REDDING, Calif. - It's a year of firsts for Kool April Nites.
The show is now in full swing in Redding, but this is the first year since the passing of the show's former president Doug Carney.
Carney passed away last August at age 57.
But in the last few years, his name had become synonymous with Kool April Nites.
The show’s current president Debra Fox said Carney’s passing was a huge loss for the community, but the show must go on.
“With Doug's passing, it was such a shock and he was so young,” Fox said. “And it happened so suddenly. But it didn't make us fall apart. It brought this group closer together. We brought in some new members. We banded together and we're making an even stronger show in his honor.”
The theme of this year's Kool April Nites is We Back the Blue because of Carney who was a former Redding police officer.
Carney's 1965 Impala SS will also be driven by his wife Pam in the Kool April Nites cruise Friday night.
Another first this year is the absence of popular burger joint Gene's Drive-In.
Gene's sat at the corner of South Market Street and Parkview Avenue and was a popular hangout and an unofficial part of the Kool April Nites celebration.
Car lovers would gather at the retro burger joint to show off their cars and talk about the good old days.
That was up until February when it was demolished.
Fox said she and many others were saddened to see Gene's go.
“Well, because I think there are a lot of people who are from this area that went there as kids in those cars that they're still driving to this day,” she said. “And it just became an integral part of Kool April Nites...Everybody met at Gene's and that's where they continued to meet year after year. And it became a part of Kool April Nites.”
Even though the restaurant is gone, its memory still lives on.
The Gene’s neon sign was restored and now has a permanent home across town at the Redding drag strip just east of the Redding Municipal Airport.
Fox said even though it was a tradition, she hopes people will make new traditions and find other places to gather and reminisce about the good old days.
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