Herald JournalWinsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Oct. 21, 2002

'Cruisers' car club offers recreation, helps others

By Julie Yurek

Most of the cars have been put to bed for the season, but it wasn't too long ago they were cruising down the road, drivers and passengers chatting as the wind blows through their hair.

The drivers are part of the Saturday Night Cruisers Car Club, which puts on car shows, cruises twice a month, and supports organizations and charities in the McLeod County area.

Members are from various areas of the region, including Winsted, Howard Lake, Dassel, Cokato, Glencoe, Stewart, Winthrop, Brownton, Litchfield, and even in Colorado, which has its own chapter.

Local members include Jeff and Kay Gueningsman and Doug and Cari Bebo, all of Winsted.

"We are new to the club. We just joined this summer," Jeff said. "It's a lot of fun."

He is working on building a muscle car that will hopefully be finished next summer, he said.

"It's taking three cars to build the one," Kay said.

The Gueningsmans owned a 1970 Chevelle for more than 20 years, but it was destroyed in a shed fire in spring 2001.

Even though they don't have a classic car at the moment, they are still involved with the Cruisers.

The Gueningsmans heard about the club through the Bebos, Jeff said.

The Bebos also joined the club this summer. They own a 1972 Chevelle SS 454, Doug Bebo said.

The club gives the family a chance to use their car and get together in a group setting.

The couple takes their four sons along with them on the cruises, Doug said.

There are 82 families in the club, said secretary/treasurer Jeannie Tessmer of Hutchinson.

It started out with just eight to 10 families in December 1999, she said.

The president of the club is Arlan Riebe of Hutchinson, and the vice-president is DeLloyd Dreier of Stewart, Tessmer said.

Elections are conducted at the annual Christmas party the second Tuesday of December, she said.

The Cruisers are not all about letting the wind blow through the hair though. It's also about helping raise money for organizations in the McLeod County area.

The club uses classic cars as a way to serve the community. Proceeds from car shows are donated to local programs and charities.

The club puts on "small town car shows" to raise money for programs such as the Drug Abuse Resistance Education Program (DARE), and Challenge for Children, which supplies handicapped children with equipment.

The club is also a supporter of the Dairy Queen Run that is conducted annually around the area.

"It's a very social and civic-minded club," Tessmer said.

One of the club's goals is to give a scholarship to a student in the automotive field at Ridgewater College, which has campuses in Willmar and Hutchinson.

"We would really like to support someone going into that field," Tessmer said. There doesn't seem to be many scholarships for those students, she added.

Every other Saturday during the summer months, the Cruisers meet in Hutchinson and pick a destination to drive to, Tessmer said. Usually it's to a place where other car clubs may be.

They've gone to St. Cloud, Willmar, and many other locations, she said.

The Saturday evening outings give members a chance to talk to other clubs about upcoming car shows and share information, Tessmer said.

The club's biggest car show, called Show of Wheels, is in July at the McLeod County Fairgrounds.

About 300 cars are present, Tessmer said. Next July will be the third year for the show.

Besides the big show in July, members host smaller car shows in their hometowns throughout the rest of the summer, Tessmer said.

There is no admission charge for the smaller shows, but there is a charge for the one at the fairgrounds.

Usually cities donate some money to the club for prizes to be given away at the car show, she said.

Participants may also get a dash plaque to show which shows they've attended. Tessmer can usually fill up an 8-by-10 picture frame with plaques, which are a little bigger than a deck of cards.

"Most people display them in cars at a car show. I put my frame on the front seat," Tessmer said.

Tessmer owns a 1970 Chevelle, and her husband owns a 1964 Impala Super Sport.

Tessmer restored her car about five years ago, she said.

The two usually take turns driving their cars when it comes to cruising night, she said. However, the couple takes both the cars to shows, she said. "You can never have enough cars to look at."

If the club isn't having a car show itself, members go to other club's shows together, Tessmer said.

Members' cars can also be seen at the Hutchinson Mall every Friday night starting on the first Friday of June and ending the last Friday in August.

Member Lisa Stifter started "Friday night at the Mall," Tessmer said. Members bring their cars for the public to view from 6 to 8 p.m. The club gives away prizes such as car fire extinguishers, detailing supplies, and hats.

Cruisers come in all ages, and many bring their families. Members range from "young kids with low riders" to retirees with grandchildren, Tessmer said.

Membership in the club is only $10 per year. With it, members receive a membership card and stickers to place on their dashboard.

Members who have the stickers visible in their window get in free at the McLeod County Fair, Tessmer said. And the card gives members a discount on gas at the Exxon station on Highways 7 and 15 in Hutchinson, she added.

The club is working with other businesses to get discounts or special offers, Tessmer said. "The A & W in Litchfield once gave members a collector mug with root beer if they had their card."

Meetings are the first Tuesday of the month at the Hutchinson Legion. Members are welcome to attend, but it is not mandatory.

"If members have e-mail, I e-mail out the minutes of the meetings," Tessmer said. She also sends out notices about upcoming car shows, or "whatever comes up," she said.

For those without e-mail, Tessmer mails out newsletters two or three times a year, she said. "We are a modern day car club with the e-mail," she said with a chuckle.

It seems that e-mail is handy in many ways. "If we're looking for something to do at the last minute, we can just check our e-mail and see what car shows or events are going on," Doug said.

Members can be as much or as little involved as they want to be, Tessmer said. "The majority want to do it for fun."

"We even have a few members who don't own a classic car, but love to talk about them," she said.

"As long as you like cars, you can be a member," Tessmer explained.

"It's an organization I really believe in," she said.

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