Hanna’s main drag came alive on the evening of August 14th with the rumble of hot rod motors, the sounds of classic rock from a live band, and a lot of cheering and clapping. There was also — and this is off the record — the occasional noise of burning rubber, but no one can remember who the culprits were. This was followed up by an absolutely packed drive-in feature at the east end of town, across from the Fas Gas.
This year marked the second annual Cruise Night and Drive-In. According to organizer Mark Fecho (pictured at the top of this post), who “[misses] the activity that went on on main street Hanna back in the 60’s and 70’s,” Fecho is, “just trying to make things fun for the residents of the area, and perhaps create an event that will draw people from the outlying areas.”
The evening began with a live band, The Fascinations, playing at 5:30pm on the lot of “The ‘Nash”, the former location of the now infamous New National Hotel, which was razed in 2014 and is now the future site of Dr. Warwick’s upcoming dental facility. Cruising started at 7pm, with everyone asked to bring out their ‘best’ vehicle for cruising up and down the main drag. The drive-in movie was fired up at 9:30pm at the empty lot to the north of Almar Construction, with the classic cruising film American Graffiti being projected on the side of their building.
The Fascinations are a made-in-Hanna band that have been together for half a century. The current line-up of Lloyd Derry, Larry Regner, Clark Mathers, Harold Schoonmaker and Roy Johnston managed to draw an impressive crowd even during the early part of the evening when there was a decent shot of rain. They played a large repertoire of songs and shared many funny stories throughout their performance. Several songs also had a custom touch added as I don’t recall the original lyrics to Louie Louie (which were admittedly incomprehensible) being quite so … ribald. Thankfully, the humour was well over the head of the youngsters in attendance and they just kept on dancing. The band was actually so good that they interfered with the cruising. Many hot rod owners had trouble tearing themselves away from the tunes to motate up and down the main drag.
Another big accomplishment was the new mobile stage used by The Fascinations. The brainchild of Fecho who had seen similar setups while touring in the United States, the rolling stage concept was successfully pitched to the Hanna Rock n’ Roll Cruisers Club who needed it for their own functions and the continuously variable weather we encounter in Hanna. Events continually being done in by malicious meteorology has been an ongoing problem leading to declining attendance at outdoor affairs over the years.
The mobile stage is built atop an old stack mover purchased from Stephen Greenway. Richard Crowle of Hanna Welding Rods designed the shell, and both he and his staff aided in the construction. Dale Crowle of Hanna Building Supplies helped with materials, and a work bee with twelve Cruisers club members got the construction finished. Some other additions are planned and the Hanna Cruisers hope that they will finish paying off the stage soon between local fundraising efforts and renting it out to other groups at a reasonable cost.
The maiden voyage of the porta-stage was a success as the inclement weather on Friday evening would have caused the cancellation of The Fascinations’ performance if not for the covered performing area. Rain and electronics don’t exactly mix well. Fecho was also pleased as punch that this local band from his youth was the one to take the Cruisers’ new performing platform for its first spin.
Over forty jazzed-up jalopies started cruising up and down second avenue at 7pm. Traffic laws were generally well observed, although we once again mention that there may have been the odd instance of burning rubber, albeit done in a safe and fun manner. In addition to the locals, some visitors from Medicine Hat, Brooks, St. Albert, and Edmonton were among those emitting their share of carbon and keeping the next ice age at bay (take THAT David Suzuki). A complete list of cruisers can be found here.
A fair-sized group was gathered on the corner of The ‘Nash and they turned and respectfully watched the vehicles cruise by, then rotated back to watch the Fascinations in between groups of cars. There was quite a variety on display, although my fave had to be the Exxon Valdez sized pink land yacht. Go big or go home, baby! The only real downside to the cruising was that the band was so good the motorists couldn’t resist the lure of parking their hoopties and listening to a few songs. There was still much ogling of the parked vehicles by bystanders, so it wasn’t a total loss.
By 9:30pm the lot of the ‘drive-in’ was full. Peggie and Bessie from the Hanna Youth Group were parked at the entrance of the Round-Up Centre parking lot collecting donations from movie goers in lieu of paying an admission. While the movie was technically free, most everyone gave generously. Props go to the youth group for licensing the rights to display the film publicly. Everything was done legal and proper as usual, in keeping with Hanna tradition.
The Schnurer family was involved in some shenanigans at the entrance of the drive-in. Peggie, no stranger to the antics of Keith and Jenny Schnurer, made a point of checking the trunk of their classic white Pontiac Parisienne for stowaways as she collected donations. While the search of the Pontiac was fruitless, Jenny cracked under pressure and admitted that maybe Peggie and Bessie should check the trunk of the vehicle immediately behind them. Grandchildren Cameron and Calin Schnurer where immediately found stowed away in the back of Sean Schnurer’s Road Runner. Only in Hanna would people sneak their kids into a free event!
The drive-in concession was powered by Fred Crowle, who was impeccably dudded out in a striped blazer and matching chapeau. Crowle performed yeoman duty popping and dishing out a metric tonne of hot product from an old style popcorn machine throughout the movie.
Motorists could listen to the movie sound on their car stereos by tuning in 100.5 FM on their dials. Those outside of their cars could still follow along as the sound was blasting out of a few stereos set up around the perimeter for that purpose. The FM transmitter belongs to the Hanna Cruisers and is used at their annual Show n’ Go. The projection screen was salvaged from a bubble type building that was wind damaged and now lives again as part of the annual drive-in.
Sharp-eyed observers would have noticed some recreations of classic neon signs from former businesses in town on display at the drive-in to the left of the screen near the FM radio banner. These are the work of Adrian Mohl, another local, and are typically displayed at the annual Hanna Rock n’ Roll Reunion (this year’s event following the Saturday evening after the Cruise and Drive-In). He was kind enough to loan them to Fecho for display at the drive-in.
The visibility of the film itself was great. The screen was well-placed and also well-secured since the vigorous breeze that evening was barely able to move it. All present agreed the audio was excellent and the Looney Tunes shorts preceding the feature attraction, American Graffitti, were especially well received. Everyone went away happy, and I’m given to understand this includes a few local hotels who were quite pleased to have guests staying over to attend the Rock n’ Roll Reunion at the Community Centre the following evening.
Massive thanks are owed to everyone who made this happen, and especially to Mark Fecho for providing the motivation and ‘glue’ necessary to make this year’s function even bigger and better than last year’s. What is most notable about this event is that it’s a completely grassroots affair. No town halls were needed or resolutions passed. One person had an idea and a small group of people loved the notion enough to donate the time and money to making it happen. The rest of the town showed up in spades to demonstrate overwhelming support as per routine. Finally, those participating were super friendly, very well-behaved, and they cleaned up after themselves. Just like always.
The new portable stage that was born out of necessity for dealing with Hanna’s on again, off again weather will prove to be a boon for future events, and everyone who had a hand in creating it deserves yet another shout out. We have much bigger and better things to look forward to in terms of future live functions thanks to the donations of several local businesses and the hard work of the Hanna Cruisers.
I realize that Hanna has been struggling with dwindling numbers like every other rural area in the province, but I firmly believe that if there is any community that can bounce back and reverse the trend, it’s this one. People here get things done and they do them in style. Sooner or later others are going to start noticing what a great community we have and start moving their families here. In addition, I’m sure those kids from town who leave will eventually come back. Where else will they find a place to live that’s as fun and friendly as this?
Here are my images from the evening. Many thanks to my wife who rescued me by bringing spare batteries out after I left home with a single nearly dead battery in my camera. There would be fewer images without her bringing me my box of spares.
The photo of Mark Fecho that is featured at the top of this post was created on the evening of August 20th. It unfortunately decided to rain when we had scheduled our shoot and expensive lighting shorting out was the overwhelming concern. I got a ‘consolation shot’ of Mark posing up against his classic Ford in his Elvis garb and we called it an evening. Not the shot I was after, but I wanted a picture of him to go with this blog post in recognition of all of his hard work in organizing Cruise Night and the Drive-In Movie.