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State College Celebrates Last Cruise; Car Show Held In Boalsburg

on July 24, 2010 8:30 AM

It was 1986, and State College Borough Council was bound and determined to stop cruising in the downtown.

The practice had become a favorite pastime for generations of local teenagers. They drove down Beaver Avenue, looped back on College Avenue, then repeated the process.

But by the mid-'80s, the habit had become a nuisance. Some of the kids gathered in parking lots, got rowdy, popped clutches and burned rubber.

And council members "decided they didn't want to put up with the traffic," said Kevin Nelson, a longtime and popular broadcaster on WRSC, now at 103.1 FM. They voted to impose a cruising ban, to take effect on a Monday in the summer of '86.

On a whim, Nelson and then-broadcast partner Wendy Williams launched what would become the Last Cruise, an annual tradition that continues Saturday with a Boalsburg car show and two hours of legal cruising in downtown State College.

At the time, though, they weren't planning to create a tradition, Nelson said.

As the story goes, he and Williams were finishing up a remote broadcast just a couple days before the cruising ban was to take effect. They were airing live from Stocker Chevrolet, out by the Nittany Mall in College Township, and invited listeners to take "one last cruise" and parade with them through the downtown.

"We thought if we got a dozen people, it'd be cool," Nelson said. "And we'd have something to talk about on Monday morning" on the broadcast.

Instead, Nelson said, "we clogged the downtown."

Dozens upon dozens of local motorists turned out, raising the ire of borough authorities but delighting the cruisers.

"It just touched a lot of people who shared that experience," Nelson said.

But "I actually laid down on the floor of the (WRSC) van," worried that police might stop them, he added.

The next year, 1987, Nelson and his colleagues made the event more formal, gaining official borough permission and making the Last Cruise into a fundraiser for the Centre County Youth Services Bureau.

Now, the Last Cruise has become a staple of State College summers. Being held Saturday, it includes a well-regarded car-and-motorcycle show, hosted at the Pennsylvania Military Museum in Boalsburg from 7 a.m. at least until 4 p.m. Food, raffles and other games will be available, too.

From 6 to 9 p.m., a "Best of the Best" vehicle show will be held on South Allen Street in downtown State College.

And from 6 to 8 p.m., the borough will lift the cruising ban and let drivers cruise through town -- though all other laws, including speed restrictions, will be enforced. Several hundred motorists often participate, Nelson said.

More details are available through the website of the Youth Service Bureau, which continues to benefit from the Last Cruise. (Nelson still emcees the Last Cruise award ceremonies, honoring the best car- and motorcycle-show entrants, and participates in the cruise itself.)

Last year alone, the events raised more than $15,000.

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