By RICK BROWN Hub Staff Writer
Reposted from Kearney HUB (Saturday, July 20, 2013)
KEARNEY — As the years roll by, Central Nebraska Auto Club battles old age.
“It’s an evolutionary thing in our society, and it’s not unique to car clubs,” said Brad Kernick, president of the Cruise Nite steering committee and member of Central Nebraska Auto Club. “Look at fraternal organizations, service clubs — any of those kinds of things — it’s a constant battle to re-populate your group and keep it vibrant and energized.”
“It’s a controlled environment, and we can allow people to show off their cars in a safe way.”
Brad Kernick, head of Cruise Nite committee
Kernick paused during preparations for Cruise Nite to talk about the history — and evolution — of the club.
“We work hard at that,” he said of the constant efforts to keep Central Nebraska Auto Club relevant and alive. “It’s always something we need to be aware of, that we need to attract new members with new thoughts and new ideas and new energy.”
The major event of Cruise Nite, the Show & Shine featuring hundreds of classic, antique and restored vehicles, begins at noon today in downtown Kearney. Planning for Cruise Nite began seven months ago and continued throughout the year to help make Kearney’s largest event smooth and trouble free.
Presented by Central Nebraska Auto Club, the five-day celebration of everything automotive helps to put Kearney on the map, especially for classic car enthusiasts.
Kernick said the club has about 75 to 80 members.
Membership is open to anyone, not just owners of classic vehicles.
“The requirement is that you have an enjoyment of cars,” Kernick said. “It doesn’t mean you have to own a car. We have some members that don’t own a (classic) car because of their station in life, whether they’re just getting started and don’t have the money to buy a car or whether they’re later on in their lives and have gotten rid of their cars.”
He compared membership in Central Nebraska Auto Club with joining a card club.
“You’d better like to play cards,” Kernick laughed. “Our club is for people who thoroughly enjoy cars.”
Although most members are in their 50s and 60s, the club also has a sizable number of younger members.
“That’s very encouraging,” Kernick said.
Central Nebraska Auto Club emerged from the union of two clubs: Fort Kearny Antique Automobile Club and the Tri-5 Automobile Club. The antique club specialized in Model As and Model Ts.
“The Tri-5 club was made up of people who really enjoyed 1955, 1956 and 1957 cars,” Kernick said.
Memories of the merger get a little hazy over the years. Kernick said he wasn’t exactly sure of the date.
Corinne and Russell Howe started as members of Fort Kearny Antique Automobile Club.
“Dwight Bond was probably the originator of the club,” Corinne Howe said. “He got together with some other car cronies and organized the club.”
At the time, Corinne remembered that the club members had many Model A cars. The Howes joined the club about 1965.
“That’s not exact, but it’s pretty close,” she said of the date.
Members of Fort Kearney Antique Club often gathered to take trips and socialize.
“It was basically getting together once a month to talk about cars and then do some driving,” Corinne said. “I’m getting old enough that the memory gets fuzzy.”
Kernick compared Cruise Nite to baking cookies.
“Once you have the recipe, you kind of know what you need to do,” he said. “So we do that.”
The steering committee does the majority of the planning. Kernick said that when Cruise Nite rolls around, the other club members are very good about stepping up and helping with the various responsibilities of the event that draws thousands to Kearney each July.
For Kernick, Cruise Nite combines several of his interests.
“I have an incredible passion for cars,” he said. “I also have an incredible passion for Kearney, and I’ve also been involved with the chamber, the economic development committee and the visitor’s bureau. I like to be involved with things that help the economy and are good for the community,.”
Kernick also enjoys being with people, he said.
“Stir that all together in a bowl, and you come up with something like Cruise Nite,” he said. “Yeah, it’s a lot of work, but that’s OK.”