JOLIET – From a brand new 2017 Chevrolet Corvette with the sticker still in the window to a 1940 Buick Eight – the cars were the stars at the fourth annual Nitro Nite on Thursday in downtown Joliet.
The street festival marks the start of a big weekend for hot rod fans with the NHRA National events being held at Route 66 Raceway. While there was plenty of food, drink, music and giveaways, the focus was on four wheels.
“I’m a race fan, and I just came for the first time to look at the cool cars,” Lucciano Toures of Joliet said. Toures arrived early and was able to virtually get behind the wheel himself.
He and others waited in a short line to sit in a race car body connected to a hydraulic lift.
When Toures hit the gas, a computer screen mounted behind the windshield displayed a track and other cars he had to outrun and outmaneuver.
“That was pretty fun. I liked how it actually moved and raised you up as you were going. Other video simulators don’t do that,” Toures said.
The event also featured four inflatable bouncehouses, a chiropractic clinic, two radio stations, two taco stands, an apple cider stand, cupcake sales, barbecued entrees and beer.
The evening’s entertainment began with Alexis Smith’s rendition of the national anthem followed by a performance from Big Guitars From Memphis, who played amplified acoustic versions of instrumentals such as “Sleepwalk” and “Wipeout” and rockabilly classics by Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and Elvis Presley.
“I like to come to see the cars, but we also see a lot of people we know,” Barb McGowan of Joliet said. “This reminds us of when we were young. That’s when we’d come downtown because this is where everything was happening.”
McGowan joined several other attendees in hoping Thursday’s sunset would bring cooler temperatures as the entertainment continued until 10 p.m.
Portable light stands were set up on the sidewalk between the cars, and several Joliet police officers were on patrol.
Two men were escorted out of the festival for making crude comments at women on their way in, police said.
“I’ve been to almost all of the racetracks in the country and we have the best dragstrip right here in Joliet,” said Mike Guglielmucci, one of the organizers of Nitro Nite. “And this event is a great start (to the weekend) and a lot of fun for the fans.”