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Shuswap auto enthusiasts raise $53,100 for communities impacted by wildfire

Lakeview Friday Night Cruise-In organizer blown away by response
Two-hundred and seventy-five vehicles filled the parking lot at Westgate Public Market for the Lakeview Friday Night Cruise-In on Sept. 1, 2023. Organized by Preston Johnston, the event also raised more than $53,000 for the Shuswap Community Foundation’s Emergency Response Fund. (Darin Haayer/Salmon Arm Fire Department photo)

What began as a small get-together in the A&W parking has grown into a weekly community event for car enthusiasts and recently, a successful vehicle for supporting those affected by the Bush Creek East wildfire.

The Lakeview Friday Night Cruise-In is held Friday evenings at the Westgate Public Market. Open to vehicles of all years, makes and models, organizer Preston Johnston said on average, there’s usually 100 vehicles in attendance. However, for the Friday, Sept. 1 Cruise-In, the vehicle count was 275. This was likely because the Sept. 1 event was also a fundraiser for the Shuswap Community Foundation’s Emergency Response Fund, set up to support communities affected by the Bush Creek East wildfire. As of Tuesday, Sept. 5, the Sept. 1 Cruise-In had raised more than $53,100.

Johnston, who owns Lakeview Rod & Custom, a hot rod and custom shop in Salmon Arm, said the donations were initially spurred by a post he shared online saying his company would donate $2 per car attending the Sept. 1 Cruise-In. He was hopeful it would get to $10 a car.

“Even if we raised $1,000, anything would help,” said Johnston. “And within the first day, I think we were up to $7 to $8 a car, and the next day it was $50 a car, then $100. Our final total worked out to, I believe it was $163 for every car that attended.

“I was blown away. As the total got higher and higher, I think it encouraged more and more people to bring their cars out, so not only did we have such an awesome per-car amount but the actual, the turnout driven by that was record breaking. We’ve never had that many cars show up.”

Johnston said there were so many vehicles, they were being parked at the back of Westgate and on the road.

“It was just unbelievable.”

Johnston said the Cruise-In is the first event he’s organized. He explained it began a few years ago with five or 10 fellow car enthusiasts meeting at Fridays and going for ice cream.

“It has just kind of grown from there,” said Johnston. “We started off meeting at the A&W until we outgrew that parking lot. We were at Chances Casino last year and then we outgrew that parking lot… By about mid-summer, our event had grown so much we had to start looking at a new venue so we reached out to Westgate and they were super awesome about having us there.

“Our first event at Westgate was a huge success so we decided to keep growing on that and once everything started happening around here with the fires, we thought we had to do something. We couldn’t be out there on the front lines fighting the fires but we could use our event as a support and it turned out amazing. The community support just exploded.”

On the Lakeview Cruise In - Salmon Arm page on Facebook, Johnston has been sharing his gratitude for the support and donations received, for the work done by volunteers and everyone who contributed to the event’s success.

“And thank you to the entire community that has supported our event over the years,” said Johnston in one past. “I’m blown away by how much our little 6 car meetup has grown into something so amazing! We have shown Salmon Arm, and the entire Okanagan that the car culture here is thriving, and that we can really pull together to support our community in times of need.”

Johnston said there will be a couple more Lakeview Friday Night Cruise-In events coming up before it wraps up for the summer. He urged anyone wanting to donate to do so through the Shuswap Community Foundation.

Read more: North Shuswap residents prepare for return home

Read more: Shining in the sun: Nearly 250 vehicles dazzle at Salmon Arm car show
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Lachlan Labere

About the Author: Lachlan Labere

Editor of the Salmon Arm Observer, Shuswap Market, and Eagle Valley News. I'm always looking for new and exciting ways to keep our readers informed and engaged.
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