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.
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.
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.”