CRUISE NIGHT

Thousands Gather At Auto Recycling Facility



Mark Oquisanti's weekly cruise draws 700 vehicles and 3,500 attendees to Mark's Auto Parts & Recyclers, Inc.

PHOTO: IRA NOZIK PHOTOGRAPHERS

Summer means warm weather, grilled hot dogs, swimming pools and cruising with the top down. It also means that once a week about 700 classic vehicles park at Mark's Auto Parts & Recyclers, Inc. in East Granby, Conn.

For 15 years Mark Oquisanti, owner of Mark's Auto Parts & Recyclers (MarksAutoParts.com), has sponsored Mark's Classic Cruise, a weekly auto event held every Monday evening during the summer (May to September) from 5 - 9 p.m.

The self-proclaimed "largest weekly cruise in New England" brings thousands of visitors, about 3,500 on average, to witness the antique, classic and special interest vehicles on display. From Mustang, Corvette and Firebird to roadsters and motorcycles, classic auto enthusiasts from the area are sure to be entertained.

"We try to bring in car people, for car people," said Oquisanti.

A family event that has become a local institution, the event is also entirely free. Spectator admission is free and vehicle owners park free. Food is available, along with live entertainment.

"We're probably one of the longest ones going," asserted Oquisanti. "Most fizzle out after about five years."

From the very beginning, the event exceeded expectations. In 1995, a couple of people asked Oquisanti to help start an auto show at a local strip mall. They had experience working on shows, but didn't have the resources to get one going. Oquisanti decided to get involved. The first night boasted 65 vehicles. Within a couple of years, the event moved to Mark's Auto Parts & Recyclers where Oquisanti owns more than 25 acres of land next door. Fifteen acres are used for show vehicles and the rest for parking.

"I originally got involved because of my business," he said. "When you bring all these people here, where do you think they'll go when they need a part?"

Today the original organizers, Oquisanti, Lee Mack, Danny Surdell and Dennis Brady, are still involved. Joe Manta, who manages the brochures and the web site (MarksCruiseNight.com), came on board the first year.

Now the weekly show goes off without a hitch. On Monday morning, two of Oquisanti's employees start to set up the grounds for the event. That includes mowing, hanging 200 flags and setting up the winner's circle. Close to showtime, more than 45 volunteers arrive to direct traffic in and out of the event.

Food stands that will serve about 800 - 900 hamburgers and hot dogs plus soda, water and coffee are set up. The event also invites a disc jockey and local bands to entertain the crowd. A Bose sound system filters sound through the entire site.

The group awards at least four trophies and / or plaques each night. Oquisanti's partners, Mack and Surdell, walk the event to look at each vehicle. They choose winners based on anything from the attendant to the vehicle itself. According to Oquisanti, the every-changing criterion keeps the event fun and winners different.

"Our future will be more events during the year," he admitted. "Cruise night is definitely fun for me. It's definitely what I like."

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