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Nostalgic pastime returns, uniting the generations
The Gainesville Cruisers held their first ever reunion at Lakeshore Mall to recall bygone days of classic cars and cruising the city. Many who cruised the old West Bypass in town returned to the scene with their children. - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times

Gainesville’s young and old took a cruise down memory lane Saturday night for the first ever Gainesville cruisers reunion.

What started as a lingering idea in the mind of event organizer Nick James eventually turned into reality. And James wasn’t the only one who thought cruising down the west bypass like old times was long overdo.

After creating a Facebook page two months ago to determine the interest in a reunion, close to 3,000 former cruisers had joined in support of reuniting on their old stomping grounds.

James, a cruiser from 1984 to 1991, knew it was time to bring back together those with a common interest in cars, cruising and a good time.

“Gainesville needed a shot of life, and what better way than revive our cruising culture,” he said. “It will be great to see the streets full of people having fun again.”

Cruising history in Gainesville dates back to the 1950s and continued as a hobby for many Gainesville residents until the 1990s. The cruising routes varied throughout the years, including the Lakeshore Mall area that cruisers circled every night beginning in 1987. Local police got involved in the activity once business owners in the area began to complain about the presence of cruisers around store fronts.

After the commotion caused from the cruisers’ presence, cruising came to an end in the late 1990s. However, in 2006, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled all cruising ordinances unconstitutional and removed the ordinances from the books.

As a result, James and other cruisers hope to revive the long-lost lifestyle that was so greatly enjoyed by many Gainesville residents throughout the years.

“This was such a great part of my life when I was younger. I couldn’t wait to get back out here and relive a piece of it,” said Arty Phann, a cruiser in the 1980s who remembered his nights driving along the West Bypass like it was yesterday.

Phann recalled the talks and fun he had while driving with his friends and the excitement of being able to carry on those conversations at the restaurant where they would stop to eat.

“We would cruise then stop and get a bite to eat somewhere along our route. We really got to get out and enjoy Gainesville. We built some really good friendships doing this,” he said.

Phann’s three children were along for Saturday’s cruise, making the reunion a family affair.

Crusing wasn’t the only thing on the agenda at the reunion.

The night included a canned food drive and a school supply collection drive as well.

Phann’s sentiments about the night echoed James’ with the hopes that this would be one of many more events to come.

“This is a real community event,” he said. “We’re out to experience the cruising we loved so much again, and we’re getting to help others in the process. It’s going to be a really good night, and I hope my family and I can make this a tradition.”