SW Florida Events, Activities and Information

There are always things going on in and around SW Florida.  Check back here often for the latest news!

Jan. 8, 2019

2018 - A Year Of Giving

Giving Back To The Community In Our Own Special Way

We consider ourselves blessed to be living and working here in Southwest Florida.  Which is why we at SW Florida Homes Group are delighted to give back to the community.  We accomplish this in a rather unique way:  with pictures of Classic and Collector Cars and Trucks!  Allow me to explain…  

Southwest Florida is a great place for car and truck enthusiasts for several reasons. Two most notable is the climate, which allows for great weather year around for car events, and the attractions, which provide a multitude of scenic destinations to enjoy your ride.  The community is supported by a number of Car and Truck Shows held throughout the year.  Proceeds from these shows go the benefit of a number of great charities.  Our contribution is that for many of these events, we take high resolution photos using professional grade equipment of each participant’s vehicle, have them professionally printed and then mailed in a special commemorative folder.  But significantly, we do this entirely free of charge. As you can well imagine, this is an expensive and labor intensive process.  But doing so increases awareness and the attendance of the event, which in turn benefits the charity.  

In 2018 we processed, printed and mailed nearly 1,000 5x7 photos and published reports and photos on over a dozen events.   So, we’d like to recap the shows we covered and the charities for which they raised money and highlight what those organizations provide to those who need their services.

Caffeine and Gasoline - is held on the last Saturday every month at BMW of Sarasota from 8am to 11am is open to all makes and models from classics to exotics. They raise money throughout the year for two causes. All Faith’s Food Bank which partners with entities in Sarasota and Desoto Counties to provide basic necessities to households where children, seniors, and veterans are in need. This includes mobile pantries, mobile farm markets, school panties, nutrition education, and backpacks for students full of nutritious foods for weekends. All Faith’s Food Bank also has disaster plans in place for hurricane relief, like in the case when Irma impacted Florida. The other organization that Caffeine and Gasoline supports is the Toys for Tots program by the US Marine Corps. Toys for Tots provides toys, books, and other gifts and passes the message of hope to less fortunate children. They also provide literacy programs with quality children’s books to children and schools across the country.

Beach N’ Food Truck/Music Festival Car and Truck Show, Island Bay Fest Car and Truck Show, and the Spring and Fall Gamble Mansion Bill Mergens Memorial Car and Truck Show -  these are the largest events we attend by far and support two wonderful causes in the Manatee County. In the month of April the Beach N’ Food Truck/Music Festival not only included the area’s finest mobile eateries and local bands they also hosted a car and truck show as well as vendor booths with unique merchandise. The event was staged right on the white quartz sand of Coquina Beach and the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Likewise, the Island Bay Fest is hosted on Pine Ave in October with a 150+ car and truck show along with food and merchandise vendors, live music, activities for both adults and kids, and local cafés and boutiques open to visitors.

The Spring and Fall Gamble Mansion Bill Mergens Memorial Car and Truck Show is held on the grounds of the historic Gamble Plantation under picturesque southern oaks. They usually see vehicle attendance between 250 to 300. All benefiting the Gamble Preservation Alliance and the Manasota S.O.L.V.E. Maternity Homes. The Gamble Preservation Alliance provides financial assistance for preservation, restoration, and improvements to the Gamble Mansion, to promote educational programs that teaches the park’s cultural past and to enhance visitors’ experience, to promote interest in the local history and raise public awareness through historical re-enactments and events, and to provide a destination of heritage for tourist. Funds also assist in providing much needed supplies and equipment that support daily operations and maintenance of the park that otherwise may not be funded through state budgets. The Manasota S.O.L.V.E. Maternity Homes serve the needs of at-risk pregnant women of all ages and their babies. They offer Christ-centered, structured housing programs free of charge from the time of their pregnancy and a pre-determined time post birth. They do not rely on government funding, but are solely supported directly by community donations. Services that are included are education, counseling, health care resources, parenting classes, spiritual support, reassurance, and case management.

Ruskin Family Drive In Cruise In - was held several times throughout the year benefited the St. Joseph’s Knights of Columbus Food Bank. The drive in is one of the last iconic landmarks from an era gone by that is still in weekly operation. The cruise in offered 50’s and 60’s music by Lance’s Cruisin’ to the Hop, prizes, and awards, and a contest for best dressed 50’s outfit. Proceeds went to the St. Joseph’s Knights of Columbus Food Bank which provides an orderly and fair distribution of food to those in need. The food bank is supported by parishioners, local businesses, and grants from local organizations. Funding does not come from the government, but when available they do obtain food from the USDA.


The Sarasota Powerboat Festival Car and Truck Show -  held in June at the Sarasota Fairgrounds mixed street muscle with high performance race boats. This event benefited the Suncoast Charities for Children which is a non-profit that provides grants to the Suncoast Foundation for construction, capitol improvements, and special projects for local non-profit agencies that provide services for children and adults with special needs. The organization supports necessary repairs and improvements to aging campuses that include The Haven, The Florida Center for Early Childhood, Children First, and Sarasota County Special Olympics. Proceeds are provided by several events held throughout the year like the Sarasota Powerboat Festival as well as from a multitude of community partners.

Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Flight to the North Pole Car and Truck Show - held every November at MCSO’s Operations Center; this show pulls in over 150 vehicles and motorcycles with live entertainment, lots of raffle prizes, and burgers and pizza. Flight to the North Pole was started in 1985 by the employees of Eastern Airlines. Each year it has been held at the Sarasota/Bradenton Airport for terminally ill children giving them a day with Santa and his elves where they participate in games, activities in Santa’s workshop, food, and presents. The airport fire department is turned into a winter wonderland for children who may be celebrating their last holiday and make it memorable for them and their siblings and parents. As time progressed the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and the Airport Fire Department took the reins and partnered with other community organizations and individuals to continue this mission that the Eastern Airline employees started. All work together to help shed a ray of light in the lives of local children who otherwise are going through dismal circumstances.

Ponies Under the Palms Mustang and Ford Show - held each November on Main Street Lakewood Ranch and attracts over 170 vintage and modern Mustang and other Ford powered vehicles. Offering a wide assortment of raffle prizes, entertainment, and a variety of shops and cafés on Main, this event supports two fine charities that work with members of the community. First is the Southeastern Guide Dogs who partners service dogs with those who have lost their vision and veterans with disabilities. They run an advanced training facility and have recruited some of the most talented trainers and scientist in the world. Southeastern Guide Dogs are a national outreach providing dogs and lifetime services at no cost and without government funding. They’ve matched over 3100 service dogs since their inception in 1982. The second beneficiary is Take Stock in Children whose mission is to break the cycle of poverty for low income and academically qualified students. They provide this by offering post-secondary education, college scholarships, and mentors. Their services begin in middle school, and continue into high school, as well as the student’s transition through college and onto their career. Take Stock is active in over 800 schools throughout the state including Manatee and Sarasota Counties making sure students graduate with the knowledge and skills necessary to successfully enter the workforce. Their success is evident with 96% of their students graduating high school, 67% graduate college compared to the state average of only 25% who are in poverty, and 85% did not need remediation.

Show after show car enthusiasts have come out to participate and support these organizations and the communities they serve. It has been an honor, privilege, and in a lot of cases humbling to be a part of the efforts put forth by so many to make sure people’s needs are met when they most need it. We look forward to 2019 and the new opportunities to participate in future events supporting these and other causes in Manatee and Sarasota Counties. And we hope to see you there as well.

From our family to yours; we wish you a very happy and healthy New Year!


Content by Kelvin Etchison and Mark Stanoch


Posted in Interests
Dec. 15, 2018

Florida Railroad Museum

Preserving Florida’s Railroad History

In the small town of Parrish in northern Manatee County the Florida Railroad Museum brings the past alive when most commonly traveled by train. Operating approximately six miles of track, the museum offers train excursions from Parrish to Willow using vintage equipment from around the state. Experience the clickity-clack sounds the vintage rail coaches make and the old Florida scenery travelers enjoyed during the 1940’s and 50’s from the elegant comfort of the restored Atlantic Coastline 250 first class lounge car. Hear the rumble of the 1500 hp FGCX 1835 locomotive that once served the Department of Defense as it roars down the tracks. Or ride in the observation cab of the Seaboard Coastline #01188 caboose as the brakemen did for so many years. There are several locomotives, coaches, open gondolas, and cabooses that are in operation or display at the Florida Railroad Museum as well as many that are currently being restored including Frisco 3749. Frisco is a 1913 Baldwin locomotive that ran between St. Louis and San Francisco and was featured in the 1957 film “The Wings of Eagles” starring John Wayne. Additionally, there’s a gift shop and a display of artifacts that were used on the rail lines in the past. 

This part of track where the museum’s trains run is part of the old Sarasota sub line that originally ran from Durant, located just east of Brandon, south to Venice.  It’s birth can be traced back when Crawford Parrish bought the Oak Hill Plantation from Major William Turner. His son John Parrish donated land for a train depot and requested it be named after his father which later became known as the Parrish stop. The sub line was built in 1895 and had nine stops. During it’s operation passenger and freight trains (including the Tropicana train) used this rail until the Seaboard and Coastline merger in 1967 at which time most were rerouted to the ACL line that connected Tampa and Bradenton. However, some work and freight trains continued to use this line servicing industries along it’s route until 1981 when the line was decommissioned. The Florida Railroad Museum acquired the railroad property and tracks between Parrish and Willow that same year and has highlighted the history and preservation of the Plant System and Seaboard Air Line that serviced this region for decades.

Special events are hosted at different times of the year like civil war reenactments, the Pumpkin Patch Express, train robberies by the Hole in the Head Gang, and one of the most popular when Thomas the Train comes to visit. For family events or corporate functions rental excursions are available, as well.

The Florida Railroad Museum is located at 12210 83rd St E, Parrish, FL, 34219. Hours of operation are Wednesday through Sunday 10am-4pm except during a two week break for Christmas and New Year’s. Regularly scheduled train excursions run on Saturdays and Sundays departing at 11am and 2pm which last about 1.5 hours round-trip. Times may vary during special events. For pricing or additional information call 941-776-0906 or visit http://www.frrm.org/index.html .

Come visit the Florida Railroad Museum and rediscover the romance of rail travel. 


Content by Kelvin Etchison, photos courtesy of the Florida Railroad Museum


Posted in Interests
Dec. 12, 2018

Christmas Shop Island Style At The Beach Market!

Holiday Shopping On Bradenton Beach

Now that the holiday season is in full swing everyone is caught up in the hustle and bustle that comes along with this time of year. Christmas parties, holiday attractions, taking the kids to see Santa, and…ah yes! Gift shopping! It’s a wonderful time of the year, but it can be a bit hectic at times. Maybe you’re looking for an excuse to slow down and enjoy some of the fun outdoor activities and our fantastic SW Florida weather. What if you could enjoy the beach and get some holiday shopping in at the same time; all at the relaxing speed of island time? Then the Beach Market on Bradenton Beach is your ticket!

Located on the southern end of Anna Maria Island at Coquina Park the Beach Market offers a wide variety of food and merchandise vendors. If you’re looking for something unique to get friends and family this year this is the place to find it. Local artist bring their handmade arts and crafts, wood working, pottery, and collectibles. You can watch your gift be made right on site. Local merchants also have apparel, purses, and jewelry available for purchase that you won’t find in the chain stores. Local farmers and chefs are on hand with fresh produce, local honey, herbs and teas, baked goods, and gourmet foods. You’ll also find resident photographers displaying their work as well as health and beauty items. The Beach Market overlooks the beautiful white sandy beach and the Gulf of Mexico. Enjoy some time on the beach or in the water then come stroll the market. The AMI string band wonders the market throughout the day playing music. Lunch and drinks are also served on the deck of the Coquina Café.

The Beach Market is located at 2650 Gulf Drive S. at Coquina Park, Bradenton Beach and runs from 10am to 4pm every Sunday November through July (excluding Easter, Cinco de Mayo, Mother’s Day and Memorial Weekend in 2019) and every Wednesday December 19, 2018 through May 22, 2019. The AMI string band performs from 10:30am to 2:30pm. Parking is free or you can ride the trolley to the market at no cost. The market is stroller, walker, and wheelchair accessible. Just a heads up; Manatee County does not allow dogs anywhere in Coquina Park. So, please leave Fido at home. For more information call 941-518-4431 or visit http://islandsandbeaches.com/market/ 

Content by Kelvin Etchison; pictures courtesy of Nancy Ambrose

Posted in Events
Dec. 5, 2018

Ponies Under The Palms - More Shots!

Some Great Looking Rides On Main Street Lakewood Ranch

We wrote recently about the Mustang Club of West Central Florida's "Ponies Under the Palms" event which took place the Sunday before Thanksgiving.  Since then we have processed the photos and sent them out to their proud owners.  So we thought we would share the photos of the individual vehicles with you.  To view them, just click on the picture of the red Mustang above.  There were really some stunning entrants and we hope you enjoy the photos.  Please feel free to share your comments in the form below.

Posted in Events
Nov. 29, 2018

Your 2018 Holiday Season Event Calendar

Get In The Spirit With These Local Holiday Events

It’s that time of the year, again! My favorite time of the year. When we gather with family and friends and share good cheer and tidings with one another. When we decorate our homes like ginger bread houses and we trim the tree with festive ornaments and twinkling lights. “Deck the Halls” and “White Christmas” fill the air waves and children have a gleam in their eye dreaming about what awaits them on Christmas morning. We’re reminded, as well, of the goodness in people’s hearts when we see them come together to help those in need in so many ways. It’s a magical time of the year.

And why not catch some of that magic? There’s plenty of holiday festivities happening across the Suncoast region. We hope you find this list of attractions helpful when deciding where you want to take in the yuletide spirit.


Dec 1st 2pm – Christmas with Blue Eyes: A Sinatra Big Band Party will be performed by State College of Florida big band and jazz combos. Tickets are $10 each and will be hosted at SCF’s Neel Performing Arts Center 5840 26th St. W, Bradenton, FL. Visit www.SCF.edu/Neel or call 941-752-5252.

Dec 8th 10am-12:30pm – Anna Maria Island – Annual Anna Maria Island Privateers Christmas Parade which will run from the north end of the island beginning at Bay Front Park ending at Coquina Beach. Refreshments will be available as well as Santa Claus who will be handing out presents to all the boys and girls. For more information call 941-900-4141.

Dec 8th 6:30pm-till? –21st Annual Manatee River Holiday Boat Parade. The lighted boats will round Snead Island, past Riverhouse Reef and Grill and Regatta Point Marina and end at Pier 22 and Twin Dolphin Marina. The public can view the flotilla along the Riverfront, the Green Bridge, and Regatta Marina. Visit http://www.riverhousereefandgrill.com/blog/2018-boat-parade/ for more information.

Dec 14th 6pm-9pm – 3rd Annual Holiday Movie on Riverwalk. The Pavilion at Riverwalk will have popcorn and drinks, music entertainment, and face painting. Visit http://www.realizebradenton.com/holiday_movie_on_the_riverwalk for more information.

Dec 14th – 16th , Dec 21st-Dec 23rd 6pm-10pm - Country Christmas at Hunsader Farms. Petting zoo, hayrides, kiddie train rides, Christmas movies, pictures with Santa, vast light displays, food and vendors all on the outdoor grounds. Admission is $10, children 5 and younger are free. 5500 C.R. 675, Bradenton. Call 941-322-2168 or visit https://www.hunsaderfarms.com/country-christmas

Dec 15th 11am-4pm – An Old Florida Christmas at the Manatee Village Historical Park. Live entertainment, vintage holiday films, food and refreshments, handmade arts and crafts, old fashioned Victorian style decorations. 1404 Manatee Ave. E, Bradenton. Call 941-749-7165 or visit http://manateevillage.org/.


Dec 1st 7pm – Downtown Sarasota – 23rd Annual Holiday Parade. Decorated floats will run Main Street along with marching bands, and Santa Clause rounding out the parade.

Dec 1st – 9th – 10th Annual Gingerbread House Festival presented by the Girls Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida. Over a hundred gingerbread houses put together by youth groups, school children, and local organizations. The display will be open during mall hours held at The Mall at University Town Center 140 University Town Center Dr., Sarasota, FL. Admission is $1.

Dec 1st – 9th – 45th Annual Singing Christmas Tree. 115 choir members don a 25 foot tall tree with over 10,000 lights coupled with an orchestra. Adults $15, children under 12 $10. Held at First Baptist Church of Sarasota 1661 Main St., Sarasota. For more information call 888-684-5272 or visit https://firstsarasota.brushfire.com/singing-christmas-tree. 

Dec 6th 5pm-8pm – Holiday Splendor at The Ringling Museum of Art. Holiday music, food and drinks. Benefiting the Toys for Tots charities by the Marine Corps. Performances and activities will be held throughout the grounds. Admission is free with an unwrapped toy or Adults $15, children 6-17 yrs old are $5, under 5 yrs old are free. 5401 Bay Shore Rd, Sarasota. There will also be additional events called “Deck the Halls at Ca’ d’Zan” Dec 13th, 20th, and 27th. Visit https://www.ringling.org/events/holiday-splendor for more information.

Dec 7th 5:30pm-9pm – St. Armand’s Circle – 40th Annual Holiday Night of Lights. The evening begins with a holiday performance followed by a caroling sing along. Then, welcome Santa and his sleigh as he rides in for the tree lighting ceremony.

Dec 8th 2pm-till? – A Little Bit of Christmas concert by The Manatee Community Concert Band playing holiday musical favorites. Hosted at The Mall at University Town Center 140 University Town Center Dr, Sarasota.  Free admission, donations welcomed.

Dec 8th 6pm-till? – Annual Christmas Boat Parade of Lights. Casting off from City Island and features an eclectic range of lighted boats. Visit http://www.sarasotachristmasboatparade.com/ for more information.

Dec 9th 3pm-6pm – 8th Annual Taste of Chanukah Food and Music Festival. Entertainment, arts, crafts, and activities for the young and old. Catered kosher food, games, magicians, and more! $5 admission, children under 13 are free, and free parking. Chadbad of Sarasota will host this event at Phillippi Estate Park, 5500 S. Tamiami Tr., Sarasota. For more information https://www.atasteofchanukah.com/ .

Dec 11th-23rd – A Classic Crosley Christmas at the Crosley Estate. The Crosley Players will sing carols under the Christmas lights. The Crosley Theater will also perform several live performances featuring The Gift of the Magi, Belle’s Story, and A Visit from Saint Nick followed by A Christmas Carol where viewers get to participate. 8374 N. Tamiami Tr., Sarasota. For times and prices call 941-729-9177 or visit https://www.bradentongulfislands.com/crosley-theater/.

Dec 13th-15th 6pm-9pm – 2nd Annual Walk Through The Christmas Story. Several sets with actors along with a live manger scene with shepherds and animals, hot chocolate and cookies, and Christmas music. Liberty Baptist Church 4249 Bahia Vista St., Sarasota. For more information call 941-371-8239 or visit http://www.lbcsarasota.com/livestream.

Dec 13th-16th – The Living Nativity presented by the Tabernacle Church. Visitors will be able to interact with cast members, children will be able to pet the manger animals. There will be one performance an evening starting at 7:30pm. There will also be holiday treats and refreshments. 4141 Desoto Rd, Sarasota. For more information call 941-355-8858 or visit https://www.mytab.church/.

Dec 14th-15th, Dec 20th-24th, Dec 24th and 26th - 6pm-9pm – Annual Holiday Lights Spectacular Celebration at Sarasota Jungle Gardens. Live entertainment, Candy Cane Lane, holiday lights decorate the walkways and the grounds. Visit Santa. 3701 Bayshore Rd. Admission $11 for adults, $6 for children 3-12, Children 2 yrs and younger free. Call 941-355-5305 or visit http://www.sarasotajunglegardens.com/.

Dec 15th 5pm-9pm –Moonlight Movies at the Beach at Siesta Key Beach hosted by the Sarasota Film Festival featuring “ELF”. 948 Beach Rd., Sarasota.

Dec 20th-23rd, 26th-30th and Jan 1st, 6pm-9pm –15th Annual Selby Gardens Lights in Bloom Celebration where this tropical wonderland will be decked out in holiday lights. Children’s arts and crafts along with games and Santa and his elves. Michael’s on East will have food and refreshments available, live music. Members $20, non-members $25, children 5-12 $7, children under 5 free. 811 South Palm Ave., Sarasota. For more information visit https://selby.org/ or call them at 941-366-5731.

Lakewood Ranch

Dec 6th, 13th, 14th, 20th,  6:30pm – 8:30pm – Main St. will host Sounds of the Season with carolers, lighted displays, carriage rides, and Santa Claus. Visit https://lakewoodranch.com/event/christmas-celebration/ for more information.


Dec 1st 3pm-8pm – Christmas in the Park for Kids. Admission is free. There will be contests, crafts, games, and the “jolly ol’ elf” himself. Children will be able to slide down a snow hill. There will also be food and drinks on hand. Call 941-721-2034 or visit https://palmettohistoricalpark.com/events/palmettos-christmas-in-the-park/ for more information.


Dec 9th 10am-3pm – The Gamble Plantation Christmas Open House. The mansion will be decorated in 19th century Christmas, music, crafts, and lifestyle demonstrations. 3708 Patten Ave., Ellenton. Call for more information 941-723-4536 or visit https://patch.com/florida/bradenton/calendar/event/20181209/463024/plantation-christmas-at-historic-gamble-mansion .


Dec 7th - 8th and 15th   5pm-8pm – Holly Days and Mangrove Lights at Historic Spanish Point and Family Movie Night. Crafts, holiday treats, and family friendly holiday movie. 337 N. Tamiami Tr, Osprey. For more information call 941-966-5214 or click https://www.historicspanishpoint.org/upcoming-events/holidays/ .


Dec 1st 6pm – Christmas Boat Parade starting from the Albee Rd. Bridge in Nokomis and south along the intercoastal waterway to the Circus Bridge in Venice. You’ll be able to view the lighted boats along the North and South Jetties and throughout the downtown waterways. Admission is free! For more information visit https://www.venicechristmasboatparade.com/ .

Dec 6th 5pm-8pm – Annual Christmas Walk in Historic Downtown Venice. Food, drinks, holiday decorations, live entertainment, and holiday treats along Venice Ave.

Dec 9th 4:30pm-6:30pm – The Chanukah Klezmer Festival. Live music by Freylekh Klezmer Band, Hebrew School Performance, a replica of the Western Wall, and traditional food and desserts. Hosted by the Chadbad of Venice at Centennial Park 200 West Venice Ave. Visit https://www.chabadofvenice.com/templates/articlecco_cdo/aid/3494458/jewish/Chanukah-Klezmer-Festival.htm for information.

Ring in the New Year at these fantastic venues!


Dec 31st 5pm – midnight – Main St. Live New Year’s Celebration with live music, food, art and craft vendors. Visit http://www.realizebradenton.com/events for more information.


Dec 31st 1pm-1:30am – New Year’s Celebration and Pineapple Drop with live music, vendors, VIP tent, the Pineapple drop to ring in the new year followed by a firework display on Sarasota Bay Front.

Dec 31st 8pm -1am – 4th Annual New Year’s Gala at the Crosley Estate. The evening begins with a five course meal hosted throughout three grand parlors. Following the meal the parlors transform into a dapper speakeasy gala along with a bayside lounge to enjoy spirits and dancing. Champagne toast at midnight. Admission $145 per person, speakeasy only $45 per person 21 and up only. 8374 N Tamiami Tr, Sarasota. Visit http://www.crosleysupperclub.com/home.html or call 941-312-0000.

Dec 31st 8pm-1am – Annual New Year’s Eve Experience at Selby Gardens. A four course meal with hors d’oeuvres, live entertainment and dancing followed by the fireworks on Sarasota Bay. This is a black tie event and is $250 per person. 900 S. Palm Ave., Sarasota. For more information visit https://selby.org/ or call them at 941-366-5731.

Dec 31st 9pm-1am – NYE Red Carpet Illumination Party at the Sarasota Municipal Auditorium. Dancing with live music and DJ entertainment, light show, open bar, and appetizers catered by several local premier restaurants. Admission is $150 in advance or $200 at the door. 801 N. Tamiami Tr. Sarasota. Visit http://sarasotanewyearseveparty.com/ or 941-223-9159.


Dec 31st 8pm – 1am – Annual New Year’s Eve Bash at Sharky’s on the Pier. Party favors, live entertainment, food and drinks, wrapping up with a fireworks display. 1600 Harbor Dr. S., Venice. Visit www.sharkysonthepier.com or call 941-488-1456.

We wish you the merriest of holidays and a very happy new year!


Content by Kelvin Etchison


Posted in Events
Nov. 21, 2018

Ponies Under The Palms

A Great Start To Thanksgiving Week

This past Sunday played host to perfect weather for another great car event. Ponies Under the Palms was held at Main Street in Lakewood Ranch which attracted about 145 Mustangs and other Ford powered automobiles. Mustangs from 1964 right on up to 2019 were well represented. As well were Shelby’s, Roush’s, Boss’, Mach 1’s, even a 525 hp Saleen, and a Ford built Cobra Jet pure race car. In addition, there were street rods from several years, a Model A, several Lincolns and Mercury’s, Panteras, and a couple rare Cougar Eliminators. A rather eclectic collection of vehicles for sure!

One of the prized displays was a rare prototype Mustang that never saw production. A unicorn, so to speak. A 1965 all-wheel drive Mustang coupe with ABS brakes. That’s right! An all-wheel drive platform designed by Harry Ferguson in England which was a concept born from a successful architecture and manufacturing of an AWD Formula 1 car in 1960. Ferguson integrated Dunlop Maxaret anti-lock brakes with front disc and rear drums and shipped the car back to the US for a demonstration for Ford, GM, and Chrysler. Unfortunately, the big three dismissed the idea and that is as they say “is history”. It is great to see that this rare pony survived the times to tell it’s story to today’s generation of car enthusiasts.

The show is coordinated by the local Mustang of West Central Florida Car Club. Participants were eligible for prizes and awards in several classes. Music was provided by Lance’s Cruizin’ to the Hop. Monies raised at this show benefit both the Southeastern Guide Dogs and Take Stock in Children.

And the venue for this event is an excellent choice, too. Main Street Lakewood Ranch offers restaurants that serve up both domestic and international cuisine. There’s shoppes and cafés as well as a movie theatre and a put-put course right on the lake. There’s plenty to do for all ages while visiting the show.

Ponies Under the Palms is held every year on the Sunday that kicks off Thanksgiving week. The show runs from 10am to 3pm. For more information on next year’s event visit http://clubs.hemmings.com/mustangclubwestcentralflorida/ .

Click here to view more photos from this terrific event.

We wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!

Content and photos by Kelvin Etchison



Posted in Events
Nov. 19, 2018

Silly Statistics or Intriguing Insights?

Interesting Facts From The Recent Gamble Plantation Car and Truck Show

During the later part of the 19th century, British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli famously exclaimed that: "There are three kinds of lies:  lies, damned lies and statistics."  Being in the real estate profession, we routinely rely on our professional background in management science and statistics (in fact, I am a former Econometrician) to try to interpret market trends for our customers.  So after entering and verifying data on 200 photo requests from the recent Bill Mergens Memorial Car and Truck Show at Gamble Plantation (for more details, read our blog post here) we couldn't resist the temptation to analyze some show data.  Was this a worthwhile exercise?  We will let you, the reader, decide.... 

The Most Popular Car Color

While many of the current color schemes offered by car manufacturers require two words to describe their colors such as "Screaming Yellow" or "Grabber Blue", we simply classified each entry by its primary color.  Here are the results of our tabulation (click on the picture for a larger view):

Advocates of more exotic colors will be disappointed to learn that the top color of cars on display were Red (26%) followed by Black (19%) with 16% of attendees proudly displaying their Blue rides.

Which Car Maker Predominated?

This one was surprising.  Even with the huge number of Mustangs on the roads in Manatee, Sarasota and other Central and Southwest Florida counties, the Gamble Plantation show was very much a Chevy show.  Here are the results (here again you may click on the image for a larger view):

There were 71 cars entered which were manufactured by Chevrolet followed by just 47 Fords.  It should be noted that we retained the other prominent GM brands like Buick, Pontiac and Oldsmobile.  Aggregating these car makes together accounts for over 50% of attendee forms submitted, making this primarily a "GM Show".

Which Model Year Was Most In Evidence?

Cars made in the 60's lead the way with 57 entries followed closely by 70's (29 entries) and then the 50's with 26 entries.  The model year distribution is summarized below (remember, you may can click on the graphic below in order to see a larger view):

So what do you think?  Why is red the most popular color?  Are 70's cars really more popular than others?  We would be interested in hearing your thoughts.  Just use the form below to submit your comments.  In the meantime, enjoy the ride!

Posted in Interests
Nov. 13, 2018

Flight To The North Pole

Last Saturday, November 10th, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office hosted their annual benefit show for the Flight to the North Pole initiative that began with employees from Eastern Airlines over three decades ago. The Sheriff’s Office partners with the Sarasota-Bradenton Airport Fire Department and several businesses to organize a yearly event for terminally ill children. Held at the Sarasota-Bradenton Airport, Santa arrives in a helicopter to spread good cheer, presents, and participate in holiday games and activities providing a much needed escape for a few hours from otherwise difficult days for these children and their families. This was a vision that Eastern Airlines attendants started 33 years ago and is carried on by current community members.

There are several fundraisers held throughout the year to raise money for Santa and his Flight to the North Pole. One is this annual Flight to the North Pole Benefit Car, Truck, and Motorcycle Show held at the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Operations Center. This year was another fantastic turn out of both vintage iron and modern muscle. Vehicles representing street rods from the 30’s and 40’s to boulevard cruisers of the 50’s. There were 60’s and 70’s muscle cars, as well as late model rides from the 80’s all the way up to the present. A large turn out of motorcycles also was present mostly representing various models of Harley’s both mild to wild.

There were vendors and food present as well as an Elvis impersonator who entertained the crowd with all of the top hits by the King of Rock N Roll. There was a 50/50 along with silent auctions. And, of course, the jolly ol’ elf himself dropped in by police escort to say “hi” and thank everyone for helping out with this wonderful cause.

For more about the Flight to the North Pole and how you can get involved visit their site at http://flighttothenorthpole.org/.



Content & photos by Kelvin Etchison

Posted in Events
Nov. 8, 2018

Gamble Plantation Fall Show

This Year's Show Was Another Rousing Success!

The Bill Mergens Memorial Car and Truck Show was held last weekend at the Gamble Plantation Historic State Park in Ellenton.  Despite the threat of rain (and the early morning drizzle), 223 proud car and truck owners turned out to show off their rides.  Holy Smokes Barbeque was on hand again this year with their delicious fare while music was expertly provided by the team from Lance's Cruizin' To The Hop.  All show proceeds went to the benefit of SOLVE Maternity Homes and the Gamble Plantation Preservation Alliance.

The skies were overcast throughout most of the event but this provided a unique opportunity for photographs.  You see, most vehicles are highly polished and bright sunshine causes reflections which becomes difficult to manage when processing photos.  However, with the cloudy weather we were able to shoot virtually from any angle while minimizing glare.  We took over 800 shots consuming almost 60GB of storage.  Needless to say, we will be working on these photos for the next couple of days. But in the meantime we wanted to share some the shots taken from the field.  To view these photos, simply click this link.  

We will continue to post photos while we process them.  We hope you enjoy the photos and look forward to seeing you at future events.

Posted in Events
Oct. 29, 2018

Can You Say "Pumpkin"?

Beautiful weather and a great turnout made this year's Hunsader Farms Pumpkin Festival a rousing success

The weather was a pleasant 78 degrees and the skies were clear and bright over east Manatee county last Sunday where the annual Pumpkin Festival at Hunsader Farms was held.  Turnout was strong with parking on both fields filling up fast by noon.  Inside, attendees were treated to all the delights of a typical country fair including a mini circus, daredevil motorcycle driving, a petting zoo, face painting and great food.  Barbequed turkey legs could be seen everywhere and I can certainly attest to the tasty pulled pork sandwich the aroma of which tantalized yards away from the booth.  Country music was provided by a number of local artists:  we particularly enjoyed the "One Night Rodeo" band who performed country favorites on Sunday afternoon. And of course there were pumpkins...hundreds of them!

Not to be outdone by the other festivities, a number of proud owners showed off their fantastic rides, too.  We snapped a couple of photos during our visit which can be viewed by clicking this link.

And don't forget, the Bill Mergens Memorial Car and Truck Show is less than a week away!  It will be held at Gamble Plantation Historic State Park next Sunday, November 4.  For more details, just click this link.  The SW Florida Homes Group will be on hand again this year to take photos of all entrants right in front of Gamble Mansion.  All entrants will receive a photo of their vehicle in a custom commemorative frame.  So be sure to come by!  We hope to see you there.


Posted in Events