It’s 30 minutes before the start of the Longbranch Saloon TGIF Cruise, and the cruisers are arriving early. Some find their spots in the parking lot. Others gather where there is shade. And a few more sit on the deck at Longbranch Saloon, 9095 Metcalf Ave., Overland Park.
Every Friday, from May to October, a wide range of cars from many eras fills the parking lot.
“It is the variety,” said Jack Genova, who has been coming to this cruise ever since it started over eight years ago. “It is not like any cruise in town.
“You are not going to get a setting like this anywhere else. It is almost California style, sitting on a deck with cars and stuff. All we need is Metcalf to become an ocean.”
Never miss a local story.
Genova made this observation on a pleasant Friday afternoon on Aug. 21 before the cruise officially started. That moment came at 5 p.m. Just before D.J. Mike cued the music, the cruisers stood up and placed their right hand over their hearts for the national anthem.
“I think it is great,” said Cletson Cox of Lenexa. “I always like that. It is official.”
Once the national anthem concluded, the cruise settled into another late afternoon and early evening of cars, conversation and perhaps a nice meal at Longbranch, its neighbor, IHOP, or one of several other restaurants nearby.
Co-owners Randy Lamb and Mike Day inherited this tradition three years ago when they bought Longbranch Saloon. Day admits that Lamb is the car person when it comes to cruise night. But Day enjoys the festivities as much as anybody.
“It is the cleanest fun in town,” Day said. “It works for all ages and all genres. We have old antiques, classics and there are muscle cars. Who doesn’t like cars?
“It has a cool factor for guys that is as good as it gets. But everybody likes it – kids, women and men.”
And the Friday evening patronage from spring to fall certainly helps business.
“It is an injection of a lot of people spending money,” Day said. “All these people are going to eat. They may not all eat here. Some might go to Bo Ling’s. There are hundreds of people out there but they are not all going to come in here and eat. Probably the ones who don’t come in are going to go somewhere else and spend their money.
“Economically, it is fabulous. It gives the area a name. Our Fridays are huge.”
And the throng of cruisers brings a wide selection of cars, from Genova’s 1969 AMX to Cox’s 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air to Glenn Welch’s 1930 Chrysler Coupe.
Welch has been making the trip to the Longbranch cruise from his Parkville home for the last four years.
“A lot of the cars over here are different from the cars I see in Missouri,” Welch said. “I come over here to see some that are different. Plus, there is a place to eat and there is shade. It is just a nice cruise. I like it here.”
Genova, who is from Mission, has come to this cruise almost every week since it started. He still is amazed by seeing a different type of car every time he shows up.
“There are cars that come out of the woodwork,” Genova said. “There are some AC Cobras, some cars worth $3-, $4-million, Corvettes and Packards. The array of cars is unbelievable. It is not like a normal cruise.”
Cars and camaraderie are two of the ingredients that have made the cruise successful. Seeing old cars is what attracted Cox to this cruise more than four years ago. In that time, Cox figures he has made a dozen new friends.
“It is like reliving it again,” Cox said, referring to discussing classic cars with his fellow cruisers. “It is like you are there.”
Genova credits the owners of the Longbranch Saloon for making the cruise a weekly success.
“It is hard finding sponsors anymore,” Genova said. “With their great food and their cooperation, these guys are fabulous. That is why everybody keeps coming back.”
Do you have a car cruise or a car show you would like to see featured in At The Show? If you do, email your idea to David Boyce at Drive@kcstar.com