Contributed by Tara Bush
I was determined, come hell or high water, that I was going to attended this show to see what 1200 cars in a field looked like. Well, the high water did come…myself and about 60 other cars were optimistic that the weather would improve. Cold and dreary was forecasted but my plan to travel from Orlando to Bradenton the night before was not going to deter me from my quest. I have learned not to pay much heed to the forecast because more often than not they are wrong. However the ducklings following momma duck across a busy highway should have been a clear sign improvement would be slow throughout the day.
Since we had hotel points to use up, we arrived the night before and had a fantastic fresh dinner in a little old cottage centered in the Village of the Arts District. The eclectic live-work community is made up of colorful historic cottages that house everything from award-winning restaurants to specialty shops, studios, healing arts, bakeries and Bradenton’s best art galleries. After a good nights’ sleep, to my dismay, we woke up to drizzle. No need rushing, so we decided to seek out a hot meal instead.
This annual show is hosted by the Sunshine Region AACA and is held in Lakewood Ranch which is just east of Bradenton. Only open to 1991 vehicles and older, it draws a crowd on average of 1500 from all over Florida and the surrounding states. This event is also free; no registration, trophies or prizes, just camaraderie among passionate car people. Through the light drizzle and cold wind, the members directing traffic were friendly and welcoming. I felt terrible about the weather and what the club members were enduring so we decided to show our support and stay for a bit.
The rain had stopped but the gloves stayed on, it was still quite chilly. We found ourselves talking enthusiastically to many car owners until mid afternoon, how the time flies even among so few attendees. There was a vast assortment of vehicles including a vintage race car, several vintage Packards and Kaisers and my favorite was the vintage 1930 Dunbar Model 4 Popcorn Wagon. If you ever get the pleasure of seeing this special vehicle up close, take the time to really look at it, hear about its history and how it operates. Bought for $3150, designed by Dunbar and Co, the Thompson family started in Altoona, PA selling popcorn for 5 cents a bag at amusement parks. The original 1 ½ ton chassis was replaced by a newer model, a 1951 Chevrolet chassis. It was operated by the youngest brother through the 1970’s then traveled to Sarasota in 2002 for restoration. Approximately 40 models were built and 10 of them exist today. It has a working steam engine and steam whistle, plus the irresistible aroma of fresh popped corn.
Once I had explored the cars twice over we decided to head south for a stop at the Sarasota Classic Car Museum which sits squarely between the airport and the Ringling Museum of Art. It is recognized as the second oldest continually operated antique car museum in the Nation. Surprisingly the little place was full of cars and patrons. It is relativity small compared with newer museums, but extremely unique and is part of Florida’s history. It is well worth the trip and should not be missed by any car enthusiast. Finally the sun started peeking out and the quaint foodie restaurants in downtown Sarasota were just around the corner. After a fantastic seafood lunch we were homeward bound with the sun shining brightly down on my extremely filthy car, nothing a bucket of soap can’t fix. I am looking forward to the last Sunday in January next year, this time I’m staying the whole weekend to enjoy all of what the west coast has to offer.