Super Cruise wins Festival of the Year honors

SALEM – One of the reasons the Salem Super Cruise won 2013 Festival of the Year honors became quite evident Saturday as crowds and cars lined the streets and parking lots.

The people came, they ate, they socialized and they grooved to the music on a day that wasn’t too hot, too cold or too wet. Show vehicles of every make and model, shape and size cruised into Salem from every direction.

“They know how to get the people here,” Greater Ohio Showmen’s Association First Vice President Jo Ellen Albanese of Columbus said.

Albanese presented the Festival of the Year plaque to Mayor John Berlin, city Service/Safety Director Ken Kenst and city Administrative Assistant Debbie Bricker, during a live broadcast by K105 radio personality Doug James on the South Broadway stage.

As someone who’s been working as a vendor at festivals and fairs since the age of 11, Albanese has seen what works and what doesn’t to make a successful event. The Salem Super Cruise is doing it right.

“It’s been so incredibly organized. They know what they’re doing,” she said. “There’s plenty for everybody to see.”

The cars, of course, get the number one billing, but there’s also the fair food to attract people, games and great entertainment. There’s also the social aspect of just hanging out with people on a summer evening or seeing old friends that haven’t been seen in awhile.

When it comes to street festivals, Albanese said “there’s few that get the crowd that this one does.”

She credited the professionalism of all involved, the extreme organization and planning of the committee and the advertising the committee employs to get the word out, from newspapers to radio and television and the Internet. She also gave credit to the involvement of the community.

The GSOA asks members at the end of each year for nominations for the awards the association made up of food vendors, ride operators and game operators hands out to fairs, festivals and festival managers. As a vendor here for years, she nominated the Salem Super Cruise, which won a unanimous nod from the 14-member board while competing against four other festivals nominated.

She explained that the Salem Super Cruise takes the vendors into consideration during the planning. Organizers don’t overload the event with vendors and she said they’re nice to work with, noting Bricker’s always kind demeanor in dealing with the contracts and the help vendors receive from city workers in getting hooked up to power and water.

“That committee needs to be commended for all the hard work they put into it,” she said, noting the Salem Super Cruise “brings people out of their homes and gives them something to do.”

Kenst said the committee’s goal is for everybody to have a good time, including the vendors. He was pleased with the award and said changes made have worked out well, referring to Gene Johnson and the Arby’s Cruisin’ Crew being involved and handling the show lots.

The rainy weather on Friday kept some cars and people from coming, but Kenst said they had good attendance for the bands.

“Rain and show cars just don’t mix,” Mick Orosz, who heads the concession committee, said.

Berlin said it’s nice to know the vendors years gone by have done well and continue to return to the Cruise. The event is good for the city and for the vendors. He described it as a homecoming of sorts for the community.

The Super Cruise continues today. Johnson said they have about 90 volunteers helping to man the lots, with help from Salem-Perry Area Crime Watch, the Kool Time Cruisers and the Salem food pantry. He estimated at least 800 show cars in the three designated show lots Saturday, with about 300 on Friday night.