Turning leaves herald the arrival of the last Cruise-In to Hope event of 2021 at 5 p.m. this Friday on the Hope town Square, which will also be a celebration of what organizers say has turned out to be the event’s most successful season so far.

“We had the biggest turnout in the history of Hope cruise-ins at the July event,” says Jason Eckart, chairman of the cruise-in committee. “We had 122 cars and it was the most active the town Square has been during a cruise-in.”

Eckart says the coupling of the event with Hope’s Old Fashioned Independence Day celebration and fireworks certainly played a role in the increased attendance.

“There were a lot of activities going on due to the fireworks on the town Square, as well,” Eckart adds. “So it was a real family-friendly event and a very good time.”

The theme of Friday’s cruise-in is a nod to 70s and 80s rock and roll with the event debut of local band Ragtop Deluxe on the bandstand. This will be the first Hope cruise-in that a rock and roll band has played, Eckart says, adding that previous bands covered 80s rock, but haven’t been what one might consider an official rock band.

“Ragtop Deluxe will be welcomed with open arms to the cruise-in,” Eckart says. “I think they’ll rock. It is going to be super fun.”

Children of the 1980s and those who hold a special spot in their heart for 80s rock and glam bands are encouraged to dress the part, says Matt Lee, executive director of Main Street of Hope.

“There will be a costume contest,” he says.

And though organizers are hoping for a motley crew of 80s rock-inspired big hair fashion and regalia, Lee says occasional Bee Gees and Zeppelins are also welcome.

Making its own debut at the event is the Columbus-based Hillbilly’s BBQ food truck, which will offer a bit of everything from burgers and tenderloins to BBQ, Lee says.

Businesses around the Square, including WILLow LeaVes of Hope and Cornett’s Corner Café, will also remain open extended hours that evening with dinner specials, Lee adds.

After the success of their appearance last month, the Columbus Icemen are also returning with their puck shooting competition, Eckart says.

“They had such a fun time they are coming back this month,” Eckart says. “How it works is you donate a little bit of money to them and you get to shoot some hockey pucks and they give you a voucher for a free ice cream cone, which is donated by Mark at Cornett’s Corner Café.”

As with previous cruise-ins, vintage cars and trucks will begin arriving on the Square during the 4 p.m. hour, Eckart says. There is a $10 donation ask at time of registration, Eckart adds. At the end of the evening, 50 percent of the proceeds will go to this month’s chosen organization, the Hope Ministerial Association, and the other half will be used to cover event costs and pay the band, Eckart adds.

Looking back on the season, Eckart and Lee agree they couldn’t ask for better.

The average cars participating have consistently been round 80 per show, Eckart says.

Lee says he hopes to expand the event a bit next year to involve more area communities. Recently, he’s started discussions with Greensburg’s Main Street organization about possibly doing a cruise-in ride, he says.

“So the way it would work is we would get with Main Street Shelbyville and Main Street Greensburg and each of the three would do a cruise-in at a different time on a Saturday,” Lee explains. “It would be separate from the cruise-ins we are already doing here. A Saturday morning from 9 a.m. to noon it would be a breakfast cruise-in in Shelbyville, a lunch cruise-in in Hope, and there would be a dinner cruise-in in Greensburg. So for each town they will be able to promote it as their own cruise-in, but for the cars it would be a ride for them as they go town to town to town.”

Although it is still in the planning stages, Lee says it is an event he is actively working to “put wheels on.”

However, for now, all eyes are on the Square this Friday for what is sure to be a great time and closing for the 2021 cruise-in season.

As happens at every cruise-in, there will be awards given for Oldest Car, People’s Choice, and Band’s Favorite Car, Eckart says.

With the consistent growth and continued success of the year’s cruise-ins, Eckart and Lee look forward to continuing to develop the event next year.

Each cruise-in brings more vintage vehicles and visitors from further away, Eckart says. It is a trend he hopes continues.

“I hope that we can grow the event,” Eckart says. “And make it something where people come from all over the state to be there.”