SOMERSET — There was a lot of chrome and horsepower and glossy paint in Somerset on Saturday, and a lot of pointing.
Several hundred cars, including classics from the 1950s and '60s, muscular Mustangs and sleek late-model Corvettes, were on display at the latest Somernites Cruise, which organizers say is the biggest monthly car cruise in the state.
On the fourth Saturday of each month from April to October, volunteers block off downtown Somerset for a show that has attracted an average of about 1,100 cars each time this year, said Mark Hansford, a senior board member of the non-profit group that hosts the show.
The cruise focuses on antique and classic cars, street rods, muscle cars and highly modified late-model cars.
"This is the best place I've seen to see the old cars," Bill Hall of Richmond said Saturday after leaning in to look at a red Corvette from the 1960s.
The event is a cruise, not a contest. Participants and spectators get in free, and the cars are not evaluated by judges.
Visitors could see a Ford Model A from the 1920s next to a 1957 Chevrolet, or a 1970 Chevelle Super Sport next to an exotic late-model sports car.
A group of local car enthusiasts came up with the idea for the event more than a decade ago.
There were 275 cars at the first cruise, in April 2001, Hansford said.
Gib Gosser, who is on the board and heads the Downtown Somerset Development Corporation, said he hoped the number of cars would eventually reach 500.
The cruise reached that number in the third month.
"It just hit immediate success," Gosser said. "The thing has grown and grown and grown through the years."
The most cars ever at the event was 1,843, in July 2007, Hansford said. Participation dropped a bit in 2008 and 2009 as the economy slumped, but it rebounded in 2010 and 2011, he said.
There were more than 1,400 cars at the cruise in August.
There is a special focus each month. In August, for instance, Ford Mustang enthusiasts brought more than 560 cars to the cruise.
There have been cars from more than three dozen states in the event, Gosser said.
The cruise includes other events, including a block party with music and dancing on Friday nights.
On Saturdays, after showing off their machines downtown all afternoon, car owners cruise the U.S. 27 commercial strip from Somerset to Burnside — a throwback to the good old days of cruising portrayed in the movie American Graffiti.
Hundreds of people fill parking lots along the route to watch the cars.
The cruise benefits the local economy as participants help fill up motels, buy gas and food, and shop.
Hansford said the cruise has had a total estimated impact of about $10 million on the local economy in its seven weekends a year.
"They're pretty happy when cruise season rolls around," Hansford said of local businesses. "They tell us they'd like for us to have a car show every weekend."
The event has helped offset a drop in tourism spending that happened after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lowered the water level in Lake Cumberland in 2007 to facilitate repairs on Wolf Creek Dam, Gosser said.
State lawmakers representing Somerset had the city designated the car-cruise capital of Kentucky.
Participants said the Somernites Cruise is larger than many similar events elsewhere.
The setting helps — getting to block off downtown — and the event is well run and hospitable, participants said.
"People look forward to it all month," said Brandon Cornelius of Corbin, who brought his 2006 Mustang to the cruise Saturday.
Bob Elliott, who brought his 1955 Cadillac Coupe de Ville from Milford, Ohio, said television shows about restoring classic cars have helped to boost interest in such events.
Baby boomers grew up riding around in what are now classic cars. Nostalgia is the big driver, Elliott said.
"A lot of it is, it takes you back to a car you had when you were young," he said.