Bellefonte Cruise comes back to town

Filled with classic cars, live entertainment, food, games, prizes and family fun, the 27th annual Bellefonte Cruise car show will once again mark the start of the summer season with festivities that kick off June 19.

Pat McCool has been involved on and off with the cruise for many years and has been acting as chairman for five years.

“I’m from Bellefonte, so I remember the cruise from the very beginning,” he said. “So I’m a homegrown boy.”

As far as Pennsylvania car shows go, Bellefonte Cruise is second only to Carlisle, with anywhere from 300 to 500 cars expected downtown every year over Father’s Day weekend.

“It’s grown from just a car show to more of a family event — it’s a great experience for everybody,” McCool said. “We have a large food court which includes food vendors of various types. We do set that up so that we’re not competing with the local restaurants because we want them to flourish as well. Also, a lot of the merchants come out on the streets and do sidewalk sales during the cruise.”

It all starts at 6 p.m. June 19 with the Open Cruise around downtown Bellefonte. Touted by organizers as a “nostalgic social parade,” community members are invited to show off their rides — cars, trucks, motorcycles — no matter what the condition. No registration is required, and the Open Cruise ends at 7:30 p.m., after which Allegheny and High Streets will be closed.

A Sock Hop on the Diamond is next.

“We usually pull in 3,000 to 5,000 people for that,” McCool said. “Big Al and the Loozers will be playing from 8 to 11 p.m., we’ll have giveaways and various things there on the diamond, and our sponsors will be set up. It’s more like a party-type atmosphere, so to speak.”

On June 20, registration for the car, truck and motorcycle show opens at 7 a.m.

Things really get rocking and rolling from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with the band Seven 2 Ten, playing on Stage 2. The Keystone Society of Swing follows with two performances on the main stage. There will also be clowns and face painting on the diamond area for the kids.

There will be bike games at 2 p.m., sponsored by Extreme Custom Cycles.

“We have bike games, which are put on by the Centre Line Riders and the Bellefonte Eagle Riders — they teamed up to host and do our games for us,” McCool said. “We give a $100 prize for each of those games.”

New to the cruise this year is a reception hall hosted by the Undine Fire Company in Bellefonte. Admission is $5 and all the proceeds will go directly to the Undine Fire Company. DJ Troy Breon will provide entertainment on Saturday from noon to 4 p.m.

There are 35 vehicle classes and one best of show, 12 motorcycle classes and one best of show. G.F. Grifana Car Shows Inc., which has been judging the Bellefonte Cruise since 2007, will continue its role this year.

“The Bellefonte Cruise is the only professionally judged car show in the area,” McCool said. “The only other professionally-judged shows are down in Carlisle, which we all know. We have an awards ceremony, which starts promptly at 5 p.m. and is over by 6 p.m. That is followed by an open cruise for car show participants only.”

One of the events cruise organizers have been trying to expand is a kids’ class, for which kids can bring anything they want to, including cars, trucks, and bicycles, which they register just like an adult.

“They get a goody bag and everything, and a registration card to put on their vehicle,” McCool said. “The vehicles set there through the day and then there are awards given out in the late afternoon. Each of the kids will receive an award for that, and it’s all free. That’s the big thing that we’ve been trying to do. We’re trying to promote it to get the kids more active.”

The Bellefonte Cruise has a scholarship that’s awarded every year. Several of the benches around town and other historic items receive contributions from Bellefonte Cruise, which purchases or assists in purchasing the items.

Bellefonte Cruise is a community event and is a part of the nonprofit organization Historic Bellefonte Inc. There are no paid staff on the Bellefonte Cruise committee or on Historic Bellefonte’s committee, and all the proceeds directly benefit the community.

As chairman, McCool’s goal is to take the cruise from just being a car show to being beneficial to all the local businesses.

“For a lot of them, this is the best weekend they have for the year, and we want to do everything we can to promote that,” he said. “Personally, I’m a small business person myself and I know what it’s like. When you can work with an organization and promote yourself that’s always the best way to do it.”

McCool says he’s grateful for the borough’s assistance.

“This wouldn’t be possible without the cooperation of the Bellefonte borough and also the state of Pennsylvania, because we have to close down Allegheny Street, which is actually a state highway,” he said. “That’s just one of the reasons why we go on rain or shine.”