HAMMONTON - It was a walk, or more accurately a cruise, down memory lane on Friday evening as the 24th annual Cruisin’ Mainstreet shifted into gear.

People strolled along several blocks of the downtown to enjoy the historic cars, the makes and models of which spanned decades.

“I think it is simple, a great family event,” said chairwoman Angela Donio about why people gravitate to the event. “I think it is different from other car shows.”

Donio’s goal for the event has always been to make the downtown look like a busy night from the 1950s, an effect which is helped by the fact that Bellevue Avenue is not closed for the event. According to Donio, the town for a time used to hold the event twice a year, first in May and then again in September, but in recent years they returned to doing the event once a year in May.

For many of the participants, their historic cars hold deep meaning and special memories.

“It is my first car. I never got rid of it. I bought it when I was 17,” said Jim Vertolli about his 1958 Pontiac Star Chief, which he owns with his wife Donna.

Vertolli said him and his car have been through a lot together. The car was stolen at one point from the campus of Rowan University, back when it was called Glassboro State College, but was later found in Clayton by police. Vertolli has taken great pains to restore the car and he finds great pleasure in driving it to car shows to show it off. In fact, Cruisin Mainstreet was his third car show in a row.

While Brian Durhan no longer has his first car, when he was given the chance he purchased the exact same make and model, a 1966 Chevelle Malibu.

“That was the first car my mom bought me,” Durhan said. He said he proudly takes his red Malibu to car shows throughout the region.

Mustangs hold a special place in the heart of Chuck Naylor because that was his first car. Naylor brought his current 1965 Ford Mustang to the show.

“Everything is original,” said Naylor as he took a break from polishing up the car to make sure it looked its best before the crowds arrived.

Yet, Cruisin Mainstreet was not all about the classic cars. There were plenty of games, tunes and dancing to be enjoyed as well. Young and old broke out into spontaneous dancing throughout the downtown as they listened the oldies tunes being played. Dancers from Paul Morris Dancexplosion provided even more dancing when they performed a routine set to a montage of music from “Grease”.

Visitors also were able to participate in a raffle, while the younger visitors to the event were given the opportunity to join in a hula-hoop contest. The event was sponsored by BB&T, Action Auto Body and Al and Rich’s.

Judging by the smiles of those in attendance, this year’s cruise will certainly become a much visited memory the next time they take a cruise down memory lane.

Hammonton has many more exciting events coming up this summer, including but certainly not limited to the Hammonton Food Truck Festival on June 10, the Red, White and Blueberry Festival on June 25 and the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Grand Procession on July 16. For more information on upcoming events, please visit the Downtown Hammonton Facebook page.

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