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Summer Cruise Nights kick into high gear in West Fargo

Mike Laliberte peers into a 1947 Mercury owned by Vernell Nichols during West Fargo Cruise Night on Thursday on Sheyenne Street. Laliberte said he tries to make it to at least one Cruise Night during the summer. “It’s an eclectic mix of people of all ages and backgrounds out here,” he said. Photo by Nick Wagner1 / 8
Riley Haugeberg, left, and Emma Citrowske watch the movie “Frozen” on an iPad in the car of Emma’s dad, Ryan, during Thursday’s West Fargo Cruise Night on Sheyenne Street. Nick Wagner2 / 8
The hood of a Ford Mustang 351 is seen Thursday during West Fargo Cruise Night. Nick Wagner3 / 8
Kent Carpenter shows off his 1934 Ford Deluxe on Thursday during West Fargo Cruise Night. “I like to see everyone else’s creations and what they’ve done. It’s fun seeing the creative twists each person puts into their rod,” Carpenter said. Nick Wagner4 / 8
A shadow reaches into a cooler for a beer Thursday during West Fargo Cruise Night. Nick Wagner5 / 8
A nontraditional door handle on a 1931 Chevy Coachman owned by Steve Gustafson. Nick Wagner6 / 8
The new breed of Corvette was on display Thursday during West Fargo Cruise Night. The Corvette has been manufactured in Bowling Green, Ky., since 1981, this Stingray model being the latest. Nick Wagner7 / 8
A 1947 Mercury sits in the line of cars at West Fargo Cruise Night. Vernell Nichols purchased the car, his first street rod, 25 years ago. Nick Wagner8 / 8

Once a month, West Fargo’s main drag becomes a scene right out of the 1973 movie “American Graffiti.”

Hundreds of collector cars and trucks, muscle machines, hot rods, rat rods and occasionally a barnyard conversion rev into town, lining Sheyenne and adjoining side streets.

It happens every third Thursday, June through September, from 5 to 9 p.m.

Since its 2009 debut, participation in West Fargo Cruise Night “has exploded,” said Wayne Rud, who was then president of Toppers Car Club, primary sponsor of the event.

“We were hoping we would get 50 to 75 cars the first night. We got close to 200,” he said.

Toppers member Cody Wendelbo said he physically counted over 800 cars at one Cruise Night showing.

“It’s unbelievable. We always said keep it simple, keep it family friendly and we will have a good event,” said Wendelbo, owner of The Hot Rod Shop in Fargo.

Rud came up with the idea for cruise night after attending Cruisin’ Broadway in dowtown Fargo.

“We figured there was a nice area in West Fargo that would be good for everybody,” he said.

Rud called the West Fargo Chamber of Commerce and along with Wendelbo, pitched the idea at the next Chamber meeting.

“Dorinda Anderson was the one that took the bull by the horns. She said after the meeting, ‘We will make this happen,’” recalls Rud.

Anderson, who died in 2011, was West Fargo’s economic development director.

“It’s just a beautiful event,” said Kathy Lewin, who was Chamber president at the time. “It’s nothing to have 600 plus cars there.”

Cruise night gives people a chance to show their cars, walk around and talk to their neighbors, said Gerald Natz, VFW club manager.

The club’s parking lot serves as the staging point for car registration and broadcasting by WDAY Radio personality Jay Thomas.

Sponsorship has now grown to 28 businesses and the City of West Fargo.

Several food vendors attract lines of hungry spectators.

The VFW operates a beer garden and club members sell concessions.

“I think it helps out the whole downtown, not just us,” said Natz.

Kitty-corner across the street West Fargo firemen serve up shredded pork sandwiches at the Silver Dollar Flying Pig Bar and Grill.

Owner Kurt Lepird pays them half the profit, averaging more than 300 sandwiches per event, he said.

“It’s a good shot in the arm for us. It’s a lot of work but it’s a lot of fun,” said Lepird. “Anytime you get 3,000 people it doesn’t hurt no matter what kind of business you have on Sheyenne Street.”

Rud is co-owner of quality Engine and Machine Inc., in Fargo.

Cruise night has had an impact on his business. “Everybody wants a motor done because they want a car for cruise night,” he said.

Some business-owned parking lots on Sheyenne Street are reserved for specific car models.

“This is where the Fords are,” says Todd Fuchs, who with his wife Darcy, own Payroll Express Inc.

The Fuchs’ just happen to own a 1968 Ford Bronco, replica Ford Cobra and 2007 Ford Mustang.

Corvette’s congregate near the north end of Sheyenne Street in the Furniture for Less parking lot.

“We average probably 25 to 30 cars. We have had as many as 65,” said Dave Kruse, a member of Northern Lights Corvette Club.

Why the success?

“I think it goes well beyond camaraderie. It’s community,” Kruse said.

The work the city does setting up parking pylons and policing cruise night “is huge,” said Fuchs.

At 9 p.m., a police car cruises up and down Sheyenne signalling the end of the event.

“People are very respectful. They know it’s their event. They can’t screw it up,” said Wendelbo.

“It’s fun to see the streets come alive down on Sheyenne,” said Lewin, an admitted gear head.

“People just come and have a good time and the cars that come out are just absolutely beautiful,” she said.