Nifty 50 Cruisers call it quits after 15 yearsThe Nifty 50 Cruisers Car Club is no more. According to long-time president Mike Tillman — who married his wife, Shirley, during a classic car show at Gordy’s Hi-Hat in 2000 — the club has decided to disband.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
The Nifty 50 Cruisers Car Club is no more.
According to long-time president Mike Tillman — who married his wife, Shirley, during a classic car show at Gordy’s Hi-Hat in 2000 — the club has decided to disband. One of the reasons, he said, is because it was difficult to find anyone willing to take on the leadership role.
“No one wanted to step up as president,” Tillman said. “I’ve done it from the start, but when Shirley died in 2011, I lost some of my passion for it.”
Tillman was among the 24 founding members of the club when it got its start in 1998, hosting numerous classic car shows throughout the area and participating in special events as well. At its zenith, it wasn’t uncommon for the club to hand out as many as 120 trophies at a single show, as well as numerous car awards. The club most recently listed about 150 members on its rolls, though it once boasted as many as 250, though not all of them were active.
“People join things for different reasons,” Tillman said. “Some wanted to meet others who shared a common interest, and others just wanted to belong but we never saw them at meetings.”
Despite its popularity, the demise of the club has been a gradual one in recent years. Originally the club met on the last Thursday of every month, but lately meetings haven’t been that often. Recently the group lost its non-profit status after failing to file required tax reports, and Tillman said some of the members were concerned about possible legal action.
Tillman said he feels comfortable about what the club accomplished, however. Over the past 15 years, the club has donated some $60,000 to charitable causes such as the Children’s Miracle Network, Friends of Animals, Special Olympics and area food shelves. They’ve also sponsored an annual $500 scholarship for a student planning to go into an automotive or related field, as well as a $500 scholarship for the young woman selected as “Miss Cruiser” each year to represent the club at various events.
Although the Nifty 50 Cruisers will no longer exist as an organization, Tillman said he plans to go ahead with hosting some of the local classic car events nonetheless.
“You get these things going and hate to let it die out,” he said.
First up was the annual car show during Barnum Spring Fever Days last weekend. Entry fees were lower and any profit made over and above expenses were donated to the Barnum flood relief effort.
Tillman’s also planning to hold the annual “Blessings of the Cars” at Gordy’s in Cloquet, to launch a safe driving season for car enthusiasts, and he hopes to gather enough classic car exhibitors together to visit area nursing homes as well.
“It always brings a lot of memories back for the residents,” he said.
Tillman said he hopes to lend support to the car shows at Cloquet’s July Fourth and Labor Day celebrations, as well as the one hosted by Gordy’s Hi-Hat.
“I don’t mind doing them because it brings people into town,” he said.