Cruise Night to honor teen who died

Patrick Carland, left, and Jakob Richards are shown alongside Carland’s brother, Franklin, right. Franklin, a 16-year-old North Platte High School student, drowned at Fire Lake earlier this month and will be honored during the COVID Cruise Night in North Platte on Saturday. Patrick Carland and Richards will take turns driving a 1987 GMC Jimmy that was Franklin’s vehicle. 

It definitely won’t be the prettiest-looking vehicle on the North Platte streets this weekend. Still, the 1987 GMC Jimmy is a truck that people will be paying attention to.

It was the ride for Franklin Carland, a 16-year-old North Platte High School student who drowned May 5 in the midst of a day spent at Fire Lake with friends.

Franklin, who was a car enthusiast, will be remembered on Saturday night, as the third COVID Cruise Night in North Platte is dedicated in his honor.

His 17-year-old brother, Patrick, will drive the GMC Jimmy for the first half of the parade of classic, muscle and sports cars that travel up and down a loop along the one-way streets in North Platte.

Patrick will then switch to his own vehicle, a 1998 Dodge Ram 1500, for the second half.

Patrick’s friend Jakob Richards will then drive the Jimmy for the rest of the night.

The event is scheduled to run from 6-9 p.m. and is sponsored by the Platte River Cruise Night.

Patrick said he shared a love of cars with his brother.

“(Cars) were like our thing,” Patrick said through a series of text messages Friday morning. “Our grandma and grandpa own an auto body shop in O’Neill. We grew up for a few summers learning about painting, car body repair and (vehicle) hail damage.”

A burnout event was held at the Sonic Drive-In during the last COVID Cruise Night in April, but won’t be repeated on Saturday.

Event organizer Rob Cappa said previous social media posts and media reports on the event led to high interest and prompted concerns over social distancing.

Cappa said one Facebook post attracted around 800 individuals expressing interest in the event. While that might not reflect the true turnout for the night, Cappa said organizers are playing it safe.

Cappa added that the route will be extended a bit on Saturday with turnaround points at Walmart and Cody Park.

Cappa said the hope is the extra distance alleviates some of the bumper-to-bumper traffic that happened in April.

Patrick said his brother loved to drive those same streets, but his love for cruising and fishing only begins to describe him.

“He was an amazing, funny person,” Patrick wrote in the texts. “He always brought joy and love to everyone’s heart and put a smile on everyone’s face. He had so many friends and so many people who cared about him.”

The white GMC Jimmy with dark stripes down the sides has a history with the Carland family. It had been the ride for Franklin and Patrick’s father previous to Franklin’s ownership.

The vehicle sat in a field before the family purchased it, which explains not only the vehicle’s 86,000 miles but also the rust spots along the bottom.

The vehicle is highlighted in a sticker that Patrick created, placed in the middle with the phrase “In Loving Memory of Franklin 2003-2020.”

Patrick said he made 70 stickers in an initial run and the supply was quickly bought out. He is working on the next order.

The sticker interest is just part of the community’s outreach to the Carland family.

A GoFundMe page was created shortly after the accident and it reached its goal within hours.

Patrick said the family is grateful for the outpouring of support.

“My mom was saying it makes her cry knowing how many people loved and/or knew (Franklin),” Patrick wrote.

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