Gary Livingston, who unexpectedly died last August, was often known as the “original Mr. Battle Ground.”
Livingston played a key role in organizing the annual Harvest Nights Classic Car Cruise. After the pandemic halted the event last year, the cruise will return on Friday, July 16. Participants plan to honor Livingston for his community efforts.
“We want people to come out to enjoy the cars and memory of Gary,” said Kendra Laratta, Battle Ground Festivals Association co-chair. “He would have wanted that, I think.”
Shane Bowman, one of Livingston’s longtime friends, said Livingston helped start the cruise eight years ago in an effort to honor the late Mike Molzahn, a Battle Ground police officer who drowned in the Columbia River.
The memorial brought in over 350 cars, but the burnout pit was the main attraction, Bowman said. Crowds gathered in the Urban Basics parking lot to watch as a variety of cars tried to spin their tires fast enough for a burnout.
“The burnout pit was pretty legendary,” he said.
Bowman said the group progressively added more safety precautions to the pit, but eventually, due to insurance reasons, the event had to be discontinued.
Livingston, who was usually too busy organizing the cruise to participate, had recently bought a 1960s Chevrolet Caprice in a shade of yellow.
Livingston’s son, Chance, put together an impromptu cruise after his father’s sudden death on Aug. 8. Hundreds of cars met in the Rocky’s Pizza parking lot, a restaurant owned by Livingston’s girlfriend, Tammy Bria Roberts.
One of Livingston’s nieces parked her car with a sign saying “I love you, Uncle Gary.”
“We’re trying to tie that in for this year,” Laratta said.
Bowman first met Livingston around 2006 when their sons played on the same baseball team together. It wasn’t until three years later they realized they were related by marriage, he said.
Kendra remembers when she first opened her print shop about four years ago, Livingston was the first to make an order because he firmly believed in supporting local businesses in Battle Ground, she said.
When Livingston stepped into a room, people would instantly notice his big smile, Laratta said.
“He was the first person to step up with a gift certificate or an offer to help any of the nonprofits around here for their auctions or events,” she said.
Livingston graduated from Battle Ground High School and went on to create his own business, Patriot Sealcoat. Bowman said he also was an avid community volunteer, who helped at local food banks and coached youth sports, like baseball.
He said Livingston dedicated a big portion of his time to his three children.
During the last cruise in 2019, there were 325 cars in attendance.
“It was the perfect amount because cars can keep moving and they don’t overheat,” Bowman said.
There is no pre-registration this year, and the fee to participate is $20. Cars should start lining up at Battle Ground High School for registration at 4 p.m. Vehicles made in 1978 and older may join the cruise from 6:30 to 10 p.m.
This year’s cruise is sponsored by Dan’s Tractor.
“It was a tough decision and it came down to the wire because of COVID regulations,” Laratta said. “The nice thing about the car cruise is that people are in their cars and the route is fairly big.”