2021 Super Cruise pulls into finish line
SALEM — Another Salem Super Cruise hit the finish line Sunday, with organizers and city officials calling the 2021 edition a success all around despite a rainy first day.
“The last three days have been overwhelming — all kinds of cars and people,” cruise organizer Gene Johnson said.
Johnson and the cruisin’ crew, along with volunteers from three food pantries and the Salem Band Boosters, handled the show lots. Johnson and a small committee oversee a lot of the planning that goes into staging the cruise for the city, along with help from city Service/Safety Director Joe Cappuzzello.
Both Johnson and Cappuzzello reported no major issues came up over the four-day event. Last year’s cruise was canceled due to Covid-19 and this year’s cruise faced some uncertainty due to the health orders, but the orders were lifted just in time.
“I think it was very successful. With the end of the pandemic, everybody was happy to get out and have some fun,” Johnson said.
Salem Mayor John Berlin had to delay his “Start your engines” order until Friday night after getting rained out Thursday. He was happy the bad weather only lasted one night.
“I think everybody’s had a good time,” he said, adding everything was kept orderly by Johnson and the cruisin’ crew.
Berlin and Cappuzzello said the traffic Saturday was bumper to bumper on State Street, from the west side by the newly opened Dairy Queen Grill & Chill to the east side by Wendy’s.
“Saturday was pretty darn crowded. Lot of people and a lot of cars. Very happy for that,” Berlin said.
This was Cappuzzello’s first involvement with the cruise and he said he was excited at how well it turned out. They had a hurdle to jump over with the rain on Thursday, but “the weather came through the next three days. Everybody seemed happy,” he said.
Mick Orosz, who handles all the food and game vendors, said the cruise may have broken records. He had no numbers, but the crowds on Friday and Saturday were big.
“Everybody’s very happy, all the vendors,” he said.
After the money counting was done, Johnson said the cruise raised $10,722 between the Chinese auction, car and bike shows, 50/50, beef raffle and Super Cruise T-shirt sales. He said the money will be broken down into fair portions for each group that helped.
Volunteers came from the Salem Band Boosters, the Salem Community Pantry, the St. Patrick Church food pantry in Leetonia and the Oasis Food Ministry in Columbiana.
The annual Show & Shine Car Show, this year sponsored by Fall’s Hauling of Salem, capped off the end of the cruise. Ted Thorne of Salem won Best of Show for his 1955 Chrysler New Yorker. The Mayor’s Choice went to Larry Andicott for his 1991 Mustang GT and Sponsor’s Choice went to Mickey Nuzzo for his 1956 Chevy Bel Air. An additional 20 trophies were awarded to Show & Shine participants.
Bill Greenamyer won the four-day 50/50 and Greg Wilson won the $500 beef and pork raffle sponsored by Moore’s Farm of Canfield.
Another highlight was valve cover racing sponsored by Ray Lewis & Co. of Lisbon. For those who don’t know, valve cover racing involves taking a valve cover off of an engine, attaching some wheels, painting it up with some decorations and then racing head to head on a 24-foot track, sort of like cub scouts and their pinewood derby cars. The wheels are limited to plastic, wood, rubber or even CDs–no metal. The fastest speed is about 2.8 seconds from start to finish.
Volunteer Don Martin of Columbiana, who became involved with the cruise through the St. Patrick Church food pantry, explained that each car races a minimum of three heats and collects pink slips for each win. Whoever had the most pink slips at the end won the prize. There were two categories — speed and distance.
Alanis Whitten of Salem won first place for speed with her valve cover racer, which she dubbed Cheryl.
Phil Calvin of Columbiana drove cars designed by his son, Tom Calvin of Leetonia, winning first place for speed. Tom Calvin’s cars also took second place in both the speed and distance categories. Tom’s theory was the bigger the tire, the faster the valve cover — at least that was his opinion.
This wasn’t Martin’s first experience with valve cover racing. At Beaver Creek State Park in the Pioneer Village, he teaches kids how to make valve cover cars and then race them on a track at the park. He got involved because it was unusual and the cars were simple to make. Plus the kids have some fun.
Funny car driver Bobby Martin from Beaver Falls, Pa. was also on hand during the cruise with his bright orange Super Charger top alcohol funny car. He travels the country with the race car, which has raced everywhere east of the Mississippi. Martin’s highlights include National Hot Rod Association Top Alcohol Funny Car U.S. Nationals and Summit Nationals Champion.
Besides racing, he also shares his funny car racing knowledge at schools and events. In the 1980s, he said he raced a different kind of car at Quaker City, almost like a street car.