RIALTO - With both of his tiny hands clenched around the steering wheel, Isaac Ruiz found himself buzzing along the freeway.

It was the typical stuff found on Southern California highways: rude drivers weaving to and from, changing lanes without using their signals, and driving inappropriately slow in the faster lanes.

Suddenly, traffic slammed to a halt. He threw his hands up in frustration.

"I was like, `errrarrrrrrrggghhhhhh!"' he said. "Keep it going! Get it going! Get it going now!"

And just like that, the 210 Freeway extension gave birth to its first traffic jam.

Of course, Isaac is 6 years old and was driving a go-cart around a course made of plastic during Saturday's Play on the 210 Freeway event, which was attended by thousands to celebrate the unofficial opening of the east-west artery expected to be an economic boon and a savior for drivers. When power was lost to the machine pumping air into the inflatable course, two large pieces fell to the pristine pavement and blocked the way.

Isaac's father, Carlos Ruiz, said his son and daughter, Naomi, 3, were just enthused to check out the roadway, actually slated to open Aug. 31.

"They've been waiting for weeks, saying, `We

get to play on the freeway!"' said Ruiz, 35, of San Bernardino. "I told them it was the only time I could say to them, `Go play on the freeway."'

Sean McGee, 7, of San Bernardino, who sang with the Taft T. Newman Children's Choir at the morning ribbon-cutting ceremony, knew he was violating his mother's cardinal rule of "don't go on the street, or you'll get run over," he said. But this time, he had permission.

During any other time, he said, "I'd be grounded."

Lee Burns, 12, of San Bernardino found the pavement to be perfect for skateboarding.

"It's good," he said. "It's not too rough. It's not too hard. It's cool. But it's hot."

In addition to skateboarding and little motorized cars, kids and adults alike could listen to live music, browse through the dozens of booths hawking food and goods, lug their way up a climbing wall, partake in road races or check out some of the classic cars on hand.

Keegan Holden, 31, of Rialto was there displaying his candy-apple red '65 Lincoln Continental for the first time.

But he was just as interested in getting a glimpse of the freeway that will help out his installation business, K's Garage Doors.

"This freeway is going to give me a lot more time to do business," he said.

That was a focal point at the ceremony held to celebrate the freeway and dedicate the roadway to the late Rep. George E. Brown Jr., California's longest tenured congressman.

"The future of this area, as I have said many times, is going to skyrocket," said Josie Gonzales, the San Bernardino County supervisor whose district includes the freeway extension. "Everything you see here, take a look, it will be different."

Speaker after speaker also lauded Brown, a Democrat from San Bernardino, as a visionary leader.

"George would be humbled by the recognition," said his widow, Marta Macias Brown.

And while Brown might have claimed he didn't deserve it, as his widow said, the dignitaries all insisted that the famed congressman, one of the first to oppose the Vietnam War, did indeed deserve the honor.

Opening Day

RIALTO -It was the question on everyone's mind Saturday: When will the 210 Freeway extension open?

As elected leaders and other dignitaries gathered in Rialto to celebrate the near-opening of the east-west freeway, even San Bernardino Mayor Pat Morris pressed transportation officials for not only a date, but, with his tongue placed only somewhat in cheek, the exact moment.

"It will be open by the time school starts," Tony Grasso, SANBAG's executive director, said to an enthused crowd.

But when Darren Kettle, director of freeway construction for the county transportation authority, was cornered later in the day, he gave a far firmer answer: "We are saying Aug. 31. If not a little earlier."

Completion of the freeway will provide another direct link between San Bernardino and Los Angeles County.

- George Watson


BS Ranch Perspective

It is my belief that if they are going to have a party then why will they not open the rest of the freeway, the lines are drawn, most if not all the on/off ramps are in repair and ready for use, but they say by the time that school starts, yet they have a party now and get everyone excited about the party now. I for one don't understand, the freeway is done for them to break out the cake and Ice cream.

BS Ranch