Willy’s Hamburgers on Macleod Trail may be long gone, but the car and motorcycle cruise nights this old-style drive-in were known for haven’t disappeared.
“Willy’s has spawned several different events around the city, and even the surrounding area,” says hot rodder Gary Savage.
Willy’s was a central meeting spot for car and motorcycle enthusiasts. Wednesday was rod night and Thursday was bike night.
But the southwest Willy’s Hamburgers location closed in early 2005, and the drive-in is now nothing more than an empty building.
Savage has been hot rodding his entire life and is president of the Foothills Street Rod Association. Several other car events have taken the place of rod night at Willy’s, he says.
“A large percentage of the guys who used to go to Willy’s have migrated down to the A&W (at Macleod Trail and Glenmore Trail),” Savage says.
Rods and muscle cars are also welcome on Wednesday night at Angel’s Drive-In at 85th Street and 46th Avenue N.W. near Bowness Park.
Cars show up at the Southwood Corner shopping mall at Elbow Drive and Southland Drive every Thursday night. And Friday night, cars cruise out to the A&W at the Co-op Centre in Airdrie.
“These events are all offshoots from the Wednesday rod night at Willy’s,” Savage says.
The demise of the Macleod Trail Willy’s pushed Bobby Baum, vice-president of the Rocky Mountain section of the Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Group, to organize a new bike-related event.
“I was talking with some long-time motorcycle friends, and we decided the need existed to get a friendly bike night together,” Baum says. “We liked going to Willy’s. It was a great place to have a milkshake and hang out with other motorcyclists.”
Following the example of the rodders, the bikers moved down to the A&W at Macleod and Glenmore.
“That location is hidden from view, and while there’s plenty of drive-by traffic, no one could really see the event was happening,” Baum says. “It just seemed to wither on the vine, and it wasn’t half the event that Willy’s was.”
Just three weeks ago, Baum went searching for a new site. He wanted something central with easy access to major roads and great drive-by visibility. He came up with the A&W at 16th Avenue and 4th Street N.W.
Management at the A&W is enthusiastic about hosting the Thursday bike night. And Revoluzione Cycle Imports has become a sponsor, supplying items for door prizes.
“I’d really like to see all makes and all types of bikes,” Baum says. “I’d welcome anyone who has an interest in motorcycles or scooters every Thursday between 6:30 and 9 p.m.”
Just like the rod nights, there are other bike nights in and around the city.
The Airdrie A&W hosts a motorcycle event every Wednesday, and Hooters on Macleod Trail hosts one every Thursday.
“I hope ours turns out,” Baum says. “It would be great to see a bike night that reached Willy’s standards.”