"Together Decatur" Columnist and Food and Drink Reporter

“Together Decatur” columnist and food and drink reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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Takaris Fonville-Simmons of The Decatur Garage Guys enjoys meeting with other car enthusiasts during the group's lot nights.

DECATUR — To borrow a famous movie line: If you build it, they will come.

Organizers of the Decatur Garage Guys created a weekly car meet by simply parking their favorite cars in an old parking lot and posting a message on Facebook.

“Anything can be pulled on to the lot,” said Matt White.

White and Takaris Fonville-Simmons began the Decatur Garage Guys meets in June.

“I had been to different car events and car shows throughout Central Illinois,” Fonville-Simmons said. “I thought why not have our own car meet in Decatur, where people can bring the vehicles out.”

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Takaris Fonville-Simmons, front, is the founder of The Decatur Garage Guys. He is pictured with, from left, Steve Wright, Janice Wright, Michael Smith, Cash Weatherford, Hailey Phillips and Cortez Anderson who all attend the group’s lot night meetings.

Each week car enthusiasts park in the lot of the former Aldi’s grocery store at 1005 W. Pershing Road. Organizers post information about the meets on the Decatur Lot Night/Cruise Facebook page.

Fonville-Simmons compared the weekly meets to car shows. “The difference is we’re not announcing awards. All it is is a get-together,” he said.

“People bring the kids and their pets,” White said. “It can be a family thing.”

The cars owners can park in the lot from 7 to 10 on Saturday nights. Organizers had originally scheduled the monthly meets, but quickly expanded to once a week.

Brian Briggs from Decatur brought his 1986 Porsche 944 to the latest car meet. “I’m a car enthusiast,” he said. “We share our ideas.”

Briggs often brings his car to the weekly meets. “But none of us can make it every night,” he said.

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Cash Weatherford is pictured with his 2018 Dodge Challenger and another car enthusiast’s 2003 PT Cruiser. Weatherford recently started attending the The Decatur Garage Guys lot night meetings.

As the events begin to grow, other activities are planned for future meets, including food or themed events.

Although the season is over, car enthusiasts continue to communicate through Facebook and Instagram posts.

Local car groups and car owners from throughout Decatur have attended the meets. The highest turnout was 90 cars. “We have filled the entire parking lot,” White said.

During the three hours, car owners discuss other car shows, car details and anything car related. “It’s a type of fellowship, to meet new people,” Fonville-Simmons said.

Sometimes a group may jump into their cars and cruise the streets of Decatur during the meet.

“It’s almost like cruising Eldo, without all the stupidity,” White said.

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Steve Wright shows features under the hood of his 2010 Dodge Challenger. Wright regularly participates in The Decatur Garage Guys lot night meetings.

The cars are parked each week in the Pershing Road lot. When the weather is bad, the group meets in the downtown parking garage on East North Street.

Although the season has ended for the year, organizers will post information throughout the season.

The car meets were designed as a positive activity for car enthusiasts and the community. “It is an excuse to bring out your car on the weekend,” Fonville-Simmons said.

Safety is a concern for organizers, and rules are posted on the Facebook page. Those who go against the rules or show bad behavior are asked to leave. For example, touching another person’s vehicle is prohibited. “That’s just common sense,” Fonville-Simmons said.

Kyle Taylor recently moved to the area and learned about the car meets through Facebook. He brought 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT for the last meeting.

“We are all gearheads and like looking at each others’ cars,” he said. “But you don’t have to have a car.”

The car owners discuss other subjects, but their main focus is the vehicles. “This is what brings us together,” Taylor said.

According to Briggs, the meets are a natural progression from their childhood.

“It started as boys,” he said. “You go from playing with cars, to actually driving them and owning them. That’s what’s fun.”

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Contact Donnette Beckett at (217) 421-6983. Follow her on Twitter: @donnettebHR


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