Weather can make or break a car event. This weekend, the weather gods blessed both Carlisle Events and the National Corvette Restorer Society (NCRS) with warm temps and mostly clear skies. While the rest of the nation was dealing with frigid temps and the fluffy, white stuff, enthusiasts around Lakeland, Florida, were treated to sun tanning and show-stopping cars on display.
Carlisle Events hosted their Winter AutoFest at the Sun ‘n Fun facilities while the NCRS joined in and carried out their Winter Regional event in one of the hangars on-site at the same time. The sum of the two entities coming together, plus the excellent weather, equaled a great event with all the numerous vendor fields sold-out and show cars of every ilk in attendance.
One show field area was reserved for Corvette enthusiasts who either purchased the $25 or $75 (VIP) admission. Those who upgraded to the VIP pass were treated to breakfast and the scheduled VIP dinner on Saturday. They also received two bidder passes for the Carlisle Auctions event being held at the same time.
Attendees swept across the grounds on Friday as a slight breeze kept the sun’s warmth at comfortable levels. Tarps were removed early and the freshly-placed parts shimmered in the morning sun, awaiting their new owners.
Corvettes began flowing in and the various groups who arrived together were situated on the show field so they could begin their day of fun as a unit. Various clubs scheduled the event and registered together to make for a fun weekend of community camaraderie. The local Tampa Bay Vettes club, the Lakeland Corvette Club, the National Council of Corvette Clubs (NCCC), the Solid Axle Corvette Club (SACC), and the online Corvette Forum shared the fun with those in attendance as well as their own groups.
Once the cars were parked, attendees could either share stories with others on the show field, or head out to one of the many seminars held during the weekend. Corvette restorer Kevin Mackay was on-hand, sharing tidbits from his new book, The Corvette Hunter: Kevin Mackay’s Greatest Corvette Finds. Noted Corvette author, Walt Thurn also held several seminars, sharing anecdotes from the fabulous racing duels between the L88s and the Shelby Cobras. For those with newer cars, the “CorvetteMechanic,” Paul Koerner had a tent fitted with a drive-on lift to not only give seminars to those in attendance, but also help diagnose any issues owners of late-model Corvettes had with their cars.
The swap meet was another area welcoming Corvette enthusiasts from every generation. There were new products, as well as vintage. Whether individuals wished to restore, modify, or preserve their Corvettes, they were well-equipped to do their absolute best. Everything from car care to complete suspensions was on-hand and ready for buying. Several vendors made great use of the warm sun to let the chrome bits speak for themselves. Acres of tarps were adorned with everything from the smallest screw to the largest of components. If you wished for something even larger, the car corral or the Carlisle auction were open as a one-stop-shop for everything that comprises a vehicle; just fill out the paperwork! The Carlisle Auctions staff even designated one full-hour for Corvette-only buyers.
As the fog cleared from the Sun ‘n Fun facilities early on Saturday morning, cars began lining up to enter their respective show areas. Besides the Corvette-specific show field, there was also a Cruise-In area open for all makes and models of cars, as well as an area for the local Mustang club.
The Corvette area was full of all generations of Corvettes, from C1s to the latest ZR1. It appeared that many attendees had also been to the annual Corvettes at Carlisle event and decided to get in the gate early, as they knew the Corvette show fields fill up quickly. Within a few short hours, the Corvette area DID fill up nicely and attendees were able to either stay with their vehicles or go visit the many options the event had to offer.
One of the things the Sun ‘n Fun facilities offers, which the expansive Carlisle Fairgrounds can’t boast, is the connection to the Lakeland community airport. We spoke with several enthusiasts who flew their personal aircraft to the event and parked on the tarmac, right outside a gate that leads to the event. Others lined up to go for an airplane ride in a vintage Stearman biplane. On Saturday, there were several air exhibitions throughout the day, momentarily drawing attendees’ eyes to the skies. There was even a MIG fighter jet situated nearby where Corvette owners could park their Corvettes beside to get pictures to commemorate the event.
The weather Saturday kept attendees dry and warm while the rest of the nation was dealing with record cold temps and looking for something cheap to slide into. Food vendors kept them well fed and hydrated during their trek around the swap meet areas and seminars. To alleviate any additional wear and tear, the Carlisle staff designated an expansive swap meet for Corvette-only vendors. Companies such as Van Steel, Eckler’s, and Al Knoch Interiors offered products and services to attendees for every year Corvette.
As the weekend wound down, new-found treasures worked their way into storage compartments and both new, and long-time friends bid farewell as they headed home. We say the weekend was a huge success and those we spoke with agreed that everything, including vendors, attendees, show cars and especially Corvettes, were in greater attendance than last year thanks to the incredible weather. Conversations are already being held on how to make the event even better for next year. Plan to attend the next Carlisle Winter AutoFest (February 21-23, 2020) and see for yourself why it’s held at a place known for both its Sun ‘n Fun!