Car enthusiasts from miles around are revving up for the best three days on the Lillooet calendar as the 2019 Rout 99 Cruz-in gets set to hit the road on Sept. 13, 14 and 15.
The event kicks off with a poker run, which is a good time as well as a good opportunity to see the local sights for out-of-town participants and for the local people to see the assortment of exotic whips that will make the annual procession in a highlight of the event that is starting to resemble a parade more every year according to organizers Al Koop and Wayne Cook.
“It’s a three-day event, starts on Friday. Friday consists of a poker run and a car cruise, Saturday is the show-n-shine event on the REC Centre lawn, and then Sunday we have drag racing up at the airport.”
It all starts Friday night when cars start gathering at the Old Mill Plaza between 4 or 5 p.m. for the poker run.
“Then we get out on the road about five o’clock precisely. What we do is drive around and we have several stops to form a poker hand, and anybody can pretty much join in if they want.” Cook said.
People are also encouraged to line the route, for a parade of labours-of-love on wheels the like of which will only pass through their neighbourhoods one time a year.
There is a leader car to keep everyone on track, and participants are asked to keep back so the car behind them can follow. The procession makes its way up Moha Road and winds through the Hop Farm before circling back onto Moha and returning to Main Street. Then on the Heights, leaving Main Street onto Park Drive and carrying on to LSS by way of Pine Street, Fourth Avenue and Columbia.
“There we have our first card stop and it gives everybody a chance to see a super-nice panoramic view from the high school parking lot.”
From there it’s back down to Main Street by Columbia and Fifth Avenue.
“When we get to where May Wong’s is we’ll head up to the hospital because they (residents) like to see the old cars so we’ll go do the cul-de-sac thing around the hospital. It brings big smiles to their faces,” Cook said
The route heads down Station Hill from there out to the Seton Lake lookout, taking a right at the 23 Camels Bridge on the way back and out to the airport. Then it’s back to town, with a tour through the VLA before proceeding back down Main Street to finish at the Old Mill Plaza where it began.
“What happened is all the out-of-towners loved it and it became another big thing. We basically show them the town,” said Koop, who organizes the poker run and has seen it grow in popularity in the ensuing years.
Both Koop and Cook say the array of cars that will be on hand is impossible to predict beyond that it’s a safe bet that it will be outstanding. Roosters motorcycle shop in Kamloops is sending at least half a dozen bikes to the event and car clubs from around the area will be represented.
“Every year it’s getting better” Cook said.
Every year it’s also becoming more of a well-oiled machine, with a core group of volunteers handling most of the organizing leading up to the event, and a much larger turnout – including a group of car enthusiasts from LSS – turning out over the weekend to help keep the wheels on.
The show and shine is on Saturday the 14th on the REC Centre lawn and once again anyone is welcome to participate, either by registering early at route99.ca or on the day of the event.
“The show-n-shine we get around 80 cars and probably half of them are from out of town,” Cook said.
“The drag races, the majority of them are from out of town.”
Lillooet is a favourite stopping-off point for car club cruises during the warm months for the same reason it’s an ideal location for this event, Cook said.
“It’s the perfect circle route; you come up through Whistler and go back down through the Canyon.”
The Route 99 Cruz-in finishes off with a roar on Sunday with grudge drags, featuring prepped tracks and time slips, at the Lillooet Airport.
The club used to put on its show during the Apricot Festival weekend in July but have moved it to later in the year for a couple reasons, one being its popularity, which combined with that of the other event, was starting to bring in more people than local tourist accommodations could handle in a single weekend.
Slightly cooler weather and the high probability of smoky skies that midsummer has featured in recent years.
“You couldn’t see for smoke and the big thing here is if you get a fire, lots of times that thing becomes a tanker base and you’re hooped, you’re kicked out of the airport. If you’re going to have a drag race that’s not a good thing,” Cook said.
“The third week in September is nice and for race cars its way better because cool air makes big horsepower.”