I watched American Graffiti for the first time one rainy Saturday afternoon on TV in the 70's, a love-struck preteen hoping to glimpse Harrison Ford in something other than Star Wars. I grabbed my heart, reeling in empathetic pain when he lost control of his car and stumbled away. I swooned with disbelief when I realized that Cindy Williams was leaving him and going back to Ron Howard. I watched that movie often on late-night reruns, the television the only light in my room. But as I watched it again and again, I started noticing someone (or something) else.
Sure, Harrison was handsome, but how about those cars? Who doesn't remember those shining examples of pure coolness? Who didn't catch themselves admiring the fins, the fenders, and the glittering chrome and imagine themselves behind the wheel? Who wanted not the blonde behind the wheel, but the wheels themselves?
As the years have gone by, I decided that while my ardor for Mr. Ford may have cooled, those old cars are just as cool as ever, and I got my own older beauty, a '63 Ford Falcon.
Now while my car is an antique, it's a year too young to have gone to Mel's Diner, it's no hot rod, and its cool factor is well...only semi-cool. But I have given it a loving restoration and enjoy driving it as much as any punk who cruised a downtown strip in 1962. And it's not just me! Lots of people in Southside Virginia have old cars they love, cars that stay out of the rain until it's time to bring them out on a beautiful day. These are the cars you will find at a Saturday night cruise-in in towns like Danville, Chatham and Reidsville.
A Cruise-in could be compared to a social occasion that masquerades as a parade of muscle and chrome. It is a venue for car owners and car lovers to show off their prized possessions, share stories, admire hard work and history, and enjoy a slice of nostalgia. Unlike car shows, cruise-in's don't require an entry fee and offer no prizes other than the praise of passersby. It's all just for fun as people show and remember the cars of their youths. It's also a perfect opportunity to grab a bite to eat at a local restaurant, discover downtown, meet and make friends.
Many of Southside's cities and businesses have discovered classic and antique cars bring together enthusiasts from all walks of life. From April through October, Southside Virginia boasts cruise-in's in Danville and Chatham. Neighboring North Carolina offers one in Reidsville. In Danville, there are two great opportunities to see and show. Downtown Danville's Cruizin' the Piedmont is held on the first Saturday of each month and there is one at Mama Possum's on Arnett Blvd. on the second Saturday. Chatham Virginia's Downtown Cruise-in on Main Street is held on the fourth Saturday, while Reidsville NC rounds out the month on the Second Friday. For a car enthusiast or history buff, it is fine machinery and family fun to be had all through the fair months.