News-Register file photo##Vintage cars will fill Third Street this weekend during the sixth annual
Dragging the Gut festival. In addition to the cruising event, activities include a car show, live music and vendors.
News-Register file photo##Vintage cars will fill Third Street this weekend during the sixth annual Dragging the Gut festival. In addition to the cruising event, activities include a car show, live music and vendors.
By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Cruising Memory Lane

The all-comers cruise will run from 5 to midnight each night. Throughout those times, there will be live music by local bands, a beer garden and T-shirt and food booths at Third and Davis. In addition, members of the McMinnville High School Dance Team will be collecting food donations for the YCAP food bank.

##The festival’s retro poster highlights an appearance by longtime Oregon news anchor Kathy Smith.

Kathy Smith, one of the first female TV news anchors in Oregon, will serve as grand marshal. She will cruise in a red Cadillac convertible starting at 7 p.m. Saturday.

A Saturday afternoon car show at St. James Church, Second and Kirby streets, will complete the festival. Anyone may enter their vehicle for a $20 on-the-spot registration fee; the show is free to spectators. After trophies are awarded Saturday afternoon, the car show entries will lead of Saturday’s cruising.

Dragging the Gut harkens back to the 1950s through ‘80s, when cruising was the way for McMinnville teens to see and be seen.

And organizers even claim that the seeds for cruising were planted way back in 1903, when Frank Wortman revved up his steam car, frightened a horse and panicked city fathers enough that they created the first ordinance in the state that regulated autos.

Another city ordinance, in 1988, put an end to the popular activity of cruising. The law limited the number of times a vehicle could drive the same route to four times in a two-hour period.

The law is still on the books and festival organizers are asking that participants follow it, for safety’s sake. They’re also asking people to use courtesy, allowing pedestrians to cross the street and other drivers to turn into the flow of traffic. And no burnouts will be allowed.

Speeding usually isn’t a problem. “There are so many cars, there’s no way anyone can speed,” said Ruben Contreras, who created the festival.

In 2010, McMinnville native Contreras created a Facebook page where people could post memories of dragging the gut. Soon, hundreds of people had joined the nostalgic conversation. “Let’s do it again!” they cried.

So Contreras planned the festival, choosing a date in October when no other events were planned. He has since moved Dragging the Gut to the fourth weekend of August, when the weather would likely be amenable.

The 1979 McMinnville High School grad said he wasn’t sure if anyone would show up or if they would enjoy themselves that first year. But thousands of people arrived, many of whom remembered cruising during their high school days.

And they loved it, said Contreras, who did his cruising in a 1970s Plymouth wagon.

“It’s the most amazing thing,” he said. “It draws every demographic, every kind of car. And everyone sees it through their own lens.”

That first year, he said, he asked participants to bring a bag of food to donate to YCAP. Dance team adviser Gina Regalado and her dancers helped with the collection of hundreds of pounds of food.

Now, the food drive runs throughout the festival, which expanded to two nights of cruising. Last year, enough food for 4,000 meals was donated, Contreras said; this year, he’s hoping for more to be dropped off at the collection site, Third and Davis streets.

“I’m so pleased to be able to bring the community together and do something good for the food bank,” he said.

This year’s event will include some other changes, as well.

Davis Street between Second and Fifth will be closed both nights to allow for the beer garden, food booths and musical stage.

On Saturday night, the side streets of Cowls, Evans, Galloway and Irvine also will be closed. Ford Street will remain open to traffic.

The suggested route will be marked with signs.

It takes cars east on Third Street all the way to its intersection with First, near the Doran car dealership, then around the Catholic church to Kirby and back to Third.

Westbound cars travel Third to Baker, then turn north toward 10th Street; at 10th, they take a left to Adams, then return south to Third.

Dragging the Gut is a free event that wouldn’t work without sponsorship from local companies, Contreras said.

He also noted a number of volunteers who make the festival possible — the dance team, for instance, and others who help out during the event. The Knights of Columbus run the car show.

And before and after, more volunteers set up and clean up. Brian Brown and his family put out the refuse containers. Curt Amundson and the Trask Mountain Trail Runners 4-wheeler club pick up and dispose of the garbage.

Among the other helpers are Waldo Farnham, Dave Franey, Mike Larson, Shawn Rollins, Eric Fricke, Mike Elsberry, Dean Klaus and Arlen Pounds. Many are Mac High graduates or longtime residents who have fond memories of cruising.

And Brian Eriksen, a Linfield College graduate, oversees live streaming of Dragging the Gut each year. Previous years also are available on the festival website,

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