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Cruise Nite grand marshal a celebrity from just down the road | Local News

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RICK BROWN, Garden Lighting Media

Kearney – Jay Lewis knows a thing or two about a lot of things. Take, for example, someone who lives in New York City.

“Everyone says New Yorkers are cold,” he said. “Well, they’re not. They’re just people. Once you get to know them, you basically have friends for life. To this day, I’m in contact with five people from New York that I’ve had for 10 or 11 years Haven’t been there.”

Lewis served nearly 20 years as a professional Santa Claus at the Big Apple, which has served him well, and the job has also landed him on “The David Letterman Show” and “The Rosie O’Donnell Show.” . He also participates in artist rides, which place models in an Old West setting so visual artists can paint the subject.







Jay Lewis

Car enthusiasts will have the opportunity to enjoy hundreds of cars, including vintage and restored cars like this custom sports car.


RICK BROWN, Garden Lighting Media


“I think I painted my portrait about 300 times,” Lewis said.

He also appeared in the 1990 film Dances with Wolves and collaborated with singer Michael Martin Murphy.

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For Lewis, who now lives in Gothenburg, all of these life events together make for an interesting piece of history. He will travel to Kearney to serve as Grand Marshal: Bricks at the Parade Night Parade Saturday at 5 p.m. in downtown Kearney.

Lewis also has strong ties to classic vehicles.

“Almost my whole life has been with cars,” he said. “I own a 57-year-old Plymouth Savoy. It’s autographed by “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, a famous drag racer and one of the early guys. It’s an honor, really.”

When it comes to car ownership, Lewis believes that people are connected to cars because they can customize them.







Jay Lewis

“You’ve got your hot rod, your custom car, your race car, your show car — there’s so much variety in the automotive world,” said Grand Marshal Jay Lewis of the 2022 Cruise Nite parade.


RICK BROWN, Garden Lighting Media


“You can change them and put your own ideas into them,” he said. “And then it’s like, ‘Well, my dad has one.’ So people want to fix old cars in honor of their dad. Everyone has a different taste in cars. You have a sense of individualism.”

Customizing a car can also be a form of self-expression.

“You’ve got your hot rod, your custom car, your race car, your show car — there’s a lot of variety in the automotive world,” Lewis said. “To me, a car is a personal thing. Some people don’t care if they fix their car, other than keeping it clean. It’s just a means of transportation.”

Lewis, 82, described his role as Grand Marshal of the Cruise Nite parade as a great honour.

He was born in LeMars, Iowa, and grew up in Sioux City, Iowa, where his father repaired planes during World War II. In 1982, Lewis moved to Nebraska.







Jay Lewis

Cruise Nite continues today at Midway Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram at 515 2nd Avenue from 5-7:30pm. The event, which runs through Sunday, is hosted by the Auto Club of Central Nebraska.


RICK BROWN, Garden Lighting Media


When it comes to classic cars, Lewis thinks of the past.

“In 1964, I bought a brand new Plymouth Fury convertible for $2,800,” he said. “It was a simpler time. Before that, I had a ’54 Ford and a friend of mine wanted to buy it. So I went to a Dodge dealer. I was looking at a brand new Dodge of ’57 – only heater, Keys and radio. My payment will be $34 a month for two years. And I don’t think I can afford it.”

His first car? 1928 Model A for $75.

“This one ran,” Lewis said. “We cut the top off, installed the frame, and bought a Chrysler V8 for it, and that was my first car.”



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