Let’s go for a cruise

Among the cars, trucks and motorcycles displayed Saturday in downtown North Platte for Platte River Cruise Night were a 1971 Dodge Demon 340 (right) owned by Mike Bargmann of North Platte and a 1961 Ford Thunderbird owned by Larry Crowell of Carter Lake, Iowa.

Believe it or not, Saturday’s opening event of a full day of Platte River Cruise Night activities began with the national anthem rather than Bruce Springsteen’s “Pink Cadillac.”

The Boss’s signature driving tune would be heard soon enough, though, as North Platte’s second annual celebration of classic cars and souped-up engines hit fifth gear up and down the “ones” from Platte River Mall to downtown.

Only the mid-July weather threw off the schedule, said organizer Rob Cappa. The exhibitors waited until 8 p.m. both Friday and Saturday nights to hold the party’s signature event on Jeffers and Dewey streets because late afternoon was too hot.

Otherwise, “we’re just really happy with what we got,” said Cappa, who counted about 110 classic cars, pickup trucks and motorcycles entered in Saturday’s lunchtime showcase on the downtown bricks.

“People are really happy, and that’s what we get out of it.”

“The Star-Spangled Banner” led off the celebration’s debut Pinup Girl contest, held in the mall’s main concourse — though “Pink Cadillac” accompanied the awards ceremony.

The 21 entrants, ranging from young adults to nearly middle-aged mothers, emulated the curvy but modestly dressed “pinup girls” who graced movies, automobile ads and military barracks from World War II into the early 1960s.

The women, mostly sporting period-evocative stage names, spoke about being comfortable and confident with themselves as they displayed their outfits, high heels and personalities for the judges.

“Don’t laugh if I fall going up the stairs, OK?” Jacqueline “Lady Jack” Baker of North Platte told the audience. She quoted Lucille Ball: “I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than regret the things I haven’t.”

“Miss Betty June,” Halsey (Roberts) Fuller of North Platte, took home the first-place sash and top prize of a gift bag and $150 in cash. Second place and $75 went to Camaura “Camaura Mae” Scott of North Platte, with Krystal “Mystic Maverick” Wright of Kearney taking third place and $50.

Fuller, who got married just last week, said her stage name honored her grandmother, the late Betty June Grafel, whom she visited often as a child on trips from Texas to her farm near Culbertson.

“I grew up watching my grandma wearing her hot pants,” said Fuller, who chose a checkerboard black-and-white dress with red trim for herself.

“I think (pinup) just embraces everything that’s feminine. I think it’s fierce,” said the mother of three. “We embrace femininity to the nines, just loving kids and loving our families.”

Farther north, dozens of visitors strolled up and down North Dewey and East Sixth Streets to take in the 20th- and 21st-century cars, pickup trucks and motorcycles entered in Cruise Night’s car show.

The handiwork of North Platte’s Mike Bargmann figured in two neighboring vehicles: his own bright yellow 1971 Dodge Demon 340 and a 1961 Ford Thunderbird he and Gary Thayer of North Platte worked on with owner Larry Crowell of Carter Lake, Iowa.

Bargmann bought the Dodge in 1998 from a great-aunt in West Point, but set aside restoring it until 2009. She put only 10,900 miles on it driving to and from work for 27 years, he said.

“I’ve got seven years working, start to finish, on that thing — and I don’t know how many gazillions of dollars,” Bargmann said.

Crowell’s pale, 82,500-mile T-Bird only recently emerged from the North Platte garage to which he regularly came from the Omaha area to work on it with his friends.

He inherited it when his father died in 1996, he said, but military deployments to Kosovo and Iraq kept him from restoring it.

“I’m going to drag it home (now) and put it into the garage in Carter Lake,” he said.

Back at the mall in late afternoon, the theme was little boys and girls taking after their parents as they lined up in miniature, electric-powered cars and SUVs for a “Kids Cruise.”

The former JC Penney anchor space offered a perfect “road course,” since the store’s tile walkways remain in place amid the carpeted display areas. The kids drove up, down and all around, collecting participation prizes and making “pit stops” for treats.

Jotham Savory, 4, hit the track with a mini Dodge Ram 1500 as parents Lucas and Chelsea Savory watched. “When you got this truck,” his dad asked him before the cruise, “who had the same one as this — the big one?”

“Dad,” Jotham answered.

“I just sold mine,” Lucas Savory confessed.

Meanwhile, 8-year-old Leah Dressel of North Platte got her mini-Ford Mustang ready to go before 2-year-old brother Caden got in for the cruise.

“I’ve driven one of these before,” said Leah, the daughter of Terry and Krista Dressel.

“Her dad redid it, and it can go really fast,” her mother said.

Car show award winners included Josh Willard, whose 1967 Chevy Camaro won the Kids’ Choice award. Bud Ham’s 1992 Plymouth Laser RSX won first in import.

Stephanie Brooks’ 1975 Yamaha 350 won first place in stock bike, and a 1910 Harley Davidson Board Track Racer replica bike owned by Donald Stockwell took first place in custom bike.

Carolyn Rhoden won first in stock with a 1955 Chevy Cameo pickup and Gus Reutzel’s 1961 Cadillac Coupe DeVille took second.

A 1968 Dodge Charger owned by Kevin Gordon took first place in the custom division, while a 1940 Dodge pickup owned by Stew Holmes took second.

In the rat rod division, first place went to Matt Seamann and his 1927 Ford T, while second place was handed to Jerry Baumgartner and his 1938 Ford truck.

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