By CRISTINA JANNEY
One Hays man is hoping to turn back time to 1985 when he was a high school student and spent his Friday and Saturday nights cruisin' Main with his friends.
As residents are restricted from gathering in large groups, Patrick Toepfer has organized a Hays Cruise Night that will start at 8 p.m. Friday downtown.
Toepfer remembers getting off work from Mammal's Grocery Store and heading downtown to meet up with friends.
Back in the day, the kids cruised between the Varsity Bowl drive in (near the present day pool) and the "cop shop" on 13th Street. Friday night's cruise route will be similar, but the turn around will be at the Hays Aquatic Park.
"We didn't have cellphones," he said. "When I would get off from the Mammal's Grocery Store at 8, I would go immediately downtown. That is where I would find my friends."
He added, "I met a lot of people I am still friends with today dragging Main."
Cruising was such a part of the Hays youth culture at the time, Toepfer said one of his friends only washed the left side of his car because he said that was the only side people would see.
Toepfer, a 1985 graduate of Hays High, posted the idea about the Hays cruise night to his Facebook page, and the post went viral.
Organizers checked with the Hays Police Department to determine if such a gathering would be legal. It is legal and does not violate the governor's coronavirus orders as long as people stay 6 feet a part.
People are asked to stay in their cars and honor the governor's restriction of not gathering in groups of more than 10 people.
"At least we can get out of our houses and roll our windows down," he said.
Two downtown restaurants will offer specials during the cruise night. Tiger Burgers will offer a burger and fry special for $5.
Paisley Pear will be open and offer pizza and their evening appetizer menu. You are asked to call ahead at 785-621-4660. The Pear is offering curbside pickup or delivery.
Paisley Pear owner Shaun Musil said the cruise night is welcome ray of sunshine in all the doom and gloom of the coronavirus.
The Pear has had to lay off employees, and this will allow the business to give employees some hours.
"We want to let people know Main Street is still moving," he said. "This is not about me or the Paisley Pear. We want to let people know we are still here and we will be once this is all over with."
Sara Bloom, director of the Downtown Hays Development Corp., said times have been tough for downtown businesses since the coronavirus precautions began.
Although many downtown businesses will be closed during the event, it is a bright spot during this downturn.
"It is going to be great to see the streets filled with vehicles," she said.
Bloom said people are already asking if the event will be repeated the following weekend. There hasn't been an announcement on that yet.
However, Toepfer said he hopes to at least have another cruise night after the coronavirus threat is over, perhaps in the fall, so people can park, get out of their vehicles and talk.
DHDC is maintaining a special COVID-19 update page on its website. You can find up-to-date information on that page on businesses closings, businesses that are still open and offering special deals or services as well as community assistance for those in need.
Today, Toepfer is a mortgage broker, but he said he is looking forward to taking his 1968 Pontiac Catalina downtown with his wife and two children — a senior in high school and junior in college — to share a bit of his past.
"They have heard stories about [cruising]," Toepfer said of his kids. "They just kind of snicker. They don't have any idea of what I am talking about. Why would we do that when you could lay on your bed and look at your phone all night. Yeah, they don't get it."
Toepfer noted the cruise night is not a car show, and participants can drive whatever they want.
"You can drive your Suburban. You can drive your Camry. Bring the kids out," he said.
Hays is not the only community that is getting in on cruise fever.
WaKeeney had an impromptu cruise night on Sunday.
About 70 cars participated, said Cathy Albert, director of WaKeeney Travel and Tourism. Like the Hays event, the WaKeeney cruise night was spurred by a Facebook post.
Albert and her husband took a few laps around the cruise loop, which goes from First Federal to Barclay, turn right to the four lanes (U.S. 283) turn around at Conoco. This week's cruise will start at 8 p.m. Saturday.
"It was something fun with all the doom and gloom in the world today," she said.
She said the cruise was attended by students through senior citizens like the Alberts.
"It is amazing how people have picked up and come with all kids of fun things to do even though we are keeping social distancing," she said.
Local businesses in WaKeeney are also capitalizing on the event.
Dairy Queen will offer Dilly Bars for 50 cents Saturday night from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Just go through the drive-through or call and they will bring them out to you.
Jake and Chet's Cafe will also offer 50-cent sodas curbside.
Last weekend, WaKeeney also used its cruise night to collect non-perishable food items for those in need.
Russell also had a cruise night last weekend. The Dream Theater offered popcorn to go as a part of the event. The theater has been forced to close as a result of coronavirus.
The Hays Post was not able to determine as of the publication of this story if Russell organizers planned to repeat their cruise night.
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