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For some it’s about remembering yesteryear — cheap gas and idle hands led to draggin’ Main. For others, it’s about being social in a time of social distancing guidelines and limits on how large of a group (10 people or less) can gather at a time.
“It is one of the last things we can all be doing while observing social distancing,” said Beth Usselman, a regular cruiser turned organizer. “It is extremely important. There are so many things we can’t do as a community. ... You can shout out to your friends while you are driving, wave and smile [on Saturday night].”
Saturday nights are again for cruising Newton’s Main Street. There are people coming out in costumes and people lining up on the streets to see all the cars. Most of them are finding a way to be social in the face of COVID-19, a pandemic virus that has swept the globe and led to social restrictions.
Usselman founded a Facebook group called “Newton Covid19 Cruising,” created to help organize a weekly cruise that currently boasts more than 350 members.
The cruise is set for 7 to 8:30 p.m. each Saturday. Cars turn around at the north and south Sonic locations, or any place in between.
The group’s “About Us” section states “Cruising Main Street is a great way to get out of the house and practice social distancing.” The Facebook helps get people communicating and organized.
“We can talk about issues, like whether to go through Sonic or not — there’s the danger of running over a carhop and noise for people ordering.” Usselman said. ”There is a discussion of doing a cruise for Newton High School seniors who are graduating. We are thinking about doing it the following weekend for the eighth graders.“
So far, there has been no move by the city of Newton or the Newton Police Department to curtail the cruise night.
“We at the Newton Police Department believe that this type of social interaction, at a safe distance of course, is necessary to fight the cabin fever we are all feeling,” wrote the Newton Police Department on its Facebook page on Saturday.
The department also encouraged safe driving by participants. It listed speeding, racing and “excessive acceleration” (burnouts) as activities that could result in a ticket for the driver.
“Also, unless the CDC suddenly determines tire smoke cures COVID-19, no burnouts will be allowed on city streets,” the department wrote.
According to the police department, those activities have led to other communities and police departments to shut down community cruise nights.
All of those activities are also against the “Newton Covid19 Cruising” group rules — rules that also ask for participants to observe social distancing guidelines of staying at least six feet apart.
“We have no intention of stopping this cruise but continued complaints about unsafe driving may cause us to reconsider,” the department wrote. “Please drive safe, wave to the other cars, and wash your hands when you get home.”