Cruising as a youngster in uptown Hillsboro left Dan Holsinger with so many special memories that he wanted to share them with his daughter and others. So, in memory of late Hillsboro resident Joe Mahan, the longtime president of the Hillsboro Uptown Business Association who passed away suddenly March 29 at the age of 50 and organized dozens of events in the uptown Hillsboro area, Holsinger and others organized a “cruise-in” Saturday that one estimate said attracted a crowd of 4,000.
Holsinger said he had lots of help from Todd Kessinger, Rob Hopkins, Bobby Thornburg and Ron Hennison.
“As long as I can remember, people cruised the block in the ‘Boro. I can remember sitting in the back seat of my Dad’s Mach1 Mustang, pulling into the Sohio station — empty lot down the street from the Parker House — and fueling up,” Holsinger said over the weekend. “Then pulling into the Pony Keg for Pepsi and a Chico-Stic. Pull through there and you’d come out in the alley behind 24 Deli. Then make a right and head past the old police department and fire department. Make a right on High Street at the Colony Theater and enter the madness. Cars, music, lights, sounds and girls, man. Girls!
“I was probably 5 or 6 at the time that memory was made.”
Eventually, Holsinger said, he grew and was able to head uptown on his own. And on Friday and Saturday night, he said the only place to be was in the center of Hillsboro.
“We’d walk up, bike up, whatever we had to do just to stand on the sidewalk and watch people cruise,” Holsinger said. “Then I got my license and a car — 1987 Chevy Celebrity. Put a bunch of miles on it on that block. Met a lot of friends on that block. Met my wife on that block.”
It all came to end sometime around 2000, Holsinger said, when some of the city’s leaders decided to post signs in the one-block area prohibiting the “cruising” that had been a staple of the city for decades every Friday and Saturday night.
Somewhere around 2012, Holsinger said, the signs were removed, but cruising had died.
“The scene was dead. Kids left. Old-timers went to bed. It sucked,” Holsinger said. “…Then, one day a few weeks back I saw a post on Facebook. A cruise-in/food drive. ‘Damn, I’d love to go,’ I thought. But corona — ugh. Anyway, I had work to do at a buddy’s house in Columbus and the cruise-in was in Circleville.”
At first, he thought he might not be able to make it, but then he remembered Circleville was kind of on the way back to Hillsboro from Columbus. So, after working all day on a Saturday running a tiller, he got cleaned up and drove from Columbus to Circleville for the cruise-in.
“It was epic. Ten thousand people, it seemed, joined together to celebrate the car culture and the family lifestyle. They raised over $2,000 in donations and pounds and pounds of food for needy folks. That was May 2. My 40th birthday was May 3, and I made the comment to my daughter, that “cruising was an awesome birthday gift.”
He said that when his daughter asked him what cruising was, he thought that maybe he could show her.
”So, I made a Facebook event just for friends. And they could share it with their friends. And maybe, just maybe, 200 people will show up and we’ll cruise the block,” Holsigner said.
He had no idea there would be a turnout like there was Saturday night.
“I hear 4,000 people were in Hillsboro, just to cruise — all because my Dad took me cruisin’,” he said.
He said he believes the vast majority of the community has cruising memories similar to his.
”They all have fond memories or were curious to see the old way to socially network,” he joked. “Mostly, I think people are realizing that they need one another and that community is all we have. I heard, but can’t confirm, that Cow-a-Burger sold out, Arby’s ran out of beef. Wendy’s ran out of beef. I don’t know. But if it’s true, it makes me happy. I’m sure there was an influx of cash. What I want most out of the upcoming one is food/toiletry/money donations for a local church that gives that stuff out each Friday. That’s my goal.”
About a month ago, Holsinger said, some of the guys that helped him organize Saturday’s event started adding to the Facebook group he started. He said that in about five days it grew from a group of about 180 people to almost 4,000.
He said that for the time being, future cruise-ins are up in the air. He said he is meeting with the Hillsboro Uptown Business Association this week, and that he wants to meet with the Hillsboro Police Department, Paint Creek Joint EMS/Fire District and Hillsboro Safety and Service Director Brianne Abbott.
Holsinger said a lot of people in the group want to cruise every weekend, but what he is trying to organize is something for the second Saturday of every month. He said the Circleville group cruises the first Saturday of each month, and that he’s trying to find a “sister city” to hook up with. He also said people in the Rocky Fork Lake area are interested in a cruise-in/car show in the North Beach area, and that he wants to get business owners, food trucks and others involved.
“I’m stoked,” Holsinger said. “This past cruise was dedicated to Joe Mahan. He was always trying to get his First Friday cruise-in to bleed over into cruising coming back for good. Joe was always up there. He was special.”
Thornburgh said it was great to see Hillsboro come alive with positive activity.
”I love that my kids had a chance to experience what my wife and I spent the ’90s doing every weekend. There were so many familiar faces that I haven’t seen since since cruising was eliminated,” he said. “The goal is to bring the community together and showcase the strength of a small town and the bonds this atmosphere provides for every generation. We are looking forward to making it even better as we move into the future.“