I have a special place in my heart for the small town of North St. Paul, Minn. It’s not only where I grew up, graduated from high school, and met my best friends, it’s where I first worked as a journalist, and where I met my husband.
For five years I worked as a reporter at Lillie Suburban Newspapers, covering the cities of North St. Paul and Maplewood (oh, how I do not miss those long city council meetings on those hard plastic chairs). I learned a lot about not only journalism, but also how a city is run, the good and bad of local politics, and the kinds of topics that really rile people up (garbage haulers, homeless shelters, new developments, loud cars, giant RVs parked in backyards). I learned that North St. Paulites are proud of their snowman (how many snowmen do you know with their own Facebook page?), their small town festivals, the Gateway Trail, the fact that Bret Hedican is “one of us,” and the Friday Night History Cruze Car Show.
When I first started working at the newspaper, located in the heart of downtown North St. Paul, I noticed an odd occurrence. On Friday evenings, a handful of people would park their lawnchairs in the parking spots in front of our building hours before I headed out for the weekend. I soon realized how important it was (to those with classic cars, anyhow) to snag a prime spot on main street for the car show. Once the show officially started (6 p.m.), the street was closed to any traffic that wasn’t part of the car show. Friends, neighbors, families, and car enthusiasts would stroll up and down the line of classic cars, making small talk about that 1912 Studebaker, asking questions about that ’63 Vette, oohing and ahhing over that ’57 Chevy, and admiring the details that only a car lover truly appreciates. Kids would chase their friends. Vendors would sell mini donuts and hot dogs, lemonade and slushies. Back-to-the-50s music filled the air.
Since then, the car show has grown from a few hundred cars to—on some nights—over 1,000 cars. There’s still an old-fashioned fair-like atmosphere in the air, probably even more so since the car show has grown, increasing the number and types of vendors. I love that there are people in their 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, even 90s who find the car show sentimental, a reminder of the “good old days” when they drove cars just like these before they were considered classic (1975 and older). And I love that there are people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s who attend because it serves as a sort of reunion with old classmates (I recommend grabbing a beverage at Neumann’s—the oldest bar with the oldest fixtures in the state of Minnesota), they like the family-friendly atmosphere, or because they appreciate the history and beauty of these rare vehicles (or all of the above).
If you have never been to the Friday night car show, you should check it out. The car show is up and running every Friday night now, through Sept. 14, from 6 to 10 p.m. along Seventh Avenue, between 1st and Charles streets in downtown North St. Paul.