Dozens of classic cars are expected to be on display every week this summer in downtown Lockport.
Beginning May 8, cruise nights will be held every Tuesday along Main Street, according to Ellen Schratz, a co-owner of the Palace Theater.
Schratz said William R. Timkey Jr., owner of Timkey Limousine Co., called her after learning of the closing of Rookies Restaurant on South Transit Road in Pendleton. Rookies had been host for summer cruise nights for 1950s-vintage autos.
Downtown Lockport, however, lacks the vast concrete prairies, also known as parking lots, that the South Transit Road site had provided. Timkey and the Palace group put their heads together with Mayor Thomas C. Sullivan and other city officials.
Before long, a plan was hatched to block off Main Street and East Avenue from Washburn Street west as far as Pine Street every Tuesday night during the summer to accommodate the classic cars.
"This will bring hundreds of people into downtown Lockport every Tuesday night," Sullivan said. "It's a natural for the City of Lockport to be the place for this tradition."
Sullivan said north-south streets that intersect Main, such as Pine, Locust and Market, will remain open.
Timkey said he is an old-car enthusiast, with half a dozen "street rods" in his collection. He already had a connection with the Palace, because he put together a small cruise night last summer when the theater observed its 75th anniversary with a stage performance of the musical "Grease."
Timkey also bought a truck-mount trolley car for use as the city's Towpath Trolley tourism shuttle last year, and he used that vehicle as a "haunted trolley" for Halloween rides that began at the theater.
Schratz said the theater owners hadn't thought of making cruise nights a regular attraction.
"Bill's more of a car guy," she said. "He knows those guys. . . . He knew they'd be looking for a place to hold cruise nights."
Schratz said some of the cruise cars will be parked diagonally along the sides of Main Street, and others will be in the municipal parking lots off Walnut Street, which parallels Main one block to the south.
But a spot of honor in front of the Palace will be reserved every Tuesday night for Timkey's latest creation, a PT Cruiser limousine.
The one-of-a-kind auto, being modified for Timkey by a Las Vegas custom-car company, will have the front and rear of the popular 1930s-styled Chrysler vehicle, with a limousine body in between.
"It's a 75-inch stretch," said Timkey, who said the unique limo will seat six adults comfortably.
Schratz said Stevie J., a local disc jockey, will play oldies over a sound system every Tuesday. "On certain Tuesday nights, we're going to have a live local band playing where the (Main Street) fountain's supposed to be," she added. If street dancing erupts, she said, so much the better.
She said local restaurants are being approached about setting up food vending operations during the cruise nights. Those details, as well as arrangements for setting up the car exhibits, were still being worked out.
The Common Council, meanwhile, has been working on arrangements for two other major summer events in Lockport.
The 26th annual Optimist Club Arts and Crafts Festival has been approved for 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 23 and 24. Main Street will be shut off from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. for that event. The show area will run along Main Street and East Avenue between Washburn and Saxton streets.
The Council also is seeking bids for the annual Independence Day fireworks display, to be set off as usual from the grounds of North Park Middle School and viewed primarily from Outwater Park.
Though the city conducts the bidding, Unit No. 1 Federal Credit Union once again will pay the tab for the fireworks, which is expected to be about $7,000.