Around 2pm on Wednesday, downtown Coldwater traffic stopped and the Old US 27 Motor Tour, consisting of about 50 cars, left the city to await its annual cruise to Cheboygan.
The 16-year tradition began when Craig Parrish of Lansing wanted Old US 27 to become a designated historic highway.
As part of his campaign, car enthusiast Parish began touring. After all, why should Route 66 have all the glory?
In 2006, the first Motor Tour left Coldwater for Cheboygan, and by 2010 Old US 27 was given the title of Historic Highway.
However, this year was the second tour without Parish. He passed away in his 2021, just two months before the event.
His life partner, Kim Davis, has kept the tour alive with the help of longtime participants and local communities along the route.
In Coldwater, Deb Prater of the Coldwater Country Conference & Visitors Bureau is the primary organizer, showcasing the community and providing local hospitality while protecting the Parish dream.
On Monday, some US 27 old folks flocked into town for the Monday Nite Cruise-In staged at Kilgore International.
On Tuesday, they traveled to a train depot in Waterloo, Indiana so they could head back to the Adventure Zone to catch another cruise on the Performance Plus Quick Oil Change owned by Ed Kneisley traveling on tour.
Wednesday morning activities included a pre-lunch poker run and scavenger hunt at Broadway Grill. After that, the party went to DeWitt.
According to participants, the Old US 27 Tour is a family reunion.
Longtime participants Russ and Debbie Fuller of St. Charles attended in their second year and haven’t missed a year since.
“It’s like one very big family,” says Fuller.
Fullers are often the frontrunner of the 1959 Chevy Bel Air, with Mark and Debbie Armstrong towing the rear.
“He’s the conductor,” Fuller said, gesticulating over his shoulder.
Perhaps that’s why Armstrong’s Road Chevrolet pickup is also equipped with an air horn that mimics a train whistle. This is on display in each town on tour.
As they exited the Four Corners parking lot, Branch County Deputy Sheriff Keith Eichler coordinated a police escort and stopped traffic, Prater said.
Everything was new for a group of friends from Mount Pleasant who were attending for the first time this year.
Mustang owners Andy and Cindy Spence said they had seen the tour go through their area and were considering joining.
With Jim and Tricia Timmer and Frank and Mary Jo Andela, they did and are having fun so far.
more:motor tours come to town
Last year my friends took part in the Mustang Rally in Sturgis, South Dakota. This year’s event will be the Old US 27 Tour.
“Coldwater is so beautiful,” said Cindy.
The historic houses and lush farmlands are impressive, she said.
Impressive for Prater, who organize Coldwater activities, is the community support for the tour. A door prize worth $25 will be awarded to companies involved in poker runs and scavenger hunts. During lunch before the group left town, Prater said he handed out gifts from Coldwater businesses worth an estimated $700.
Primary support for the event was provided by Quality Inn, Performance Plus Quick Oil Change, and Broadway Grille. Doug’s Auto Recyclers has also been very supportive over the years, Prater said.