Roseburg’s first Graffiti Night Cruise happened on July 10, 1982 on Harvard Avenue. It was the brainchild of Richard Dickman who thought it would be fun to relive the 1950s when “draggin’ the gut” in the muscle cars was popular, and just hanging out on the strip.
Dickman mentioned the idea to some of the car clubs, who all liked the idea. They picked a date, and flyers were sent to the car clubs in the surrounding area.
“He was from Modesto where American Graffiti was filmed and he thought why don’t we try that here,” said Mary Zink, one of the original members of the Graffiti committee along with her husband Jack. “And look what’s happened.”
The Umpqua Flatheads Car Club was at the A & W restaurant, the Stray Angels Car Club was at Pete’s Drive-In and the Timberland Corvettes sold Graffiti Night T-shirts. Both restaurants helped with the costs.
The Corvette Club and a group of Model-T drivers met up at a place outside of the cruise route and all came in together. The organizers of that first cruise had no idea that it would explode into a huge event in Roseburg.
“We had no idea how it would go over,” Zink said. “It was overwhelming and we never dreamed it would start out that big, and what’s happened ever since has been just amazing.”
Any year and any type of vehicle could come to the cruise and there was no entry fee that first year. The turnout for both participants and spectators was beyond anything they could have imagined.
Roseburg Graffiti Weekend, now in its 37th year, draws as many as 900 cars into downtown Roseburg for the Saturday night cruise and the number of events during Graffiti Weekend has grown to 22 this year.
The Stray Angels Show-N-Shine was started on Sunday after the cruise in 1983, but the next year, it was changed to Saturday and has remained on that day. It gave those who came for the cruise a place to show their cars and socialize with other car owners. The first year of the Show-N-Shine, the event drew over 100 cars, and now it regularly draws over 600 vehicles to River Forks Park.
In 1985 the Cruise was moved to the downtown Roseburg, which presented a controlled environment so they could start limiting the number of vehicles in the cruise.
Most of the events are still free and family-friendly, which is the goal of the Graffiti Weekend committee. Contributions by local businesses are a big part of keeping it that way.
Zink says one key to the success of the event is that the car clubs work well together.
“The car clubs have to get along, and you have to have the support of the police, fire department and Chamber of Commerce,” Zink said.
Don Larsen has been a car buff since he was very young. He started with the Stray Angels Car Club when he was a sophomore in high school in 1958. He was one of the founders of Graffiti Weekend. He owns a 1910 Michigan car that’s been in Roseburg since 1911. He’s kept it unrestored and just maintains it.
“A gentleman by the name of Castle who lived out in Happy Valley bought the car and it came in on the rail in January of 1911,” Larsen said.
He also has a 1948 Plymouth, which he usually drives in the cruise. He recently added a 1942 Studebaker to his collection.
Larsen says people from all over the country put the event on their calendars and make Roseburg a regular stop in the summer. But he is most proud of the addition of visiting the care homes on Thursday during the Graffiti week, so that the elderly can view the cars in their own environment.
“We like to see the smiles on their faces when we bring the cars in,” Larsen said. “It’s just a neat thing to let the elders do this on their time and the Stray Angels are pretty proud of that.”
Many of the people who were there at the beginning of Graffiti Weekend are still a part of the celebration as the event comes to town for its 37th year in Roseburg.