Flint, MI—A missed sense of normalcy swept over downtown Flint this past week as Back to the Bricks, perhaps the city’s most popular event, returned for the 17th time–after a two-year absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

All week long, Saginaw street was flooded with classic cars and cruises as participants took part in events around Flint and surrounding areas. The week kicked off with ‘Night at the speedway’ inside the Birch Run Speedway. There, participants got to show off their car’s looks and power with the goal of being voted best of the night.

Kicking off the Back to the Bricks main event week, car owners and enthusiasts pulled up to Birch Run Speedway in Birch Run, Mich. for the Cruise N’ Car Show on Monday, August 16, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)

The following day, on Tuesday, Back to the Bricks held its annual drive-in event where hundreds gathered to watch the 2003 remake of The Italian Job at the US 23 Drive-in Theatre.

Wednesday gave everyone a sneak peek of what was to come on Saturday as thousands of cars cruised down Saginaw street in Flint, with a line stretching well into parts of Grand Blanc and Burton. Dr. Bobby Makkumala, the event’s Official Grand Marshal, ushered in the celebration during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the historic Factory One, where he was joined by Nascar driver Erik Jones.

The rest of the week saw a steady flow of impromptu cruises that lit up downtown Flint with headlamps and brake lights well into the night. From four-bangers to roaring V8s, the echoes of pedals being put to the metal could be heard from miles away.

After five nights of seemingly continuous cruising, main event day came. A crowd of thousands descended upon downtown Flint to ogle at the unbroken chain of cars stretching throughout downtown Saginaw Street.

Hundreds of cars join the Rolling Cruise event on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. The Rolling Cruise is part of the Back to the Bricks main event week, and cars traveled up and down Saginaw Street from Flint to Grand Blanc. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)

A DJ blasted classic rock all day long as everything from 90cc motorcycles to milk trucks to Bentleys sat parked on the sides of the street. Buicks, Studebackers, Packards, Cadillacs, Fords and many more all made their appearances as well.

As much as Back to the Bricks is touted to be an event for all, the people most happy to be there were car-owners themselves.

One man, Alex Ornelas from Saginaw, brought out his 1963 Chevrolet Impala. Ornelas, who styled his car as a low-rider and fitted it with the hydraulics to live up to the name, had been attending Back to the Bricks for years.

“I know everyone has to be careful with what’s going on right now with COVID but I think it’s been a great time with a great turnout. I think people were just excited to get back together and just see the world be normal again,” Ornelas said.

Ornela’s who’s Impala was shined, polished, and chromed to the nines said the only modification left to do was install air conditioning.

Though the festivities in downtown Flint continued past dusk, most vehicles were gone by 6 p.m.

Amber Taylor, executive director of Back to the Bricks, said attendance to this year’s event was down about 25 percent. Taylor said she thought the Canadian border being closed played a large part in attendance being down as she heard the historic Dream Cruise on Woodward Avenue in Detroit happening that same day had also been experiencing a drop in attendance.

Still, those who came, like Ornelas, were able to enjoy a cloudless and sunny summer day that allowed his polished chrome to shine all the brighter.

He even got to run into a few old friends.

“I saw a lot of the same groups of people I’ve seen in years past. I’ve ran into a lot of guys that I haven’t seen in over two years. It was good to run into old friends while I was here.”

Bill Lawson, 72, of Burton, stands beside his lifelong dream car, a 1981 Corvette at the Cruise N’ Car Show at the Birch Run Speedway in Birch Run, Mich. on Monday, Aug. 23, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Kicking off the Back to the Bricks main event week, car owners and enthusiasts pulled up to Birch Run Speedway in Birch Run for the Cruise N’ Car Show on Monday August 16, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
A Dukes of Hazard Dodge Charger Hot Wheels car inside of a red Dodge Charger at the Cruise N’ Car Show at the Birch Run Speedway in Birch Run on Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Hundreds of cars join the Rolling Cruise event on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. The Rolling Cruise is part of the Back to the Bricks main event week, and cars traveled up and down Saginaw Street form Flint to Grand Blanc. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Dave Martin (third from left), 63, of Flint Township, chats with onlookers admiring his 1961 Ramp Side Pick-up Chevrolet Corvair. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Kicking off the Back to the Bricks main event week, car owners and enthusiasts pulled up to Birch Run Speedway in Birch Run for the Cruise N’ Car Show on Monday August 16, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Muskrat (who would not reveal his true name), 66, of Flint perches on the back of his 1991 Cadillac Brougham Hearse, his daily driver about 6-7 days a week. The Cadillac is one of two hearses that Muskrat owns. He said sometimes people are scared to go in the hearse, to which he replies “How many people have died in a hearse? None. How many people die in an ambulance? I don’t know why people are more afraid of a hearse than an ambulance.” Muskrat is part of a larger community of hearse lovers, the Just Hearsin’ Around Hearse Club, based out of Hell, Michigan. Muskrat was one of many car enthusiasts at the Cruise N’ Car Show at the Birch Run Speedway in Birch Run, Mich. on Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Kicking off the Back to the Bricks main event week, car owners and enthusiasts pulled up to Birch Run Speedway in for the Cruise N’ Car Show on Monday August 16, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Kicking off the Back to the Bricks main event week, car owners and enthusiasts pulled up to Birch Run Speedway in for the Cruise N’ Car Show on Monday August 16, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Cruise N’ Car show attendees look under the wheel of the “Big Ass Truck” at the Birch Run Speedway on Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. The event was the first of the Back to the Bricks main event week events.
Car owners gather around the awards ceremony at the Cruise N’ Car show where the top 5 voted cars won a Back to the Bricks plaque at the Birch Run Speedway on Aug. 16, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Cars cruise around the track at the Birch Run Speedway at the end of the Cruise N’ Car Show, the first of the Back to the Bricks main event week events on Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
The 2021 Back to the Bricks Official Grand Marshal Dr. Bobby Mukkamala participates in a ribbon-cutting ceremony with Michigan native NASCAR driver Erik Jones, Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley, and the Executive Director of Back to the Bricks, Amber Taylor before the Rolling Cruise on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
People take cell phone photos of the Official Grand Marshal of the 2021 Back to the Bricks event, Dr. Bobby Mukkamala (right) standing with his family before beginning the Rolling Cruise down Saginaw Street on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Hundreds of cars join the Rolling Cruise event on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. The Rolling Cruise is part of the Back to the Bricks main event week, and cars traveled up and down Saginaw Street form Flint to Grand Blanc. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
George Levas, a Vietnam War Medic Veteran from Flint, watches the Rolling Cruise, part of the Back to the Bricks main events, in downtown Flint on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. Levas used to bring his cars to Back to the Bricks, but now he prefers just being a spectator. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Hundreds of cars join the Rolling Cruise event on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. The Rolling Cruise is part of the Back to the Bricks main event week, and cars traveled up and down Saginaw Street form Flint to Grand Blanc. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Cars approach downtown Flint during the Rolling Cruise on Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021. The Rolling Cruises are part of the Back to the Bricks main event week. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
LaSheila Darden, 55, of Flint sits on the back of her fathers 1962 Chevrolet Impala on the side of South Saginaw Street while she watches the Rolling Cruise, part of the Back to the Bricks main event week on Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
A group of friends watch the Rolling Cruise on South Saginaw Street from their lawn chairs on Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021. The group always sets up a picnic area for the Back to the Bricks events every year.
Gene Braylock, 62, of Flint poses with his 1983 Buick Riviera, one of 11,000 in the world during one of the Rolling Cruises for the Back to the Bricks main event week on Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021. Braylock is part of the Soft Tops Club, a convertible car club. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Spectators line South Saginaw Street as hundreds of cars join the Rolling Cruise event on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. The Rolling Cruise is part of the Back to the Bricks main event week, and cars traveled up and down Saginaw Street form Flint to Grand Blanc. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
A sign with rules for the Rolling Cruise blinks various messages during the Back to the Bricks main event week. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Hundreds of cars join the Rolling Cruise event on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. The Rolling Cruise is part of the Back to the Bricks main event week, and cars traveled up and down Saginaw Street form Flint to Grand Blanc. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Ryan Anneschenslui, 10, of Grand Blanc, pets a dog near a barbeque stand on South Saginaw Street during the Rolling Cruise on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Children run across South Saginaw Street to ask to take a photo in front of a Lamborghini during the Back to the Bricks Rolling Cruise on Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Hundreds of cars join the Rolling Cruise event on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. The Rolling Cruise is part of the Back to the Bricks main event week, and cars traveled up and down Saginaw Street form Flint to Grand Blanc. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Passengers sit in truck beds as they participate in the Rolling Cruise on South Saginaw Street in Flint on Aug. 19, 2021, during the Back to the Bricks main event week. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Flint native and long time Back to the Bricks attendee Larry Simpson, 62, lives around the corner from South Saginaw Street and drove his truck over to watch the Rolling Cruise on Aug. 19, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Hundreds of vehicles join the Rolling Cruise event on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. The Rolling Cruise is part of the Back to the Bricks main event week, and cars traveled up and down Saginaw Street form Flint to Grand Blanc. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Hundreds of cars join the Rolling Cruise event on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. The Rolling Cruise is part of the Back to the Bricks main event week, and cars traveled up and down Saginaw Street form Flint to Grand Blanc. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Boris Shean, 52, (left) and Lavelle Burns, 49, both of Flint, watch the Back to the Bricks Rolling Cruise from the sidewalk on Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Gina Knuckles, 48, of Flint, sits inside her 1968 Buick Electra that she happened upon in 2010. She bought it because she loved the color. Knuckles was parked on South Saginaw Street in Flint watching the Rolling Cruise go by. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Hundreds of cars join the Rolling Cruise event on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. The Rolling Cruise is part of the Back to the Bricks main event week, and cars traveled up and down Saginaw Street form Flint to Grand Blanc. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Passengers sit in truck beds as they participate in the Rolling Cruise on South Saginaw Street in Flint on Aug. 19, 2021, during the Back to the Bricks main event week. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Friends OJ Jackson, 52, Rahim Woodson, 50, and Lawren Muray, 52, all of Flint, have been attending Back to the Bricks “as long as they can remember.” The group watches the Rolling Cruise pass by on South Saginaw Street in Flint as part of the Back to the Bricks main event week on Thursday, Aug 19, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Hundreds of cars join the Rolling Cruise event on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. The Rolling Cruise is part of the Back to the Bricks main event week, and cars traveled up and down Saginaw Street form Flint to Grand Blanc. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Hundreds of cars join the Rolling Cruise event on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. The Rolling Cruise is part of the Back to the Bricks main event week, and cars traveled up and down Saginaw Street form Flint to Grand Blanc. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Cars pull out of the Sunoco on Saginaw Street in Flint to enter the Rolling Cruise on Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Mike Smith, 30, of Flint, pumps gas into his motorcycle during the Rolling Cruise, part of the Back to the Bricks main event week, on Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Hundreds of cars join the Rolling Cruise event on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. The Rolling Cruise is part of the Back to the Bricks main event week, and cars traveled up and down Saginaw Street form Flint to Grand Blanc. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Joseph Massie, 29, of Flint, sits on his friend Kari’s 1970 Dodge Charger with a puppy from his dogs litter, Blue during the Back to the Bricks car show in downtown Flint on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Kari Young, 28, of Flint, sits on his 1970 Dodge Charger that he bought two months ago with his friend Joseph’s puppy Blue during the Back to the Bricks car show on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021. This is Young’s first yera bringing his own car to Back to the Bricks. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Jeremy Wright, 19, and Anastasia Willhelm, 19, both of Flint, celebrate their birthdays at the Back to the Bricks car show in downtonw Flint on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
The Reflections play at the Cruise N’ Car show on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021 as part of the Back to the Bricks main event week in downtown Flint. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Hundreds of cars line Saginaw Street in downtown Flint for the Back to the Bricks Car Show on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Ma Mang owner Tony Vu watches the Back to the Bricks car show activities on Saginaw Street from a rooftop on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Hundreds of cars line Saginaw Street in downtown Flint for the Back to the Bricks Car Show on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Hundreds of cars line Saginaw Street in downtown Flint for the Back to the Bricks Car Show on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Boris Porras originally from Miami but now of Flint, reparks his 1978 Lincoln Continental after the Back to the Bricks car show event ends in downtown Flint on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Flint’s Director of Placemaking, Kady Yellow, looks through the window of a Lincoln Continental at the end of the Back to the Bricks car show on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
An antique Flint Fire Department truck is parked in downtown Flint for the Back to the Bricks main event week on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Saginaw Street in downtown Flint is blocked off for the Back to the Bricks car show where hundreds of cars were parked along the road and car enthusiasts gawked at the shiny, unique, cars on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Saginaw Street in downtown Flint is blocked off for the Back to the Bricks car show where hundreds of cars were parked along the road and car enthusiasts gawked at the shiny, unique, cars on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Saginaw Street in downtown Flint is blocked off for the Back to the Bricks car show where hundreds of cars were parked along the road and car enthusiasts gawked at the shiny, unique, cars on Saturday Aug. 21, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Wolf Hound sniffing a baby. Saginaw Street in downtown Flint is blocked off for the Back to the Bricks car show where hundreds of cars were parked along the road and car enthusiasts gawked at the shiny, unique, cars on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Vendors are scattered throughout downtown Flint for the Back to the Bricks car show on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Saginaw Street in downtown Flint is blocked off for the Back to the Bricks car show where hundreds of cars were parked along the road and car enthusiasts gawked at the shiny, unique, cars on Saturday Aug. 21, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Back to the Bricks attendees look at a dragster car in the flat lot in downtown Flint on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Bruce Belvins drives a car off of the flat lot in downtown Flint after the end of the official Back to the Bricks events on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Jody Cramer of Flint, walks shirtless downtown during the Back to the Bricks car show where temperatures were soaring on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021.
Saginaw Street in downtown Flint is blocked off for the Back to the Bricks car show where hundreds of cars were parked along the road and car enthusiasts gawked at the shiny, unique, cars on Saturday Aug. 21, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Tom Troupe, 43, of Goodrich, Mich. sits in his newly acquired 1928 Ford Coupe Rat Rod during the Back to the Bricks Car Show on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021. Troupe is a lifelong Back to the Bricks goer, he was excited to have a chance to be at an event after so many were cancelled due to COVID-19 last year. (KT Kanazawich | Flint BeaT)
Alex Ornelas of Saginaw, in his 1963 Chevrolet Impala during the Back to the Bricks car show on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)

Santiago Ochoa

Santiago Ochoa is Flint Beat's Latinx Community reporter. He is always looking to write about anything Flint or Latinx. He especially enjoys investigative reporting and human-interest stories. A communications...

2 replies on “Thousands attend the first Back to the Bricks since COVID-19”

  1. I did NOT go to the car show because the owners of all those prehistoric jalopies of junk are so mean and rotten to folks. Their extremely old rides behave better than them. They will not let anyone, except news media folks, sit in their old junk piles that look like new. If you put one puny finger on the vehicle, they get so irate and are ready to kill you! They need to cool their jets! I make lots of jokes about the owners too. Why do they have to be so unreal mean?? Are they human at all?? I prefer to see the cars online now than go to the car show! They are JUST very old cars and some of them are ready for the junkpile already! You can’t even buy parts for some of these prehistoric rides! I would love to own one and I would let folks sit and ride in it.

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