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Celebration Exotic Car Festival - It’s all about the kids

Jim Weed

Volume 48 Issue 8

Apr 22, 2023

Fun, fellowship, concours, rally and track time at Daytona, Celebration Exotic Car Festival has it all. Make-A-Wish has benefited from this event for twenty years.

    Each year the quiet streets of Celebration, Florida, are filled with exotic cars. Lamborghini, McLaren, Maserati, Porsche, DeLorean and even Ferrari automobiles grace the streets.

    For twenty years Jeff and Jim Ippoliti have brought exotic cars to this small town to celebrate the automobile, to bring automobiles directly to the public to bring awareness and donations to Make-A-Wish foundation.

    Born out of tragic circumstances, the event was designed to provide a platform of giving to Make-A-Wish and each year donations have allowed many, many children to receive their wishes.

    So far, not counting this year, the Celebration event has contributed over $4.5 million dollars to the organization. Each child’s wish averages about $10,000. You can see how this event has made a difference in so many young lives.

    Celebration Exotic Car Festival kicks off on Friday. One of the things I like about this event is it happens to coincide with the airshow in Lakeland called SUN-n-FUN. There is nothing better than to spend time with exotic airplanes and exotic cars all on the same weekend.

    Friday morning Linda and I drive down to Lakeland and spend a few hours looking at Mustangs and Corsairs. We walk through a C130 and a Chinook helicopter to see how our tax dollars are being spent.

    If that wasn’t enough, the F-35 demo team was making low passes and shaking the ground. I love the smell of jet fuel in the morning… and 100 low-lead… and race gas… I think there is a theme here.

    While walking around looking at airplanes I hear someone call my name. The Air Boss, the one in charge of all the air coordination for the show, sees me. He was a partner in my plane; we had flown into SUN-n-FUN many years ago and now he is a captain for Frontier Airlines.

    You never know how or what you do affects others in your life. This will be a recurring message for the rest of the weekend.

    Enough about airplanes; there is a dinner to attend. Friday night, the Celebration participants are chauffeured to Universal Studios CityWalk. Buses line up in Celebration and you better be there by six o’clock because you don’t want to miss this ride.

    Universal Studios CityWalk on a late Friday afternoon would normally be a 45-minute drive, but we have a secret weapon to bypass rush-hour traffic. Motorcycles, the ones you hate to see in your rearview mirror with flashing blue lights, lead the way.

    Immediately behind the first row of police is a Hennessey Venom F5 in all its carbon fiber glory. This Supercar boasts 1,817 horsepower with a top speed of over three hundred miles per hour.

    For this article I spent some time on the website learning about this special car. I wish I had read about it before I saw one in person as I would have taken better notice. Not to be a Ferrari snob, but I spend every day learning and discovering new things about my business and I don’t get too far into other marques. My bandwidth is just not that wide.

    With the police escort, Hennessey Venom F5 and several buses loaded with participants, we rolled down the road and onto an empty freeway. The motorcycles stop traffic from the on-ramps and clear the way as we arrive at Universal Studios in record time.

    There we were led to a roped off area with three bars. Food kiosks are spread about the courtyard and conversation with friends flows freely. The karaoke bar seemed to be the most popular and several brave souls sang. The band and backup singers help make everyone who “performed” sound great. There was much talent among our group.

    Saturday, the cars are parked up and down the street. Ferraris line Main Street and other marques fill the area around the lake. At the top of the hill there are two GTOs displayed. One is a 288 GTO and the other a 250 GTO.