For the fifth year in a row, car enthusiasts will deck out their hot rods, classic cars, project rig and daily drivers with Christmas lights and other festive decorations.

This season, the Woodinville Cruisers Car Club will host its winter cruise and Santa photos with help from the Woodinville Chamber of Commerce and the city of Woodinville. 

“It’s one of those events that will get you off your couch,” said Councilmember Mike Millman during a Woodinville City Council meeting on Nov. 9. “My wife and kids call it ‘gram worthy.’”

Rich McKee, founder of the car club, said the event is set to start on Dec. 19 at 6 p.m. The event wouldn’t be possible without collaboration, he added. 

During the meeting, council members granted the car club $6,000 in funding specifically for the winter cruise with a 5-1 vote. Other organizations that received grant money this year included the Woodinville Arts Alliance, Sisters in Action Sports and the Woodinville Rotary Club.

According to a report from the city, the chamber helped the car club meet requirements that previously prevented them from obtaining a city grant such as nonprofit status, financial records and insurance policy. 

With the approved city funds, McKee said, the car cruise can now provide a police escort and barricades to prevent cars and pedestrians from crossing in front of those participating in the cruise. 

“With those funds we are insured, and we have the streets, intersections and driveways all protected for the passengers, for the pedestrians and for all the traffic,” he said.

This year’s route may look a little different than previous events due to the support from the local police department, McKee noted. The festivities will begin near Woodinville City Hall and the sports fields. Vehicles will then make their way through Woodin Creek Village and the downtown area of Woodinville. The cruise will end in the parking lot next to Haggen Grocery Store. 

Depending on the number of participants, he said, the cruise could last anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes.

Once all the vehicles enter the lot, he said, the event will transition to a car show with a DJ playing Christmas tunes. Free hot cocoa and cookies will be available as well, he said. Santa Claus will also make an appearance for complimentary photos.

McKee said everyone is welcome to participate in the parade. There’s only one rule: all vehicles must be decorated in lights or at least something festive. 

“If someone wants to decorate their minivan, they can join in,” McKee said.

In previous years, he said, a Woodinville-based hot air balloon company would set up a balloon basket on a trailer and light the flame during the cruise. It blows 15 feet in the air and permeates heat that can be felt on the sidewalk, he said. 

Traditionally, he added, local trucking companies will also come through with large dump trucks decorated in intricate light setups.

“There’s just a lot of fun creativity,” McKee said.

In 2020, the winter cruise attracted more than 100 vehicles and about 2,500 attendees between the Columbia Winery and downtown Woodinville gathering spots. The event started with a humble beginning five years ago after McKee created a Facebook group to share his passion for unique cars with community members. 

“I kept seeing some other cool cars in the community, but I wasn’t aware of any groups,” he said. “When I started the club, it took off pretty quickly.”

About 26 cars came out for the first cruise, and people asked McKee about organizing the next show immediately, he said.

“My intent with this is not to focus on competitions, but purely just fun,” McKee said.

The cruise is free for both participants and attendees. 

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