Barrington's Cruise Night will return as a weekly gathering this summer, but with some twists in an effort by village officials to increase visitor appeal.
Village spokeswoman Patty Dowd Schmitz, who handles marketing and special events, said a meeting was held with some Cruise Night participants and others after elected officials in January raised questions about the car event's future. Citing anecdotal evidence of declining attendance, officials mentioned reducing Cruise Night to a monthly gathering or dumping it.
"We decided we would try to keep it going this year -- one more year, every week -- and try to do some different things," Schmitz said. "We had a lot of great ideas that came out of this meeting that we had."
Possible Cruise Night additions include a special children's entertainment area and monthly food truck appearances.
Owners and fans of custom cars and hot rods from the village and beyond have gathered for the past 14 summers for Cruise Night in the BMO Harris Bank parking lot at Cook and Station streets in downtown Barrington. The family-friendly, alcohol-free gatherings on Thursdays from June 1 through Aug. 31 last year included food and ice cream vendors, prizes and entertainment.
Cruise Night is a village production meant to lure visitors who may spend money in downtown restaurants and stores while they are there or return to visit. Village trustees agreed at a recent committee session that a specific cost-benefit ratio should be tracked this year.
"At least we should know what it costs us and what we got out of it," Trustee Ryan Julien said. "And if at the end, we said, 'Hey, we didn't make any money, but we had a good time,' we may say we think it's worth it."
Village Manager Jeff Lawler said McGonigal's Pub in downtown has cited Cruise Night for a bump in Thursday night business. Barrington's Cruise Night mostly has mostly paid for itself through sponsorships, according to the village.
Lake Zurich, Crystal Lake, Mount Prospect, Rolling Meadows and South Barrington are a few of the other suburbs with summer car gatherings.