founded Cruisin’ Grand in 1999 some who attend the event today were in strollers. “Now many of them have their own strollers,” he said. “We’ve literally gone down another generation. It is kind of cool. It is so well-adopted and liked by the people.”
This was brought home to Waldron last week when he attended Escondido Charter High School’s “History Night” which celebrated “Technology Through Time.” “We had a 1931 CHP car and a 2019 CHP car and a car from the year we went to the moon,” said Waldron.
“I was just standing there. People were coming up asking ‘Will this car be at Cruisin’ Grand?’ That’s the name recognition the event has. All night long people were talking about it. I wasn’t expecting that and it was kind of neat.”
Cruisin’ Grand is also a chance to come out and see a fascinating facet of American culture, he said. “Now you get to see cars in their fledgling places in automobile history as well as hot rod history.”
This Friday is the first day of the six month event. This week the Goodguys 19th Meguiar’s Del Mar Nationals happens. “A lot of the cars participating in that show come here for Friday night Cruisin’,” said Waldron. “We are anticipating a massive opening crowd.”
There will be three live bands at different locations along Grand Avenue. The names haven’t yet been posted on the Cruisin’ Grand website (cruisingrand.com), but keep checking the website and eventually they will show up. There will also be a DJ conducting things like hula hoop contest.
So also check the Website for what will be happening on subsequent Fridays.
“Come on out and celebrate 20 years with us,” said Waldron. “”Every week we have vintage cars, so enjoy the ambiance and have a good family event.”
The festival runs from 5 p.m.–9 p.m. (although the streets are closed off by 4 p.m.) with the side streets blocked between Ivy and Orange, and the seven blocks of fun happening between Juniper and Maple.