Gallery: Detroit’s Woodward Dream Cruise still thrills

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Cameron Neveu

One week in August, every year, Detroit’s Woodward Avenue, a high-speed commuter road running north from city center to Pontiac, Michigan, mutates into a rolling car show called the Woodward Dream Cruise. The fest features a plethora of cars, local and far flung. Participants converge annually to show-off and hang out. All ages, all ethnicities united for the sake of the auto. Like Funkadelic sang, “One nation under a groove.”

In 1995, Ferndale, Michigan resident Nelson House set out to raise funds for a local youth soccer field by staging a cruise-in event in the suburban town. House, along with a brigade of volunteers, held the first Dream Cruise that August. 250,000 participated, shattering expectations. Since then, the event has swelled into the undisputed champ of gearhead gatherings. From downtown metro Detroit, to the city’s northernmost suburbs, the area is overrun by any type of car largely considered fun to drive, from prewar relics to 2021 Corvettes. According to the Woodward Dream Cruise group, the meet-up is “the world’s largest one-day automotive event, drawing 1.5 million people and 40,000 classic cars each year from around the globe.” According to us, it’s a bucket-list event, even if you have a passing interest in automobiles.

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The question is, after canceling last year due to COVID-19 protocol, did the cruise still thrill? Without hesitation, yes. In fact, after a year spent indoors, it seemed everyone and their cousin was willing to withstand 90-degree temps for an eyeful of the nation’s hottest rides slow-rolling down the Motor City’s most famous avenue. Traffic was thick. Vintage rides and late model coupes took turns revving, screeching, and snarling down the strip.

Sounds of the street melded with classic rock and old-school funk. Laughs and cheers dotted the symphony. Spectators lining the grass medians gnawed on hunks of maroon meat from the comfort of their umbrella-covered lawn chairs. Some held signs goading cruiser buffoonery. Other onlookers opted for a closer interaction, diving into the cruise with their production cars—5 mph on four lanes of tarmac, hunting for a cellphone shot of the coolest car.

We were there with our camera, too, and many a sweet ride fell under our lens. Click through the gallery to see the sites from the 2021 Woodward Dream Cruise.

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