Volume 3, Number 10
Community Cruises to College:
Upstate New York College Hosts Second Annual Cruise Night
Donna Rae Sutherland
The New York State Thruway snakes across the state for 641 miles, connecting major cities, four neighboring states, and uncounted communities. It passes directly by Genesee Community College, making the college an ideal stopping place for a variety of travelers, students, and car enthusiasts in particular.
It was these car enthusiasts that Genesee welcomed to its second annual Cruise at the College on Saturday, July 26, 2008. The event attracted more than 75 cruising cars, trucks, and motorcycles from across the region, whose owners parked their vehicles in Genesee’s spacious parking lots and enjoyed an evening of good food, good cars, and good fun.
“This has become an ideal event for Genesee to hold in the summer,” said Stuart Steiner, President of Genesee Community College. “It is a wonderful use of our space on a summer weekend when the parking lots are not usually full, and it draws a large crowd, many of whom are visiting Genesee for the first time. We are very pleased to be able to open our college up to the community in this way.”
There are many ways for the community to get involved in this event. Not only do the region’s cruisers bring their classic cars to be admired by the public, but area businesses and service organizations also provide sponsorships for food, entertainment, and prizes, making the event a community effort.
This year, O-AT-KA Milk Products Cooperative, Inc., provided dash plaques for each cruiser in attendance and Advance Auto Parts donated goody bags. A local car dealership sponsored entertainment and HSBC Bank provided corporate underwriting for the event. Many other organizations participated as well, including the Batavia Lions Club, which hosted a hot dog stand; a local motorcycle shop, which set up an interactive display; and a local pizzeria, which donated the proceeds from pizza sales to Genesee’s Emergency Transportation Fund.
Nearly $300 was raised to support this fund, which helps student commuters who make up the bulk of Genesee’s enrollment. Often students have unmet transportation needs that prohibit them from attending classes or finishing their degree. In addition to donations, money was raised through a 50/50 raffle.
“This is a unique fund that Genesee has set up to make sure our students have all the tools they need to be successful,” said Rick Ensman, Director of Development and External Affairs at the college. “Many of our students rely on regular commutes to attend classes, and this fund will help ensure that they have no transportation issues that interfere with their studies.”
Recognizing the popularity of cruise nights in the area and building off the success of the first Cruise at the College the previous year, organizers were able to welcome several new transportation-related activities to this year’s event.
The Batavia Radio Control Flying Club was invited to show off their flying skills during Cruise at the College, again taking advantage of the college’s vast outdoor athletic fields on a beautiful summer evening. The Flying club, which includes 36 members, impressed children and adults alike by executing outstanding performances with their radio-controlled flying machines.
Skull Crusher Trikes, from Leicester, New York, brought several of its custom-built vintage trikes to display. Exhibiting trikes ranging from shiny green with a dragon graphic to a black “bat bike” with red trim, Skull Crusher Trikes delighted cruise goers with their bright custom designs and creative artwork.
Event Chair Anne Garlock hopes to include similar activities and attractions to Cruise at the College each year. Garlock, who was a member of the original Batavia Area Jaycees that advocated for the creation of a community college in the area in the late 1960s, proposed the idea of a car show at the college during the college’s yearlong 40th anniversary celebration in 2007. The first Cruise at the College was so well received that organizers decided to make it an annual occurrence.
“I am very excited about the possibilities this event offers,” Garlock said. “This is something that hasn’t really been tried before and we have such a solid starting place with the first two successful experiences that I think we can make this into a truly signature event in the future.”
In fact, the date has already been set for next year’s Cruise. It will be held on Sunday, July 19, 2009, and college officials and event coordinators alike are looking forward to another successful evening that will bring more people to the campus.
One of the major accomplishments of Cruise at the College has been the ability to reach out to people who may not be familiar with Genesee Community College and give them a chance to enjoy themselves right on campus. By creating an event that focuses on a popular pastime for many people in the area, the college has been able to connect with a segment of the population with which it may have had little contact previously. In addition, cruisers have come from as far away as Pennsylvania and Ontario, Canada, to attend the event. Their positive experience during the show helps to enhance the college’s reputation throughout the region.
“Our goal at Genesee is not only to provide a quality education for our students, but also to be an asset to the community,” President Steiner said. “The Cruise at the College event helps accomplish both of those ends. We have an ideal location to host an event such as this, and we hope that attendees become comfortable and familiar with the college, and consider Genesee when they are making plans for higher education.”
Since its founding in 1966 as part of the prestigious State University of New York, Genesee has become a highly respected community college. Known across the country for offering innovative academic programs and for making powerful technological tools available to students, Genesee has become the college of choice for students across New York State and many other parts of the United States as well. College Village, the college’s student housing complex located adjacent to the Batavia campus, has also led to a growing number of international students.
Genesee is noted as a friendly college where classes rarely exceed 30 students and professors and students know each other well. As a mid-sized community college with about 7,000 students almost equally split between full-time and part-time, it offers 66 degree programs. The main campus in Batavia, New York, not only has numerous wired, high-tech computer and science labs, but it also offers 100 percent wireless access. The campus houses modern TV, video, photography, and art studios; a 75,000-volume library; a child-care center; a newly renovated gymnasium and health center; Genesee Center for the Arts with a 328-seat theater, comprehensive scene and costume shops, and an art gallery; and College Village, a student housing complex accommodating 380 student residents.
Day and evening classes are offered at six campus-center locations throughout four counties in Western New York. The main campus is located on 240 acres of gently rolling land situated in the quiet countryside, yet is just a 30-minute drive to Rochester and Buffalo and not far from Niagara Falls and Toronto.
“Part of what makes our Cruise at the College event so worthwhile is that it has helped transform the college into a destination for events as well as education,” said Anne Garlock, Event Chair. “It is a community college and belongs to the community. This event allows us to showcase the college—its programs, facilities, and faculty—to both our local community and people from the surrounding areas.”
The college has found an appreciative crowd within the cruising community. Ben Canham, who owns a classic car and spends much of his summer cruising to different venues, says that Genesee has become one of his favorite locations.
“Genesee Community College is one of the most beautiful and spacious places to have a car show that I have ever seen,” he said. “There’s ample space for cars and tables, they do a good job advertising the event and gathering a crowd, and there are other activities that make this a great event where you can bring the whole family.”
According to Mr. Canham, the Cruise at the College is becoming well known in the cruising community and people who have attended are quickly spreading the word to other enthusiasts that this is a show not to be missed.
“There is space enough here for at least 500-600 cars,” Canham said. “I think within a few years’ time this event will attract close to that number. It has had a great start and is definitely beginning to have a loyal following of people who look forward to it each year.”
Canham, who attends fifteen to twenty car shows each summer, also mentioned that there are smaller details that make the cruisers feel welcome at Genesee Community College each year, such as the dash plaques and goody bags, music specially selected for a cruising theme, and the meticulously groomed parking lots and facilities.
“The staff here does a great job preparing for this event,” Canham said. “It’s as if they are getting ready to welcome guests into their home.”
Genesee Community College has been able to use its small, hometown identity to create a great educational experience for local students, a home away from home for international students, and, with the Cruise at the College event, a brief home on the road for cruisers looking for a good place to stop and become part of a vibrant community.
Donna Rae Sutherland is Associate Director of Marketing Communications at Genesee Community College. Photographs are courtesy of Genesee Community College.