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Back to the Bricks founder ready to cruise into history

Atlas TOwnship resident Allen Hatch and his 1966 Oldsmobile GTO convertible. (click for larger version)
June 02, 2010 - To Allen Hatch, the recipe was simple.

Eight decades of American automotive history coupled with a relentless desire to promote Flint and Genesee County—grounded on a passion for classic automobiles.

The results: Back to the Bricks Cruise Weekend, which in just short four years has triggered a following that spans north America.

Hatch, an Atlas Township resident, Flint native, and founder of the annual Back to the Bricks Cruise Weekend, will receive the Community Good Samaritan award on June 4 as part of the 14th Annual "Salute to Everyday Heroes." Since 1996 the American Red Cross Genesee-Lapeer Chapter honors men and women who have shown exceptional courage and strength – saving lives and inspiring others. Everyday heroes are ordinary people who one day find themselves living through extraordinary circumstances, doing remarkable things.

Hatch, 65, started Back to the Bricks in 2005 following a conversation with longtime friend and fellow car enthusiast John Capin.

"We were talking about a cruise without driving around," said Hatch. "We decided to host the event the same weekend as the Woodwood Cruise. Our goal was to capitalize on some of the shortcomings of the Woodward event. Some places down there people were charging $200 to park your car. Not in Flint. Our idea was to close off the whole downtown area of Flint—provide food, live entertainment and make it free. Our mission was to create a positive impact on the local economy."

"There are only 22 miles from Pontiac to the Grand Blanc area that separate the Dream Cruise and Back to the Bricks. Some from the Dream Cruise have asked why do you do it on the same weekend? And it has been proposed that we switch dates, but right now if we switched and our numbers increased, we would have just too many."

"We succeeded. Thanks to hundreds of people, the event worked."

Hatch said the first year of Back to the Bricks attracted an estimated 600 cars and about 6,000 to 7,000 people.

"In 2009 there were 25,000 cars and 250,000 people at Back to Bricks—some estimate anywhere from $10 to $20 million came to the local businesses. All agree it's big to many area businesses—for many it makes their year."

A Flint native and Bentley High School graduate, Hatch attended the University of Michigan-Flint and completed his studies after a stint in the Army during the Vietnam era. He later worked as an account manager for Rockwell International, which included many Flint-area General Motors plants.

Hatch, also a collector of classic vehicles including a 1966 Corvette, a Model A Ford and a 1964 Oldsmobile GTO convertible, will be taking the promotion show on the road.

The 'Back to the Bricks' committee, consisting of 25 couples, will be driving their collector cars on the eastern leg of the Lincoln Highway, the first transcontinental road constructed in 1914. The group will be leaving Flint on June 19 picking up the Lincoln Highway in Lima, Ohio and following it 600 miles to New York City, where it ends at Times Square.

"If you enjoy Americana, that's what the Lincoln Highway is all about," he said. "That's what 'Good Morning America' picked up on—so on June 25 we're going to be on the show."

Locally, ABC-12 Flint will follow the progress of the trip. Back to the Bricks will be Aug. 17-21. For more information see backtothebricks.org.

"We have a lot more marketable assets than most people recognize," said Hatch. "We can convince people to stay here for a week, it's not gloom and doom."

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