The Carter County Car Club's weekly cruise-ins will return to East Elk Avenue in downtown Elizabethton, Tennessee, starting May 6 and continuing through the end of October. However, there will be no cruise-in on Sept. 23, the day of the annual Covered Bridge Days event. The decision to keep the cruise-ins at their traditional location came after a sharply divided Elizabethton City Council took four votes before finally getting a majority. All four votes were split 4-3. The council considered various options, including moving the cruise-ins one block north to E Street, limiting the events to one per month, or alternating between E Street and Elk Avenue. Ultimately, the majority vote was to keep the cruise-ins on Elk Avenue.
The council's decision reflected the division among downtown merchants, some of whom strongly support the weekly cruise-ins, while others expressed a desire for change. A survey conducted by the masters of business administration program at East Tennessee State University found that 70% of merchants wanted to change. The emotions surrounding the debate have sometimes become heated, with some merchants feeling bullied and harassed. At the council meeting, both Councilman Wes Frazer and Councilman Jeff Treadway spoke out about negative behavior and expressed a desire to work together to find a solution.
The Carter County Car Club voluntarily removed the five cruise-ins scheduled for April from this year's schedule, but the club plans to hold them at a different location. They will take place at Happy Valley High School from 5-9 p.m. on the five Saturdays in April. Car Club President Tom Franklin cited the distance to shops and restaurants on Elk Avenue and restrooms as the main reasons why E Street was unsatisfactory. Mayor Pro Tem Bill Carter encouraged the car club and merchants to work together to find a solution to the growing pains of downtown Elizabethton.
The weekly cruise-ins have been a tradition in Elizabethton for over a decade, drawing car enthusiasts and visitors downtown. The annual Car Show will remain under the same format and times.
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