Every Sunday night, two of Winnipeg’s busiest streets play host to an event with over 40 years of history. Spectators along Main Street and Portage Avenue, from beyond Kildonan Park all the way to Assiniboia Downs, get to see the hundreds of hot rods, Jeeps, lifted trucks, supercharged racing cars, and more that sail up and down showing off the dozens, and sometimes hundreds, of hours of work put into each vehicle.
There is no central organizing body for the weekly event, it’s just an understood ritual among the city’s car devotees. It’s one of those “if you sit there, they will come” sort of deals.
The Red River Jeep Club (RRJC) meet up in the parking lot of George Richards Big & Tall Menswear and encourage anyone (especially those also driving Jeeps) to watch the cruise night with them. Bonny Provo, RRJC organizer, says the group is more than just a car club. “The camaraderie between everyone is just amazing,” she states.
Provo and others in the RRJC are heavily involved in community causes. They do charity work for the Child Cancer Society at HSC, and participate in the Toy Mountain drive (where they once filled 7 jeeps with toys for the initiative). Provo also organizes another action called “Contingency Rides” which taps the Jeep Club network to help doctors and nurses get to the hospital in terrible weather.
Provo says that “over 40 Jeeps” have gathered in that one spot before. Not all are from the Red River Jeep Club, either. She says other Jeep clubs often join them in watching and celebrating their collective love of Jeeps, among other vehicles.
Another RRJC member, Jamie Choquette, has been involved in car clubs since childhood (originally through his parents’ involvement). “The car culture here [in Winnipeg] is very strong,” Choquette says, adding, “We only have a six-month window here.” According to him, that’s why “thousands every Sunday” gather to commune with one another.
As soon as the weather allows it, you can find Provo, Choquette, and a plethora of others lining the two main drags in Winnipeg waiting and watching for all the other car lovers to express their passion for the culture.
A little ways down on Portage Avenue, you might see two other gentlemen sitting and watching. Rene Desauteles and Stephen West have been participating in the Cruise night for a long time. Desauteles asks, “Have you seen the movie American Graffiti with the cars cruising the boulevard? That’s Winnipeg on a Sunday night.”
West agrees. “Winnipeg has this strange affinity for automobiles,” he says. “See the hundreds of people lined on the streets? It’s just for the cars.”
West also believes that cars are very much about the art of it all. The design and creativity. He thinks events like Winnipeg’s cruise night are necessary. “We have to do this because now all cars look the same. Take Ford. You can either buy a Mustang or an Escort. We need this.”
What everyone seems to agree on is that the “Fabulous 50’s Car Show” (generally hosted in Garden City the second week of September each year) is the biggest and best show around, but where that only happens once a year, Winnipeg’s cruise night can be attended every single Sunday night from about 6pm on.
All the people The WPG spoke to on the night obviously love cars and car shows. Desauteles sums it up, “To us, this is like a moving car show.”