CELEBRATION EXOTIC CAR FESTIVAL

Jim Weed

Volume 43 Issue 10

May 12, 2018

There are a few events that are just fun; Celebration Exotic Car Festival is one of them. Noted as one of the five best exotic car events in the world by Made Man magazine.

    There are a few events that are just fun; Celebration Exotic Car Festival is one of them. Noted as one of the five best exotic car events in the world by Made Man magazine.

    Now, I don’t read Made Man and I don’t know what they think the other four best exotic car events are in the world, but as long as their list doesn’t include Pebble Beach or Villa d’Este then Celebration should be number one.

    Few events put together the combination of track, rally, entertainment and concours like the Celebration event, and all for a great cause, Make-A-Wish Foundation.

    Celebration is put together by Jeff and Jim Ippoliti and many, many volunteers. Although I know the Ippoliti brothers would like the stay in the background they should be celebrated for this event because of their dedication and hard work to make this event one of the best, and all for a good cause.

    Since the event started in 2004, Celebration has raised over $2.3 million and granted more than 300 wishes for children.

    The entire Celebration event begins Thursday with two days of track time at historic Daytona. The infield course provides a challenging workout for both cars and drivers. There is lots of comradery in the paddock area as drivers and mechanics prepare Ferraris and many other exotics for some hot laps.

    There is plenty of track time for all who attend.

    This year 110 cars participated at Daytona. The beauty of this part of the event is there are usually many other makes beside Ferrari so there is a lot to see and experience.

    Unfortunately our schedule of production didn’t allow me to enjoy some time at the track. I have previously enjoyed going to see the cars ripping around and hearing the sound of Ferraris at full howl. Maybe next year I’ll be able to enjoy the track portion.

    The non-stop action continues Friday evening with a concert at the Hard Rock Live. This year was REO Speedwagon.  The concert is the highlight of the evening but its the journey to the venue that makes it worthwhile.

    Linda and I go to the Bohemian Hotel in downtown Celebration to catch the bus. We have experienced this part of the trip before and it is not to be missed.

    We enjoy the hotel bar and meet with friends before boarding one of several buses that will wisk us through traffic. Did I say traffic? There is no traffic for us. All five buses are escorted by Orlando’s finest. Traffic is held at intersections and on-ramps. Police cruisers and motorcycles hold traffic until we are through.

    Onlookers are amazed at the VIP treatment. All of I-4 is empty except for our little caravan. The police seen to be enjoying themselves also as they leapfrog down the highway. It is good practice for them in case they have real VIPs. Wait, we are VIPs!

    Arriving in record time, we enjoy the buffet and open bar before the show. Soon we are sitting in a packed auditorium with 1,850 others listening to music we grew up with. The band played with incredible energy for more than two hours. It seemed like we knew every song.

    Saturday dawned sunny and warm, perfect for the show. Ferraris line both sides of the street from the hotel around Lake Rianhard, along Front Street and all the way up Market Street.

    Linda photographs each Ferrari from many angles, to be logged into the database later and I talk to subscribers and friends.

    Each year I look for one special white Testarossa with a MIA VICE tag. The placard always says Bill Luosey but it is shown by Luosey’s father. This year I finally get to meet Bill and we talk about his dad who is doing fine but had a prior engagement. This is the fun of enjoying a show like this one; everyone becomes like family.

    I see and talk to many of the regulars; Jim and Debbie Pyle with their Scuderia and Steve Cantera with his Superamerica. A large portion of the cars shown are newer models. Greg Jones brought a 250 GTE and Tefft Smith brought his recreation GTO, but then the next oldest cars were 308s.

    While standing next to a 308 GT4 meet Joe Cabauy. We have been emailing back and forth about one he is trying to buy and we talk about some of the finer points of driving and maintenance.

    Just up the hill I run into one of the judging teams. This is one special team judging the various 308s. Enrique Senior and his son, Rafael Senior, are showing a new judge the ropes.

    Remember what Celebration is about? Raising funds for Make-A-Wish. What if your wish was to see the Celebration Exotic Car Festival? Well, that is exactly what Grant Fischer wanted. What better way to grant his wish than to make him part of the total event.

          Rafael Senior, Martha Bachman and Grant Fischer judging - Enrique Senior photo

    Fischer was able to experience Daytona, ride in some exotic machinery and visit the museum. He then became an apprentice judge getting up close and personal with many of the Ferraris on display.

    While this event is open to the public all cars are parked on the street available for inspection; up at the top of the hill was one fenced off area with a special car displayed. It was a LaFerrari Aperta. And it was the last one made. It was also yellow. With all those hints you should be able to guess the name on the placard was Phil Bachman.

    Phil and Martha Bachman were judging. The newest addition to their stable had just come off the truck to be debuted at Celebration. While every one had to admire the yellow Ferrari from a far, Grant Fischer got to sit in this special car. Thanks, Phil and Martha! Grant will remember that moment forever.

               Grant Fischer in a LaFerrari Aperta - Enrique Senior photo

    There are more than Ferraris at Celebration and along Front Street are more exotic machinery. McLarens and Lamborghinis, Lotus and Vector, NSX and Corvette along with some cool fifties American cars. We are here for Ferraris, so I make a cursory nod toward the others.

    Saturday night is dinner at the Four Seasons Resort. While waiting to be seated the room has been transformed into a casino. Tickets for chips are liberally handed out and between roulette, craps and blackjack the house won most of it back. I know mine disappeared in a hurry but then again that’s why Vegas and I don’t get along.

    Taittinger Champagne flows and at least for a moment we feel like James Bond or Alfonso de Portago. Before we know it we are sitting down to a ZD wine paring dinner. We enjoy different wines with every course. Dinner and conversation are both excellent.

    The night’s entertainment is several sleight-of-hand performers; one produces a wine bottle from a seemingly empty cardboard tube, six or seven bottles later, I still don’t know where they came from or where he kept them. Fun indeed!

    Another was a juggler, not a chainsaws and candles juggler, but hats and ping pong balls juggler. It was amazing to watch him walk around the tables while never missing a beat.

    All of this was a warm-up to the auction of various packages to raise money for Make-A-Wish, and money was generously given for the cause.

    All in all for the entire Celebration Exotic Car Festival this year a total of $250,000 was raised. Not a bad weekend. Fun, friends and Ferraris and helping others achieve a dream. It doesn’t get any better than that.

    Rafael Senior, Phil Bachman and Grant Fischer enjoying the show - Enrique Senior photo

 

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