We are less than three weeks away from one of the most exciting weeks of Corvette fun in the country and if you haven’t made plans yet to be in Michigan the week of August 10th through the 16th then you may not be aware of all the Corvette activities that go on there in conjunction with the world famous Woodward Dream Cruise and the outstanding Back to the Bricks® car show.
What happens in Michigan the second and third weeks of August is virtually a fantasy of automotive nirvana. Though any car enthusiast worth their engine oil has heard about Detroit’s Woodward Dream Cruise and Flint’s Back to the Bricks show, surprisingly some Corvette enthusiasts do not realize the acclaimed Corvette specific events that are a part of both of these outstanding activities.
Let’s start at the beginning. If you arrive in Michigan a few days early you will probably want to take in America’s Corvette Club of Michigan Car show which takes place in Clarkston, Michigan on Saturday August 9th, just a few days before Corvettes On Woodward kicks off August 13th. America’s Corvette Club of Michigan show, celebrating its 14th anniversary this year, draws automotive enthusiasts and participants from across Michigan and from as far away as California and usually hosts close to 200 Corvettes. This year the show will take place at Sellers ReNew Auto Center on Dixie Highway in Clarkston, Michigan. This show is nationally recognized and is a nice warm-up event for the Corvette activity-packed week ahead.
Both the Woodward Dream Cruise and the Back to the Bricks show are among the top twenty automotive events (excluding racing events) in the entire country. Individually each event draws in excess of a half million people despite the fact that they both take place on the same day, this year that day is Saturday, August 16th. In both cases the events have grown so popular and so large that a week’s worth of related activities take place throughout the entire week before the “official” event day.
Each evening the entire week prior to Saturday’s Dream Cruise offers the same opportunities to cruise up and down Woodward Avenue. Virtually, thousands of spectators line miles of Woodward Avenue each evening prior to Saturday to watch classic, custom, performance, muscle, and sports cars slowly cruise the strip showing off the special and in some cases not so special rides.
Each year more and more participants and spectators that show up for the Dream Cruise realize that they can actually have the equally enjoyable time viewing the cars during the weekday evenings and not have to fight the enormous crowds on Saturday. In addition by enjoying the Woodward Dream Cruise during the week leaves Saturday open to attend the Corvette Reunion and Back to the Bricks event which takes place only sixty five miles to the north of Woodward in Flint, Michigan.
There are still thousands of enthusiasts who travel to Michigan specifically for the Dream Cruise that are unaware that another equally exciting event takes place in Flint, Michigan, less than an hour to the north and the home of GM and the Corvette. The Dream Cruise and the Back to the Bricks events are not mutually exclusive; both events can be enjoyed with a little preplanning.
I learned about the Back to the Bricks event several years ago while discussing an upcoming Dream Cruise with some well known enthusiasts. They told me that “real car enthusiasts” are in Flint on Saturday, “not fighting the traffic and crowds on Woodward.” I was somewhat skeptical thinking there were few automotive events that could equal the iconic Woodward Dream Cruise. They went on to explain something that I had already come to realize, that everything that can be seen and takes place on Saturday on Woodward could be seen and experienced Wednesday through Friday evenings. The same cars cruising Woodward on Saturday were also cruising the legendary strip on the weekday evenings. So like the “real car enthusiasts” I made the trip to Flint and was astounded by the size and quality of the Back to the Bricks show. That year I learned how to take part in and enjoy two huge, equally exciting automotive events the same week. I became a “believer” and now would not do it any other way. In fact if it were not for Larry Courtney’s “Corvettes on Woodward” event which has become an important part of the Dream Cruise the Back to the Bricks/Corvette Reunion would surpass Dream Cruise hands down.
Corvette enthusiasts simply can’t miss one of the best Corvette events that has become an important part of the Woodward Dream Cruise, Corvettes on Woodward, which takes place on the Wednesday prior to the official Saturday. Around noon on Wednesday over 600 Corvettes begin gathering in the parking lot of the Bloomfield Hills Radisson hotel to party before the massive Corvette cruise down Woodward begins. Larry Courtney organized the event shortly after he moved to Michigan from Illinois to benefit the Open Hands Food Pantry, located in Royal Oak, Michigan. The price of admission is $5 or a food donation to take part in the fun. It is an impressive sight to see, let alone participate in, a parade of over 600 Corvettes cruising five miles down legendary Woodward Avenue. Like the Dream Cruise, Corvettes on Woodward has also become a multiday event. For a nominal charge, to benefit charity, Courtney has organized tours of GM’s Heritage Center, Lingenfelter, Stahl’s Automotive and what Larry says is one of the best of his organized tours, a trip to a private 10,000 square foot wildlife museum where the animals are displayed in their natural environment. All activities require advance reservations by contacting Courtney at [email protected] and the space is limited.
Then following a few evenings of cruising the Woodward strip with the hundreds of other performance, muscle and show cars and checking out the cars you will want to get up early Saturday morning and head north for a different but equally enjoyable day at the Back to the Bricks and Corvette Reunion car show. Unlike the Dream Cruise where you either cruise the strip at a snail’s pace or watch the cars cruise by you can take your time and inspect the thousands of cars displayed on almost every street in downtown Flint. Literally thousands of cars line the downtown streets of historic Flint, Michigan, in a car show second to none in the country. Under the leadership of founder and chairman, Al Hatch, the event has grown to be chosen as one of the top twenty automotive events in the country. Recognizing the importance of the event General Motors has signed on as a major sponsor of the event and has recently decided to restore the nineteenth century Durant Dort Carriage Factory, recognized birthplace of General Motors.
Over the ten years the impressive car show continued to grow and attract cars from as far away as Europe. In addition Al Hatch and his dedicated team have continued to improve not only the number and quality level of cars being shown but also the logistics and amenities. A few years ago the event had grown so fast and large that, like the Dream Cruise, traffic congestion and parking had become a major problem, but that has been addressed and rectified. The local Flint police and event coordinators have worked hard to make the event easily accessible.
Five years ago, Gary Drago, owner of Drago Corvettes and a well known Flint Corvette enthusiast came up with the idea of grouping the approximately hundred Corvettes that were parked sporadically throughout the large Back to the Bricks show into one large group, and the Corvette Reunion was born. Today the Corvette Reunion is an “event within an event” and though still a part of the Back to the Bricks event it is organized and operates differently. If you want to participate in a “judged” competition you can pay the minimal fee and vie for a trophy or you can simply enjoy showing your Corvette and enjoying the event free. Each year from its beginning, the Corvette Reunion has grown significantly larger and last year there were more than 600 Corvettes that attended. This year Drago has made provisions to accommodate 800 of America’s Sports Car.
The Back to the Bricks/Corvette Reunion also hosts a week long list of pre-events and activities which include daily cruises of surrounding towns, local concerts and a free drive in movie. All proceeds from Back to the Bricks are designated for charity and specifically the statue project which funds life size bronze statues of automotive pioneers which have played an important part in the history of Flint. To date the Back to the Bricks event has sponsored statues of William “Billy” Durant, Louis Chevrolet, David Dunbar Buick, Walter P. Chrysler, Charles W. Nash, and coming soon Otto P. Graff.
The week in Michigan is particularly exciting if your tastes run not only to Corvettes but all things automobile related. It gives you the opportunity to not only participate in and inspect hundreds of outstanding Corvettes but also thousands of classic, hot rod, restomod, muscle, and sports cars in a full assortment of venues. If you have never been to the Motor City for these events here is a recommended agenda to help get you to make the most of your time in only four and a half days.
Saturday, August 9th (Clarkston, Michigan)
- AM & PM America’s Corvette Club of Michigan Corvette Show. Spectator gates open at 10 AM to participate suggest you get there by 8 AM.
Tuesday, August 12th (Flint, Michigan)
- PM: Free Drive-In Movie at US-23 Drive-In Theater. Car show and DJ at 5 pm
- PM: Movie “American Graffiti” starts at dusk.
Wednesday, August 13th (Detroit suburbs)
- AM: Tour GM Heritage Center as part of COW event (reservations req’d)
- PM: Arrive at Bloomfield Hills Radisson Hotel for the upcoming evening Corvette Cruise down Woodward Avenue
Thursday, August 14th (Detroit suburbs)
- AM: Tour Ligenfelter Automobile Collection as part of COW (reservations req’d)
- PM: Pick a spot on Woodward Avenue (preferable between 12 Mile and 15 Mile) to view the Woodward Cruise (take a lawn chair)
Friday, August 15th (Detroit suburbs)
- AM: Check out the Chevrolet display in Birmingham on Woodward just south of 15 Mile (also known as Maple) and stake out your spot for viewing the Friday night Woodward Dream Cruise. Some think Friday night is actually better than Saturday.
Saturday, August 16th (Flint, Michigan)
- All Day: Gates for the Corvette Only entrance to the Corvette Reunion/Back to the Bricks event open at 6 AM at the intersection of Martin Luther King Ave and East 5th Street. Take time to check out all the cars not just the Corvettes. There are so many it is likely that you won’t be able to see them all.
- PM: It is a one hour trip back to Woodward so head back and catch the end of the world’s greatest car cruise.
And if you still have the time and energy by the end of Saturday, August 16th, you probably want to pack up the vette and head to another Corvette headline event, Corvettes at Carlisle which begins the following Thursday, August 22, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. And if you still haven’t had enough, from Carlisle you could join one of the caravans taking place all over the country headed to Bowling Green, Kentucky, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the National Corvette Museum which takes place August 28th through the 30th.
If you ever wanted to experience Shakespeare’s adage about “too much of a good thing” you will have the chance in Michigan, August 10th – 16th, where you can immerse yourself in all things Corvette and other great automobiles from morning through the night.
Rick Tavel writes about automobiles with an emphasis on Corvettes and the hobby in general. You can see his website at Corvetted.