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GOSHEN -- Marvin Witmer shook more than 30 years of dust off of his memories of cruising through Goshen on Friday.
During the mid-'70s, Witmer, along with much of the rest of Goshen's youth, drove his car up and down the streets of Goshen "on and off" for about five years on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. The pastime was popular from the mid-'50s through the mid-'80s until the city banned it in 1986.
On Friday, Goshen brought it back for the Wheels and Deals Festival, a two-day summer event that began with First Friday, downtown Goshen's monthly block party. Hundreds of cars, ranging from a modern mud-splattered Jeep to a classic 1950 Mercury to motorcycles and police cruisers, paraded up Main Street, down Pike Street and Chicago Avenue, onto Beaver Lane and Bashor Road and back down Main, Madison, Fifth and Jefferson streets throughout the night.
First Fridays Director Grace Hunsberger estimated that Friday was Goshen's largest First Friday celebration to date. People lined up lawn chairs on Main Street's sidewalks and packed the courthouse lawn. Though organizers warned participants that "burnouts" weren't allowed, squealing tires could bee heard among the sounds of rumbling and revving engines and honks every few seconds.
"If y'all like cars, this is the place to be," DJ Mike Kemper said through speakers on the courthouse lawn as the first cars drove down Main Street just after 6 p.m. "If you can't find your favorite car, you're not looking."
In his youth, Witmer said cruising was "just something to do -- check the cars out, people, talk." As he waited for the cruise-in to start in Goshen Middle School's parking lot -- where spots were scarce a half-hour before it was to begin -- he said the main difference he expected was there were "a lot nicer cars."
He brought his daughter's fiancee, Ryan Spencer. Spencer had never seen cruising before, but he was ready with his '84 Camaro. Witmer, on the other hand, would cruise in a '97 Jeep.
Goshen resident Steve McNamara and Elkhart resident Beth Camp weren't there to cruise, but to watch. McNamara said they were there to "just watch all the neat old cars from days when there was cruising in Goshen."
McNamara never cruised when he was younger -- he moved to Goshen just as cruising was dying. But he said it was a nice night, and it was a chance to socialize and get some food.
"Goshen does such a nice job with the First Fridays," Camp said. "Just all the activities, stores being open. It's just really incredible."
While cruising was the biggest attraction of the night, Hunsberger said some of the other popular activities were on the courthouse lawn. Don Riegsecker commissioned a replica of Bower's Drive-In, a popular stop for cruisers back then, and a long line stretched along the lawn from the corner of Clinton and Main, where it was parked. The Goshen High School color guard's performance also attracted a good number of spectators.
The festival continues today with a car show, the Ride for Rob motorcycle benefit, the Jules Boutique and Salon J fashion show, live music and Mattern's food tent and Constant Spring beer garden. Main and Washington streets will be closed from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
WHEELS AND DEALS FESTIVAL: TODAY'S EVENTS
10 a.m.-2 p.m.: Car show, Main Street between Lincoln and Jefferson
11 a.m.-5 p.m.: Goshen Health and Wellness Fair, Maple City Market
1-3:30 p.m.: Martial arts demonstrations, Maple City Market
2-4 p.m.: Ride for Rob, The Life Center, 1212 W. Plymouth Ave.
3-3:30 p.m.: Goshen firefighters' demonstration, Main Street
3-6 p.m.: Outdoor Summer Entertainment Series: Los Bandits, East Washington Street, between Main and Fifth streets
5:30-6:15 p.m.: Jules Boutique and Salon J Fashion Show, in front of Jules Boutique, 130 S. Main St.
6-9 p.m.: Outdoor Summer Entertainment Series: Newmatic, East Washington Street, between Main and Fifth streets
9 a.m.-5 p.m.: Kids' rides, Main Street near Lincoln Avenue
9-11 a.m.: Pancakes and sausage, The Window
10 a.m.-2 p.m.: Grilling out, First United Church of Christ
11 a.m.-5 p.m.: Roasted pork loin, The Window
11 a.m.-5 p.m.: Grilled local hamburgers and eggplant burgers served with pico de gallo topping, Maple City Market
Noon-11 p.m.: Constant Spring beer garden, West Washington Street next to Mattern's
2-2:30 p.m.: Watermelon contest, corner of Main and Washington streets
All day: Kobe beef burgers, BBQ chicken, kids' meals, Mattern's food tent
All day: Soft drinks, water and candy bars at the recreated Bower's Drive-In, Main Street
All day: Kid-friendly food and drinks to benefit 4 Paws for Ability, Goshen Theater, 216 S. Main St.