Community relishes Cruise Night in Pratt

Jennifer Stultz
All types of vehicles cruise Main and First streets in Pratt on Sunday evening, as more than 250 drivers took part in Pratt Cruise Night 2020. The event was organized to give people something fun to do while paying heed to social distancing and CDC directives to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

For many Pratt and surrounding-area residents, Sunday evening's Cruise Night down Main and First streets in Pratt was a chance to take a deep breath, let off a little steam, de-stress and just have fun waving at friends and neighbors. An undetermined number of people were in an estimated 250 vehicles, out dragging the streets of Pratt as they enjoyed the street sounds of car motors revving, horns honking, friends shouting and tunes playing on radios.

"It was just great to have a chance to get out and enjoy ourselves," said Kelsey Polok, who was cruising with her daughter Oakley in grandpa Dale Wither's '61 Corvair. "We've all been so tense about this coronavirus thing, it was awesome to get out and enjoy the evening with friends, even though we couldn't get close to them."

Pratt's Cruise Night 2020, from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., included several added features, like a food drive, song requests and name that tune contests with KMMM AM 1290, curbside popcorn from the Barron Theater, call-ahead drinks at Simply Southwest, discounted Waky Pack meals at Sonic and Pratt Area Chamber of Commerce Chamber Bucks prizes.

"We really had only one rule, stay inside your car and enjoy the cruise," said event organizer Yadira Garcia-Pedroza.

Pedroza, along with Linda Broce who helped coordinate the Gamma Beta food drive, said the event was successful beyond expectations.

"It seemed like people really enjoyed it and were glad to get out of the house and do something 'together' in a unique way," Broce said.

Gamma Beta ladies were stationed curbside in front of Hello Beautiful, where they accepted more than 160 canned goods and non-perishable food items, in gloved hands, from cruisers as they went by. The food items will be donated to the Pratt County Food Bank.

"The whole event was just amazing," Pedroza said. "The turnout was better than I expected, just all-in-all pretty exciting. We are not used to not being able to go out and do what we want, not getting together, so this event was just very special. It gave people hope that as a community, we will pull through this thing."

Pedroza said the idea to have a Pratt Cruise Night was mentioned on her Facebook group Pratt Neighbors Helping Neighbors, and it just took off from there.

"I asked for ideas and people just kept coming up with more and more great ideas. It really just took off, and I was so happy for all the support we got from different people and businesses in the community," she said.

When Kansas Governor Laura Kelly issued a stay-at-home statement concerning the spread of the coronavirus in the state, the day before the planned cruise night, many had questions about whether continuing the event as planned was a good idea.

"We had some changes that were understandable," Pedroza said. "Above all, we just wanted to people to be safe. In the end it all worked out just great."

Pedroza said she felt like crying because of the way the community came together in support of each other during this trying time.

"The support of the city fire department just filled my heart," she said. "And when I saw teacher Crystal Newby (USD 382 preschool) out there parked on the side, with posters telling her kids she missed them, that was special."

Pedroza said that many were wondering if there would be another Pratt Cruise Night in the future.

"We will have to wait until after April 19, but I'm sure we are all going to be tired of being cooped up in quarantine after 30 days," she said. "Maybe we can feature other businesses next time and find more ways to help our small businesses. This first event just showed how our community can come together. It was an awesome feeling."

Pedroza credited her Facebook group friends and Anel Cox with helping organize and get the word out about the March 29 cruise event. The prescribed route started at Ampride on South Main Street, went to the 4-way stop light, turned right on First Street, went to a loop around Sonic, back up First Street to the 4-way stop, turned right on North Main to a turnaround at the Pratt Community Center, then back on North Main and continued through the 4-way stop, down South Main Street to Ampride again.