Back to the Bricks boasts biggest crowd ever

FLINT, MI — These bricks remind Jerry Orser of his first love. The Otisville resident arrived at 3 a.m. to secure a spot worthy of showing off his 1966 Stingray. As he prepped his prized possession for the show, he thought longingly — believe it or not — about his 1971 Nova and his early 20s. “I got a lot of rubber on these bricks back in the 70s. They’ve probably got some of my tire marks on there, somewhere,” said Orser, 63. “That (car) was my first love — even my wife says that.” Back to the Bricks capped its weeklong celebration in style on Saturday with hot rods, dragsters, muscle cars and a lot of first loves — and with what organizers called another record-setting crowd. And, another success. Officials did not provide an exact crowd estimate this year, but said about 40,000 cars again participated in the five-day event and that the number of spectators was up. They estimated total participation at 500,000 last year. But, success is about even more than numbers, said Roberta Vasilow, who takes over as committee chairwoman of next year’s Back to the Bricks. She already has fielded rave reviews from car enthusiasts from throughout Michigan and beyond. “They’re going to go home and tell friends, ‘You’ve got to go to Flint,'” she said. “And from what I heard today, that’s going to happen a lot.” But from feedback she has gotten so far, attendees from as far as Ohio, Indiana, and elsewhere in the state got a great impression. Thousands of rides lined the bricked streets of South Saginaw Street, King Avenue and surrounding blocks. Enthusiasts and “gear heads” peeked under hoods and through windows while striking conversation with car owners. The show included a newly unveiled statue of GM founder William C. Durant, and some special displays: more than 70 Buicks on Water Street by the Durant-Dort Carriage Company office to celebrate Buick’s 110th anniversary, hundreds of Corvettes gleamed along King Avenue and military vehicles proudly stood at McFarlan Park. The flat lot by University of Michigan-Flint also was a show place for the Ramchargers drag racing team, the winners of the Greater Flint Arts Council’s Artomotive hood painting contest and the high-flying Detroit Pistons Flight Team’s basketball stunts. Exiting Back To The Bricks chairman Al Hatch and Hatch said that he expected a bigger crowd after Tune Up Party Week, a collection of smaller car shows to build anticipation for Back To The Bricks, the week before the show. “Every one of those (Tune Up Parties) set a record in their communities. That gave us a glimpse of what this would be, and that proved to be correct,” he said. Despite the larger crowds, the police command center reported fewer problems this year as of about 4:30 p.m. “We’ve had minor skirmishes and small fights. But the incidents are less this year than they were last year, and the size of the events is much smaller than they were last year,” said Lt. Phil Smith of University of Michigan-Flint Department of Public Safety. He said a larger amount of officers helped decrease incidents, and that officers’ quick handling of the events may have deterred other would-be troublemakers. “(Suspects) were taken into custody quickly, and I think others might have seen that,” he said. “When you see someone handcuffed and taken off to jail, why would you want to go there?” He added that attendees also seemed to get along better. “When you bring this many people into a city, compatibility may be a problem, but for the most part, 99.9 percent of people have gotten along pretty well.” Lapeer resident Bill Short attended Back To The Bricks with the Wild About Cars Club. After coming out to the event since it began, this was his first time coming out with a car: his 2002 Collector’s Edition Trans Am. He hoped that the peaceful, good-natured fun of Back To The Bricks shows people that Flint is more than the

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“most dangerous city” headlines. “All of the stuff you hear about Flint isn’t here during Back To The Bricks, by any means,” Short said. “Flint is not like they say. We’re happening, here.” Hatch said that despite stepping down as chair of the actual event, that he’ll continue to serve as chair of the Back to the Bricks board of directors, and that he would still head next year’s tour. “It’s a little melancholy, but it was time (to step down). I’d been at it for 10 years,” Hatch said. “…I’m not going very far.” The show officially closed at 6 p.m. today. Then, Vasilow said, the first priority will be taking a week off. Then, the crew of volunteers will begin assessing what worked and what didn’t to see what to keep and what to change for the 2014 festivities. Original article by William E. Ketchum III. Read More →

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