Woodward Dream Cruise president is losing sleep, but not hope

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Photo by Matt Lewis

Woodward Dream Cruise President Michael Lary hasn’t been getting a lot of sleep lately. Not since he announced last week that Detroit’s iconic collector car event is still planned for August 15, even as dozens of major summer events across the country have been canceled.

Lary says some mistook his announcement as careless—or worse, defiant—in the face of the current COVID-19 health crisis. That couldn’t be further from the truth. In an exclusive interview with Hagerty, Lary says canceling the event now would simply be a hasty decision.

“Trust me, this is one of those things you lose sleep over at night,” he says. “To say that I’m being cavalier about it is just not true. I do care about the people and their safety. Our entire team does. It’s our No. 1 priority. But it’s May 1. The Dream Cruise is 2½ months away. It’s way too early to make those decisions.

“We don’t want to rush into a decision that will disappoint enthusiasts nor one that will make promises we can’t deliver. The [coronavirus] situation is continuously changing, sometimes daily, sometimes hourly. We don’t know what we’ll be looking at in mid-August. That’s a question that can’t be answered right now.”

Lary says, however, some questions will require answers sooner rather than later.

“By the end of June, we’ll see where we’re at and we’ll be able to make a more informed decision about what the Cruise might look like,” he says. “If we’re having it, that will give us about 45 days to determine what modifications we’ll need to make. Everything depends on the status of the virus, what our communities say, and what the governor says.”

Woodward Dream Cruise Route
Sandon Voelker

The Dream Cruise, which was first held in 1995 as a small fundraiser in Ferndale, bills itself as “the world’s largest one-day celebration of classic car culture.” Under normal circumstances, it attracts upwards of 1.5 million visitors annually and more than 40,000 vehicles from the U.S. and around the world.

Lary took over as Dream Cruise president just a few months ago, but he is a longtime member of the executive team, having served previously as both treasurer and vice president. He says the success of the event, held on Detroit’s most famous thoroughfare, depends upon thousands of people.

“We’re talking about a 16-mile radius and nine different communities,” he says. “They’ll each make their own decisions about they want to do.”

Lary was asked if he can imagine a scenario in which cars participate in the Dream Cruise but spectators are banned.

“Cruisers are going to cruise,” he says. “The people in cars are a safe distance apart, of course, but it’s going to be tough to keep people from bringing out a lawn chair and watching them drive by. Depending on where we are [regarding COVID-19], that would be a big concern, obviously.”

Lary says he is hopeful that the health crisis dissipates quickly enough that the event can be held and car owners and spectators alike can safely participate, even if the Dream Cruise is held on a smaller scale.

“We’re all looking forward to the day when life reaches some sort of normalcy, but in the meantime, we want to do the right thing and make sure everyone has a good time without jeopardizing their health,” he says. “There are a lot of smart people out there. We can do this right if we put our heads together.”

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