In January, the Florida Chapter of the NCRS held their Winter Regional Meet in Lakeland, Florida. While the event itself has been a historical benefit to all who love Corvettes and are seeking a respite from the wintry weather up north, one of the key items that captured much of the talk at the event was the uncertainty of continuing the event. We heard reports ranging from shutting down the event entirely, to simply a change of venue. We decided to check in with current Event Director, Edd Augustine to get the facts about what was fostering so much scuttlebutt throughout the show field.
Edd has been the Event Director for the past 19 years and has seen the event through various changes. Many folks will remember the event fondly as the “Cypress Event”, so known because of the event’s long-running location at the Cypress Gardens theme park in Winter Haven, Florida. From there, the event moved a couple of times, each move bringing with it new opportunities and challenges. Following Cypress Gardens, the event was held at well-known venues such as Disney and the Grand Hyatt resort in nearby Orlando.
everyone needs to know that security and affordability are the top two criteria for the event.- Edd Augustine, NCRS Event Director
Larger venues afforded more areas for vendors and indoor displays. The Grand Hyatt is where the NCRS Florida Chapter merged with Dana Mecum to join the Winter Regional and Mecum Auction consecutively. Due to Corvettes being a large segment of cars offered at the auction and Mecum’s popularity, both entities benefitted from the relationship. From there, the events moved to nearby “Old Town” in Kissimmee, Florida. Again, Corvette enthusiasts could scurry between the show fields, swap meets and auction block, getting their fill of fiberglass the entire weekend.
Growth is an interesting phenomenon; it exhibits vitality and also brings its own challenges. Mecum grew and the number of cars seeking judging and enthusiasts seeking to work on their tan lines increased. And with that, Old Town proved to have several deficiencies.
While local restaurants and hotels accommodated those attending quite well, parking and security were always an issue. Over time, it became obvious that change was inevitable and the next venue offered excellent answers to both issues. Lakeland Florida’s Sun N Fun facilities has vast grassy areas for parking, vendors and several hangars available to shield displays and show cars from the severest of weather. Located adjacent to the Lakeland airport, of course security is also of the highest levels.
we all still look back in history to the Corvette hobby heydays and wish for a time long since passed. – Edd Augustine
Even with all the offerings that Sun N Fun brings to the table, many still remember how easy it was to walk from their hotel room to the show field, or how there was no drive between the auction and swap meet. And of course, scheduling and an aging demographic have taken their toll on ticket sales. Edd recently wrote to the membership of the NCRS Florida Chapter, “While the event still has very respectable registration numbers and remains the largest NCRS Regional event offered, we all still look back in history to the Corvette hobby heydays and wish for a time long since passed.”
He goes on to say, “Our success at Sun N Fun in Lakeland has been bittersweet and for the past 4 years we have been inundated with questionable weather, fewer judged cars and declining attendance, which is typical of the Corvette hobby today.” This has led to the rumblings amid attendees at the most recent event about the future of the Winter Regional, and perhaps the hobby itself.
Changing With The Times
In the NCRS Florida Chapter’s Oct.-Dec. 2017 newsletter (The Fuel Line), Edd wrote to its members, “With much regret, I need to inform the chapter members and others that as of this writing, this will be the last Regional Event at Lakeland, Florida. An application was made for 2019 and was declined by the National Board and we were asked to seek a new location in Florida for possible consideration for approval in 2019.”
While one thing is certain, Edd Augustine and the team of NCRS members’ who’ve put on the event each year for the past 40 years have worked hard to keep the event going. Edd confirmed through a recent email to us that they are looking at possible sites in central Florida, but as of this writing, the event is scheduled for Sun N Fun for the 2019 calendar year. The earliest possible venue change would be in 2020.
According to Edd, “a specific reason has never been given by the National Board about a potential Lakeland departure and unless we can find a better site it will be held at Lakeland. But, everyone needs to know that security and affordability are the top two criteria for the event.”
He emphasizes that an event needs stability for the vending clientele and spectators need to know they can count on a certain location. As such, Sun N Fun addresses the need for solid security and affordability, and the entire NCRS Florida Chapter is committed to finding a way to help draw more spectators and customers for the vendors. Edd goes on to suggest that a greater acceptance of newer cars and newer car vendors by the NCRS may help draw a broader audience. Also, suggesting that opening up judged classes for modified Corvettes may be another way to increase attendance.
In an interesting twist, one of the major factors in determining the dates for the next event was not having the Winter Regional at the same time as the Mecum auction, as holding the event at the same time only serves to make attendees decide between the two. As of this writing, dates for the 2019 Winter Meet are tentatively scheduled for January 30th through February 2nd, and the NCRS board will meet later this month to make a final decision.
For more information about the National Corvette Restorer’s Society, stop by their website. Also, as the NCRS is comprised of many regional chapters, feel free to search out your local chapter and get involved. That way the Corvette hobby will continue to thrive for years to come!