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McMinnville Cruisers Return to Drag the GutBonnie King Salem-News.com
Festival in downtown "Mac" brings back tradition many have missed.
(MCMINNVILLE, Ore.) - “Dragging the gut” is something fairly unique to McMinnville, Oregon. It’s a term most towns didn’t use, one that is perhaps even a bit unappealing to outsiders. But to very specific small towns throughout America, dragging the gut was nothing less than a really good time.
For over 40 years, young people would collect in downtown McMinnville (Mac) on Friday and Saturday nights and do little else than drive back and forth on 3rd Street. Dragging the Gut, or cruising, meant driving far too slow while revving engines, hanging out their car windows, shouting to their friends, playing loud music and inevitably creating memories to carry on through the generations. And yes, they used plenty of gas.
Those weekend nights were nearly festive, with “the gut” every driver’s destination after the game, the dance, the movies, or just as a standalone gathering place for friends from far and wide, even for those without their own vehicles.
The traditional loop considered “the gut” was up and down Third Street, but it changed through the years; at times the route ended at Alf’s Ice Cream, and on the other end, at Shakey’s Pizza (now Izzy’s).
Dragging the Gut was outlawed in McMinnville in 1989.
The facebook page, “I dragged the Gut in McMinnville”, was aimed at bringing together the decades of people who grew up and cruised their cars in McMinnville, or anyone that wanted to share stories about “the good old days.” The stories came streaming in, one poignant, often laughable memory after another.
The group grew surprisingly fast, and is now on the brink of gaining its 2,000th “friend”.
“I was shocked by the feedback, but really pleased,” said Ruben Contreras Jr, administrator of the facebook group. “This group is like a big family, we have common memories.”
“From the very beginning, the postings said, “When do we get to drag the gut?”, and we knew that without an event to look forward to, it’s likely that these hundreds of people might just show up on their own, and that without some organization the city might consider it quite a calamity,” Ruben said. “We are really thrilled that McMenamin’s saw this historic event as something they could support.”
Now, more than twenty years since cruisers were legally allowed to drag the Gut in McMinnville, the first “rounding of the bend” in that direction is taking place with the first "Drag the Gut" Festival.
The Culture of Cruising
Everybody liked to cruise. An American tradition, cruising your car was a rite of passage, a way of pridefully showing the world that you have a driver’s license, and showing off your automotive prowess. Not to mention, having the right person beside you at the wheel. Cruising was a social activity that contributed to the development of personality and character for a vast many people- good, bad or otherwise. That’s undebatable.
The most well-known cruiser movie is American Graffiti. Set in the 1960’s, director George Lucas made his hometown of Modesto, California’s main drag famous by depicting it in the film. They still cruise there, and the city hosts an annual "Graffiti Night" in the film's honor. The powers that be never lliked cruisers however, and eventually frustration with clogged traffic and use of police energies and funds took their toll, with cruisers seen as a menace by merchants and local residents.
Young people hold a particular place card in society also, one with little voice. In the late 1980’s, those that enjoyed “dragging the Gut” found themselves at a disadvantage in city council chambers across the land.
As the “hip to be square” mentality swept the country, one city after another passed ordinances against cruising cars, and in most cases were successful at quieting their streets of life and laughter, of rumbling engines and the occasional horn honk.
And such was the case with Mac’s “Gut”. According to public documents, the McMinnville City Council voted to put an end to "the Gut" on June 28, 1988. The vote was set to expire a year later. On July 25, 1989 the City Council voted to permanently stop kids from dragging the Gut. (To read the actual city code outlawing Dragging the Gut visit: http://www.pricecatcher.com/facebook/documents/1.html )
The council members that first outlawed Dragging the Gut in Mac in 1988 were: Boyd Blanchard, Bernt [Al] Hansen, Carol Hanson, Robert [Rob] Johnstone, and Gary Wertz. Those who voted to outlaw the tradition permanently in 1989 were: Bernt [Al] Hansen, Boyd Blanchard, Jack Brecht, Robert [Rob] Johnstone, Carole Hanson Whitehead, and Bill Wilson. Decades of cruising were no more.
The Pendulum Swings Both Ways
After years of non-activity and conflict, progress for cruisers has been made, slowly but surely. From motivated auto enthusiasts to civil rights activists, many found the curb on cruising distasteful, and outside the bounds of basic American freedom of choice.
Cruising in Detroit, Michigan along Woodward Avenue reached its peak in the mid 1960s, but began declining in the 70’s with high gas prices and the lost popularity of muscle cars. Today, Detroit hosts the Woodward Dream Cruise once a year, which, according to Wikipedia, attracts 1 million people and 40,000 cars.
In Southern California, cruise night has returned to Van Nuys Boulevard as well. In the 1960s and '70s, Van Nuys Boulevard was the epicenter of California's car culture, then it was shut down in 1981. After 28 years, the cruisers, merchants and politicians found common ground, and a solution to the absence of this well-rooted tradition. One Wednesday a month, the familiar scene of showing off brand new purchases, souped-up muscle cars, lowriders and restored classic cars is back.
The LA Times said that police shut down the San Fernando Valley cruise scene when turf wars and illegal races got out of hand, but now “recession-battered shopkeepers and the owners of eateries hungry for customers are thrilled by its return. The well-heeled baby boomers that cruising attracts are filling empty restaurant booths, ringing up registers and awakening a street that longs for traffic.”
And in Springfield, Oregon, cruisers on their best behavior (no burning-out, no speeding, no blocking traffic, no littering) have enjoyed the revived tradition on Friday nights. They meet Fridays at 6 in the parking lot of Brooks Cut Rate Auto Parts on Franklin Boulevard in Glenwood, then they cruise east over the bridge to Springfield, and drive the stretch of A Street and Main Street to Fin's Drive In at 42nd Street and loop back to the Brooks lot. They do so with permission.
And more people come every week.
“Dragging the Gut” in McMinnville, Oregon is a dyed-in-the-wool, small town tradition, and though there are negatives in allowing such an activity, the positives reflected on the pages of their facebook group far outweigh them. And those stories are just the tip of the iceberg, as we have learned.
At this time, there is no agreement to allow dragging the Gut on a regular basis, but the Festival is a great opportunity to come together in unison, supporting the movement to lawfully cruise.
Relive your youth this Saturday by venturing to the “Drag the Gut” Festival in downtown Mac and taking a few turns down Third Street.
Crank up some Led Zeppelin and roll down your windows, we’ll all be waiting. Rain or Shine, just like always.
Dragging the Gut Festival at McMenamins' Hotel Oregon
Web address: IDraggedTheGut.com | Calendar Entry : Drag The Gut Festival in McMinnville, Oregon
Bonnie King has been with Salem-News.com since August '04, when she became Publisher. Bonnie has served in a number of positions in the broadcast industry; TV Production Manager at KVWB (Las Vegas WB) and Producer/Director for the TV series "Hot Wheels in Las Vegas", posts as TV Promotion Director for KYMA (NBC), and KFBT (Ind.), Asst. Marketing Director (SUPERSHOPPER MAGAZINE), Director/Co-Host (Coast Entertainment Show), Radio Promotion Director (KBCH/KCRF), and Newspapers In Education/Circulation Sales Manager (STATESMAN JOURNAL NEWSPAPER). Bonnie has a depth of understanding that reaches further than just behind the scenes, and that thoroughness is demonstrated in the perseverance to correctly present each story with the wit and wisdom necessary to compel and captivate viewers. View articles written by Bonnie King
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