When it first roared to life in 1986, the May Madness car show was already a blast from the past. Greg Borrelli created it to revisit his high school days of cruising up and down Fourth Street in downtown San Rafael back in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Though Borrelli passed away in 1998, his legacy lives on today in the now-named Greg Borrelli May Madness Car Show and Parade, marking its 31st year on Friday and Saturday, May 10 and 11, in San Rafael.
May Madness is now helmed by Borrelli’s longtime friend and associate Rick Lewis, who’s been a part of the tradition since its inception in 1986. “I worked for Greg Borrelli when he owned the pawn shop San Rafael Loan,” says Lewis, who currently runs Gold Rush Jewelers. “He had a ’32 Ford Roadster, and when he had it restored finally, he wanted to cruise with his friends on Fourth Street, and at that time it was not allowed.”
Cruising had been a long-standing tradition in San Rafael during Borrelli’s youth, even garnering a scene in American Graffiti. Unfortunately, by the middle of the ’80s, the San Rafael Police Department put an end to it. Lewis cites Borrelli’s connection to the merchants association and relationship with then Mayor Al Boro for getting the show off the ground. Through the years, the event has grown exponentially, now attracting thousands of visitors each May.
“It brings back a ton of nostalgia, myself included,” says Lewis. “When I was a 19-year-old kid, I had a ’65 Impala Super Sport convertible, and my friends and I would pile in the car in Fairfax and we’d cruise in San Rafael. It was a great time.”
In addition to the car show and parade on Saturday, May 11, this year’s May Madness is reliving the memories with it’s first-ever Friday Night Cruise on May 10, with engines revving up at Terra Linda High school and moving through San Rafael. Afterwards, a barbecue at the Elks Lodge raises funds for under-served Marin youth to experience Camp Chance.
“It’s a way to have that fun again” says Lewis. “We all have our project cars, mine’s a ’68 Cougar, and we’ll get to relive that experience.”
Saturday’s show will boast the largest collection of classic cars in the history of May Madness, and Lewis says those who wait until the day-of to register their car may be turned away. “I’ve walked each block, counting spaces and trying to figure out how to add more cars,” he says. “It’s very touching that people want to spend their day with us.”
For the general public, Saturday’s show also features food trucks, live music, refreshments and a parade led by a 1928 San Rafael police car. Another after-party at the Elks Lodge rounds out the weekend.
“It’s great to see friends and families come to this event,” says Lewis. “People who grew up in Marin and have moved away; they come back here to do things they did when they were young.”