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Behind the Wheel of the C.F. Cruise-In Car Show

CARS & CAMARADERIE. Deb and Russ Thill have been auto lovers for most of their lives, their passion the force behind Chippewa Falls' Cruise-In Car Show. (Cruise-In Car Show photo, Thill's Plymouth Barracuda cut out)

CARS & CAMARADERIE. Deb and Russ Thill have been auto lovers for most of their lives, and their passion the force behind Chippewa Falls’ Cruise-In Car Show. (Background: The Cruise-In Car Show along Bridge Street. Foreground: The Thills’ Plymouth Barracuda.)

If you never ask, you’ll never know. In that line of thinking, if Debi Thill never asked Teri Ouimette about collaborating, downtown Chippewa Falls would never have had the Cruise-In Car Show! Since its kickoff year in 2017, the number of fellow auto enthusiasts who pull up their rides for the Cruise-In Car Show has more than tripled, and the event has become a favorite for local business owners and community members as well as tourists.

Locals Deb and Russ Thill have had a lifetime of experience in the auto scene, starting in their youths, wide-eyed and mesmerized. “My husband always had cool cars, but when I was young, my family didn’t. I remember going past Wagner’s (Lanes) and there was a Superbird there in the lot and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, what is that?’ ” Deb recalled.

Over the course of four decades, Deb and Russ have seen their fair share of car shows throughout the region. From regularly piling their kids into a car and heading out across the Midwest to shows as a family, to Russ’s self-taught passion and hobby of restoring cars, to running the Eau Claire Burger King auto shows up until this past spring, the duo has dabbled in a variety of auto culture corners. Heck, they even fell in love doing it. 

Russ and Deb Thill with their Dodge Challengers. (Submitted photos)

Russ and Deb Thill with their Dodge Challengers. (Submitted photos)

“My husband and I met at a Burger King (car show) when I was, oh, about 18 – so around 44 years ago. We met, (then) never saw each other again until I was 26,” Debi said. “Eight-and-a-half weeks later, we were married. We fell in love with each other and did so over cars; we had matching 1973 Dodge Challengers.”

Though the Thills personally lean toward classic cars and trucks – the two main cars featured on the Cruise-In’s event flyer belong to them! – the Cruise-In Car Show was created for everyone to enjoy. For participants in the car show, there is no submission price, official judging, or year restriction for any vehicle. 

For admirers, there’s no fee to access the show – North Bridge Street in downtown Chippewa Falls gets closed off for the annual show – and some folks get gussied up in era-style clothing for fun, while others swap car-related stories, and people of all ages can be seen weaving through the crowd.

PEOPLE THROUGH GENERATIONS COME TOGETHER (OVER THEIR LOVE OF CARS).

I mean, I have kids in their twenties and they hang out with others their age at the show. We have old muscle and new muscle; old sports cars and new sports cars. We really need to provide those places for camaraderie between the old and new generations.

DEB THILL

CRUISE-IN CAR SHOW CO-FOUNDER & ORGANIZER

“People through generations come together (over their love of cars). I mean, I have kids in their twenties and they hang out with others their age at the show. We have old muscle and new muscle; old sports cars and new sports cars. We really need to provide those places for camaraderie between the old and new generations,” Deb said. “It’s amazing how separate we are, but yet when you come together over something like this, it’s really fun and there’s respect for each other.”

Area businesses enjoy the Cruise-In as well, Deb said, the community’s merchants benefitting from the event. “What I love about our car show compared to others is all the foot traffic,” she explained. “When the show comes to Chippewa Falls, you can hardly see the cars there are so many people wandering around.”

Prior to the Cruise-In Car Show’s inaugural year, Deb approached Teri Ouimette, director of Chippewa Falls Main Street, about the potential to bring such a car show to downtown Chippewa Falls. Teri was on board right away. Downtown C.F. has a certain kind of old-school, classic flair that hasn’t gone away despite the many openings and closings of businesses and the changing landscape around it over the decades. When vintage cars are lined up down the block,  you can almost take a step into a previous era of the historic community.

In its initial years, the car show brought in around 50 cars. Now, the show garners roughly 225 cars and draws hundreds of people for the event, which features a car parade that Deb runs – literally (she runs alongside the slow-moving cars during the parade to guide them).

Russ, admittedly the softer-spoken half of the duo, taught himself about the outside and inside of cars, fixing up and remodeling his fair share of rides over the years. Locals may remember one year of Paint the Town Pink when a pink ’57 Chrysler New Yorker was on display. It was a project from the heart, Russ restoring the classic muscle car in commemoration of his dad. Russ named it Not His Daddy’s New Yorker.

And while the duo passed the reins of the Burger King car shows over about a year ago, Deb said she just can’t let go of the Cruise-In. “God’s blessed us with being able to do things for others and it’s been a great ride. I hope we can do it for years and years to come,” she said. 

This year, there are four Cruise-In Car Show dates: Saturday, May 18, from 4-8pm; Saturday, June 15, from 4-8pm; Saturday, July 20, from 4-8pm; Saturday, Aug. 10, from 2-6pm. From vintage and classic cars to muscle, to motorcycle and rat rods, plus music and camaraderie, you won’t want to miss out.

Russ Thill and Not His Daddy's New Yorker.

Russ Thill and Not His Daddy’s New Yorker.


Keep up with Chippewa Falls Main Street, the main promoter for the Cruise-In Car Show, on Facebook.



This article was originally published by a volumeone.org . Read the Original article here. .

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