Tribune-Courier News Reporter
On Saturday night the streets of Benton were packed to capacity as 143 hot rods and sports cars surrounded the court square for the city’s first cruise-in.
Josh Hendrickson, President of Benton Main Street, said the City of Benton, Benton Main Street and the Metal Mafia Car Club had originally planned for about 70 cars to show up for the first Benton Cruise-in, but late last week they began receiving a lot of interest in the event.
“We began realizing a few days before the cruise-in that we might go over the initial number of spots we had available,” he said. “We had to develop several contingency plans in case we did– we even had to use several of them.”
Organizers of the event were shocked when they realized how low their estimate really was.
“The event really took off – to say we were overwhelmed was an understatement,” he said. “We thought the first night might not do as well because prom was scheduled on the same night, but that wasn’t the case at all.”
Benton Main Street, in collaboration with the City of Benton and the Metal Mafia Car Club, will be hosting a cruise-in on the last Saturday of each month for the next five months in the hopes of boosting the local economy. The next Benton Cruise-In is scheduled for Saturday, May 31 from 4 to 8 p.m.
Hendrickson said Saturday’s event proved locals were interested in boosting the local economy.
“Sugar and Spice had lines out the door all night long,” he said. “They were running out of hamburgers by the end of the night and from what I saw all of the businesses that stayed open had people going in and out all night long. I think all of the businesses stayed pretty busy.”
Diane Temple, owner of Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice, said her restaurant usually isn’t open on Saturdays, but opens for special events with a reduced staff.
“We knew we were going to be open for the cruise-in, but the event surpassed what we could have even imagined – we couldn’t keep up with the demand,” she said. “We had a skeleton crew that night, but next time we’ll be more prepared and we’ll be serving our full menu.”
Temple said it was amazing how many people were walking the court square that night.
Hendrickson said the cruise-in was another way these businesses could earn a profit during a time that locals might opt to leave town.
He said the event Saturday might end up being one of the more successful cruise-in’s on the court square, but Benton Main Street will continue trying to make it bigger.
“I think we’ll have better and worse months, but we’re going to try and improve,” he said. “This is an event that is going to take some trial and error, but we’ve got room to grow.”