The 2020 Woodward Dream Cruise may have been canceled, but that didn’t stop thousands of spectators and motorists from converging Saturday on Woodward Avenue, from Ferndale to Pontiac, to celebrate cars.
Traffic was backed up going north on Woodward in the early afternoon hours with both classic and newer cars, suggesting some attendees were driving along Woodward to observe classics from their own vehicles. Certain areas were filled with spectators, often sitting in the trunks of their cars and in lawn chairs, especially in Royal Oak and Birmingham. Many spectators weren’t wearing masks.
Not only was this “unofficial” or “makeshift Dream Cruise,” as described by some Twitter users, different because the event was officially canceled. It also became political.
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More: Woodward Dream Cruise board officially cancels 2020 event
More: Oakland County Republicans plan their own MAGA Cruise on Woodward Avenue
The Oakland County Republican Party said it was holding a MAGA Classic Car Cruise using the Woodward Dream Cruise’s normal route from Ferndale to Pontiac.
Oakland County County GOP Chairman Rocky Raczkowski described the event as a way to “make sure that people came out and supported local businesses and infuse a little capital, especially after all the shutdowns and everything that’s happened.”
He said the event also was intended to show support for local police and fire departments, and the Trump administration.
Not everyone saw it that way.
More: Plans for MAGA Cruise on Woodward leave some outraged, Oakland County GOP blindsided
“It turned into, like, just crazy,” said Paul George, co-owner of Smoky’s Fine Cigars on Woodward in Bloomfield Hills, who was standing outside the shop late Saturday morning, near the start of the MAGA Classic Car Cruise, and where counter-protesters stood.
“It’s Trump here, Black Lives Matter here, it’s ridiculous,” he said. “That’s not what it’s supposed to be.”
In response to the criticism of politicizing the day, Raczkowski said: “Is it illegal for us to put out our First Amendment rights and drive up and down Woodward to support local businesses? We’re not trying to take away from the Woodward Dream Cruise.”
But he pointed out that the Dream Cruise of years past had become political, using the example of U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., attending the event in prior years.
“That’s why you’re seeing the people come out and make this political,” he said. “Because they’ve made it political.”
A block away from the Oakland County Republican Party’s offices, dozens of counter-protesters gathered, holding up anti-Trump signs.
“They took it upon themselves to make it into a political rally instead of a dream cruise that has just been a random, enjoyable event,” said Kelsey Oneda, one of the organizers of the MAGA Cruise protest.
But Birmingham Police Chief Mark Clemence said the MAGA rally he was preparing for was “a whole lot of nothing.”
“The day could not have gone better,” Clemence said. He had about the same number of police officers out that he would during a normal Dream Cruise, but they didn’t end up being needed.
“I’d rather have too many (police officers) than not enough, but today went smoother than I thought,” he said.
For the most part, spectators did a good job with social distancing, Clemence said, but he would have liked to see more people wearing masks.
“It’s not as much as it should be,” he said, referring to the percentage of people with masks on.
In Ferndale, there were few spectators sitting on the median compared with the number of people seen at a typical Dream Cruise, said Ferndale Community Engagement Officer Jill Mahlmeister.
“It’s a pleasant surprise that there’s not a whole lot going on,” said Mahlmeister. She expected a crowd this year, although a bit smaller compared to previous years. Even that didn’t materialize.
“There’s only a handful of people out,” she said.
For some of those longtime spectators, it was business as usual.
Bob Wolcott and his grandson Ryan McGinnis sat in lawn chairs at their usual spot in front of Pet Supplies Plus along Woodward just north of 12 Mile Road. They’ve been coming for 26 years, since McGinnis was born.
“You take precautions, wear a face mask and you’re outside,” said Wolcott, 77. “We try to be safe.”
They noticed there was less foot traffic, but thought the traffic and cars seemed similar to years past.
“Not really,” said McGinnis in response to a question about if any cars impressed him. “I’ve seen them all.”
Contact Adrienne Roberts: [email protected]
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Classic cars and spectators make the non-Dream Cruise feel like the real thing