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Midnight Cruisers

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For the past 11 years, the Midnight Cruisers has grown in size but has stayed a close-knit group of classic car enthusiasts.

"We're one big happy family," Lloyd Thompson, Detroit Lakes, said. "It started out as a handful of people. We've grown to several handfuls."

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Each Wednesday from May 1 through September of October (depending on the weather), the group meets at 6:30 p.m. at Classics Auto Repair and Restoration, located on Highway 59 South at the old Ranch Amusement Park property. The first Wednesday of the month, they leave their classics parked in the lot and have a Show and Shine. The remaining Wednesdays, they meet and then drive together to a pre-determined location for dinner.

"Anyone who sees us during the Show and Shine (from the highway) is welcome to stop in," Kit Nelson, Vergas, said.

Although it's not a requirement to be in their group, many of their cars are from the 1950s. Some even have garages full of '50s memorabilia.

"It's nostalgic in reliving our childhood. When we get together, we're all 19," Nelson said with a laugh.

One big difference between this car group and others is just that, they're a group, not a club. There are no officers, and there are no dues. Most of them are members of the Minnesota Street Rod Association though.

Lee Swanson, Detroit Lakes, said they've seen discord in other organizations where some want the power, but not them.

"We're the un-club," Nelson agreed.

The group sits down twice a year to plan the upcoming six months. This summer, besides the Show and Shine, they will be traveling to various locations throughout the area on Wednesdays. Some of the public locations to view the cars at include June 9: Sandbar; June 30: 917 (the former Avenue restaurant in Detroit Lakes); Aug. 11: Shorewood Pub; Aug. 25: Sunlite; Sept. 8: Billy's in Vergas; Sept. 15: Show and Shine potluck; Sept. 22: Zorbaz in Detroit Lakes; Sept. 29: Playtime in Perham. More information can be found at http://autos.groups.yahoo.com/group/DLMidnightCruisers.

Each fall, the car group hosts a fall foliage tour, where they drive 150 miles one day in October to see the leaves changing. They've gone to Maplewood State Park and Itasca State Park, and try to change destinations each year.

"Last year was the only one there's been rain," Diane Thompson said.

The trip is open to anyone, whether they drive a classic car or not.

They also road trip down to St. Paul each June for the Back to the '50s celebration at the state fairgrounds, and this year they are planning a cruise to Ashland, Wis., over the July 4 weekend.

On the trips they take in the sites and any car shows in the area.

In 2006, some even started Route 66 in Chicago and drove all the way to the end in Los Angeles, then back home to Minnesota. A different year, a group drove in the Hot Rod Power Tour, a 3,300-mile drive from Little Rock, Ark., through Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

"We're doing things we couldn't afford at (age) 20," Swanson said.

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