On May 14, 2022, due to new building construction, a 25-year tradition with Nancy Perry Productions of Cruise on Central/Central Avenue Cruise events at the Park Central Mall, sadly came to an end. But the spirit and memories we have, will continue forever. Rod Loveless, R&R photographer at large, suggested this special feature, highlighting photos of past and current “Cruise on Central” events. It wouldn’t be complete without the thoughts and memories that only Nancy Perry can share as the Event Producer.
CRUISE MEMORY LANE WITH NANCY PERRY
Cruisin’ on Central Avenue was a Phoenix tradition that dates back to the 1960s.
The Remember When Car Club formally organized what has been known as the Cruise on Central event, at the Phoenix Park Central Mall on Central Avenue. For many years, they sold food at the Cruise to raise funds for toys for their annual Christmas “Toyz for Totz” in Wickenburg, AZ. Several years ago, Sherry & Don Beres became the new organizers and devoted hosts of the great annual Christmas tradition of the Toyz for Totz in Wickenburg.
I took over at Park Central 25 years ago, when I was a vendor and made the event T- shirts. The City of Phoenix and the Park Central Mall Management met with the Remember When Car Club – they began to require official police duty officers, insurance, restrooms, permits, and rent for use of the mall. Because the event was free and all monies went to the toy drive, Remember When couldn’t do it. They broke the news to us vendors, and I said, “I’ll do all that!” – and one of the largest, best events in Arizona started and grew to packed capacity. Thousands of Hot Rods, Customs, Trucks, Motorcycles, Lowriders, Rat Rods, Muscle Cars, and more came from every part of Arizona and beyond to attend. Everybody was welcome.
The event remained free for many years, and I paid all the expenses with the shirt sales and vendors. We grew – 2 police officers became 16, insurance went through the roof, and 2 j-johns became 14. A $10 cover charge became necessary, but I gave a free Commemorative “Cruisin on Central” T- shirt and lined up great bands and DJs. A few people complained about the small fee, but thousands supported it.
Soon, I had companies, other malls, and radio stations approach me to put on shows for them that continue to grow in popularity. I’m also very proud that I brought the Hot Rod Community and Lowrider Community together, and I’m known for that.
Building progress along the Central corridor signaled the end of the Cruise. I’d done some crazy things, filled potholes myself, and moved j-johns that were put in wrong places, but hard work is what it took to make it all possible. Starting off with no sponsors, I worked to build an amazing sponsor network – Sanderson Ford has been with me the longest, Ramjet’s, All American Billet, Jax Wax, Gateway Classic Cars, Mecum Auctions, Window World, and Affordable Powder Coating continue to sponsor and make all the shows possible.
I had the best crew for all the years with my daughters Katie, and Scarlett Peters, and son Donnie Tellefsen. My sister Joann Tompkins flew here from Florida for 25 years to help. She even attended the last one.
Thank you, to all of my car community family that went to Central for years. There will never be anything like it here again. The memories are priceless, but I’m always searching for another great cruise spot… and I’m working on something as this goes to press.
Nancy M. Perry