Cloquet car meets offer outlet, connection – Cloquet Pine Journal

CLOQUET — Tire marks linger on the pavement at the intersection of Vine Street and Avenue B in Cloquet, signaling the event that takes place there every other Friday evening in the summertime.

What started off about four years ago as a group of friends with a shared interest in cars just hanging out has now grown into something much bigger, said Ryan Bridge, owner of Bridge’s Customs and organizer of the car meets that take place outside his shop.

“They’re coming from all over, all types of cars,” Bridge said.

Man leaning against a very old vintage car that has several components exposed.

Rat-rod owner Troy Lahti from the Junkyard Pirates Frozen North Chapter shows off his 1926 Model T Ford body Friday, July 28. The rat rod is complete with components sourced from several different Ford and Lincoln models. It took over five years for the vehicle to be road-legal.

Amy Arntson / Cloquet Pine Journal

He said car meets, not to be confused with car shows, are a gathering for car enthusiasts to share their vehicles and talents with others.

Bridge’s talent? Drifting.

I want the younger generation to feel safe about doing this and I want them to get involved.

Ryan Bridge, car meet organizer

He said with car shows, you “pull your car out, shine it up, go to an event, sit and talk. We’re on the grind, getting our cars ready to drive them really hard, and we have to go really far to be able to do that.”

Bridge described drifting as a “challenge to the driver” and “an actual skill.”

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Event organizer Ryan Bridge smokes the tires while drifting Friday, July 28, in Cloquet.

Amy Arntson / Cloquet Pine Journal

“It’s not just whipping a doughnut and getting crazy,” Bridge said, but instead “is a controlled little slide that people like to see. It’s comfortable enough to get a taste of it, but not too radical to where it’s out of hand.”

Bridge said there are many car shows in the area, but if a driver wants to drift, they have to travel to a track, something Bridge and his friends do regularly.

At these tracks, drivers have to first prove that they are able to hold a continuous drift in a figure eight before being allowed out onto the track.

Bridge strives to bring drifting closer to home with his meets. “At our events we set the two cones up like we’re doing the same thing with the figure eight, so we’re learning the figure eight,” he said.

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Nick Envall, of Cromwell, displays how low his 1997 BMW is to the ground.

Amy Arntson / Cloquet Pine Journal

Hermantown resident and car enthusiast Dawson Wojciuk has been drifting for a few years and frequents Bridge’s meets. “(Bridge) doesn’t allow just anyone to jump in just because of safety,” he shared that those who do drift “have some time under (their) belts doing it.”

Wojciuk said that he and Bridge became fast friends after meeting on a popular car Facebook group. “He’s basically like a mentor,” Wojciuk added.

Providing mentorship and a safe place for community building is one of Bridge’s main goals with his car meets.

Just like any hobby, he said that he recognizes how an interest in cars can be an outlet for individuals and he wants to provide a hub for those individuals to come together.

“I want to bring and embrace the younger generation that are excited to be here,” Bridge said. “I want the younger generation to feel safe about doing this and I want them to get involved.”

In addition, he wants to make it inviting for everyone by including music and food trucks.

Three men looking under the hood of a car, two of them pointing at the engine.

Cole Strand, of Cloquet, in sweatshirt, shows Matt Carlson, center, and Tyler Anderson his 1990 Nissan 240SX. Cole had the original swapped out for a JZVTI.

Amy Arntson / Cloquet Pine Journal

Car meet co-organizer Brody Finn, of Hermantown, shares the vision. “It gets all the community together,” he said. “We try to take everybody and pull them together.”

After a particularly busy car meet in early July that resulted in the Cloquet Police Department writing citations for some of the drifters, Bridge spoke at the City Council meeting July 18.

“I don’t want to be some outlaw,” he said. “I would like to make it so it’s comfortable for (the City Council), as well as the people, as well as myself, as well as these kids.”

City Administrator Tim Peterson said at the meeting that drifting in the street needs to be approved by the city, otherwise it is “extremely illegal,” and that he feels “a public roadway is not the place.”

Bridge said he is intent on keeping the car meets going while working with the city to create a plan for the events.

“I just want to reach out. I want to be able to work this through and figure out what we can do to make something work that’s safe for everybody,” he said.

View of several linked batteries and hydraulic tubes in the trunk of a bright pink sedan.

This 1998 Lincoln Town Car displays its hydraulic system in the trunk. Owner Dayton Robbinson has 12 batteries to operate the system — eight for the front and four for the rear.

Amy Arntson / Cloquet Pine Journal

Man walks past a stretch limousine with a very low suspension.

A variety of cars were on display in Cloquet on Friday, July 28. Organizer Ryan Bridge holds the events every other Friday throughout the summer.

Amy Arntson / Cloquet Pine Journal

Jess Waldbillig

Jess Waldbillig graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Superior with a Bachelor of Arts in writing and communication in May 2023 and started with the Pine Journal in June 2023. She previously worked with the University of Minnesota Extension in Youth Development with 4-H. When she isn’t working she enjoys reading, hiking, exploring the region, and curating Spotify playlists.