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Queen City Cruise purrs on all cylinders

Get ready for the 2017 Nelson Road Kings Queen City Cruise, Saturday on Baker Street in Nelson. — The Nelson Daily file photo

For the former president of the Nelson Road Kings Automobile club, it makes perfect sense to tie in this year’s Queen City Cruise with the end of Nelson’s Art Walk season.

“To my mind, they’re works of art,” says  Mike Keegan of the 400-plus cars that will be on display on Baker Street this weekend in the Heritage City.

Celebrating its 15th year, the annual Nelson Road Kings Queen City Cruise will bring vehicles from as far away as Saskatchewan and the western U.S.. Car enthusiasts, builders, restorers and dreamers will gather to talk shop, admire their creations, buy from each other and socialize.

“We always have a variety, every year we draw people from different areas,” says the current president, Jack Chambers.  “This year we’ve had a lot of interest come from Edmonton and other towns in northern Alberta, for some reason.”

No matter who shows up, there’ll be plenty to see and do.

The 15th incarnation of the Cruise will have a poker run, the parade to the bridge, a steam-powered equipment display, and some new vendors, including a ‘man-cave’ specialist, who has car-related signs, collectibles and memorabilia for garages and basement refuges. There’ll be so many vendors this year, Chambers says they’re trying to figure out how to fit everyone in on the show’s main venue, Baker Street.

Then there’s the entertainment. The Queen City Cruise will have music throughout the event, including street performance by an Elvis impersonator on Friday afternoon at the Chamber of Commerce, and a Neil Diamond impersonator at a local bar. Co-ordinating with the Nelson and District Arts Council, there’ll be a street dance with Sydney Black and Her Boyfriends to mark the end of ArtWalk 2017 on the Hall St. Plaza on Friday evening.

But for Chambers, the focus is always on the vehicles themselves.

“I look forward to the variety of cars we have,” says Chambers, who’ll be bringing his 1966 Beaumont Sports Deluxe convertible to the show.  “A few years ago we had an old Greyhound bus that had been  camper-ized. It was totally unique.

“I had a call this morning, a fellow from the coast is coming up with a 40-year-old camper van. He’ll be here for the show. I’m kind of interested in seeing that.”

In fact, Chambers says it’s the flexibility of the show’s rules that’s contributed to its popularity across western Canada and the western US.

“We see all kinds of cars,” he says. “We see hot rods to exotics. That’s one thing about our show- if it’s mechanical, and it’s a car, we want it in. If you think it’s worth showing, come and show it.”

Chambers says that popularity also means the Queen City Cruise has a king-sized impact on the local economy.  All those folks coming here for the weekend stay in hotels, eat in restaurants, and explore the surrounding area, dropping money as they go.

“It’s huge,” he says. “We don’t have any scientific studies, but over weekend we draw 9-10,000 thousand people into the downtown area of Nelson. We’re probably the biggest event in the East and West Kootenay outside of Shambhala.”

With about 100 members, the Road Kings’ roots go back to early hot-rodders in Nelson back in the 60s.  But Elvis is long dead, few people under 40 know who Neil Diamond is, and the days of gas-powered cars are likely numbered. So does the hobby have a future?

“You see older guys who have come to the show for years, and they still come” says former club president Keegan. “But now they’re coming with their sons, or grandsons, and they’re working on cars together. And there are a lot of young people getting into the hobby. So yeah, I think it has a great future.”

The event kicks off Friday, September 8 with pre-registration at the Chamber of Commerce at the old CPR station. The trophies and prizes will be handed out at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at the corner of Josephine and Baker.