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Celebration 2022

Jim Weed

Volume 47 Issue 09

Apr 30, 2022

Celebration Exotic Car Festival is all about fun, and Make-A-Wish Foundation. What could go wrong when you bring Ferraris together for a good cause? Nothing!

    It’s well known I like airplanes and Ferraris; well, exotic cars in general. To be honest I like all cars. So when an opportunity to see both arrives, I must act.


    Celebration Exotic Car Festival just happens to be the same weekend as SUN ‘n FUN Aerospace Expo in Lakeland, Fla. Would it be possible to cram both events into the same weekend? Of course!


    Friday would have been a normal day to complete the layout of the previous issue. Fortunately, Mark Sonnery provided his report on Retromobile early and I could get it all massaged with photos by Thursday.


    It’s an eight-hour drive to Lakeland and the gates don’t open until 9am, so we need to leave by midnight.


    I’ll spare the details but, yes, I was there to be first through the gate. Linda and I saw lots of airplanes and did some shopping. The warbirds are my favorite and there are few places you can go to see eight P-51 Mustangs, two P-40 Warhawks, an F4U Corsair and an F6F Hellcat.


    Those were the fighters. The vintage bombers were a B-25 and a B29. For those who like more modern military equipment there were F-15s, F-16s, a C-17 and a B1 Lancer.


    As a mechanic and a taxpayer, I could appreciate the technology contained in all the government aircraft. I found a rivet on the side of each one I bought and paid for.


    After a walk around to see the sights, we headed up the road to Celebration. Celebration is a Disney planned community with quiet streets and quaint homes. The main hotel is the Grand Bohemian Hotel by Marriott.


    It is there we pick up our credentials for the night’s activities. We checked into our hotel for a quick nap, shower and change to catch the buses to Universal Studios City Walk.


    The bus ride is amazing. A police escort leads the caravan through the town of Celebration and onto the freeway, blocking off the highway for us to pass unimpeded. It is always a special experience to be treated like royalty.


    There is a reason for all the special attention. For nineteen years the Celebration Exotic Car Festival has contributed to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Every person is a volunteer and every dollar collected from entry fees goes to Make-A-Wish.


    We arrive at Universal Studios City Walk and are shepherded to a courtyard between two bars. One houses a piano bar, and two players are battling it out with various tunes. Food kiosks dot the courtyard and there were plenty of delights to sample.


    The other bar has karaoke. The open bar allows many to overcome their inhibition. Karaoke can be fun or awful to watch but I must say there were several of our group who deserved and received ovations for their rap or singing. Needless to say, a good time was had by all.


    Saturday starts early. The best time to get photographs is before crowds fill the streets. The brick-paved main street has Ferraris down both sides. The road terminates at City Lake and splits to the left and right.


    To the right, Ferrari of Central Florida has displayed a black Roma, SF90 Stradale, 488 Pista, a white 458 Speciale, 812 Superfast, and a 348 ts.



    Farther down are several Lamborghinis, Lotus, Aston Martin, and a bunch of DeLorean.


    The DeLorean contingent is strong at this event with ten or twelve displayed and there are always one or two mocked up as ‘Back to the Future’ cars. Kids young and old flock around these examples.


    You can hear words like flux capacitor, Marty McFly and hoverboard if you stand still for a while.


    Heading to the left end of the road were more exotics. McLaren and Pantera, Porsche and Bricklin could be found. Bricklin? Yes, three of them.


    There were several people and not just children who would walk by and inquire as to what it was. The owners were having a field day answering questions and taking photos of people with their cameras. Or should I say phone?


    Around the bend were some American cars. A couple of early Corvettes and a Viper. A Camaro or was it a Firebird; I don’t remember.


    A Mustang or two and suddenly I saw it. The best car in the show. Well, not the best overall, because that would have to be a Ferrari, but one close to my heart.


    An orange Edsel Pacer convertible stood before me. It looks exactly like my Edsel, but everything that is turquoise on mine was orange. My turquoise really stands out, but this one looked good in orange. I wish I had brought mine down, both would have looked good sitting next to each other.



    The only car larger than the Edsel was a 1960 Cadillac convertible and next to it was a Fiat 500. One had chrome and fins to excess and the other looked like it could fit in the trunk as a spare.


    The Ferraris on display on Main Street were mostly modern cars. The earliest of them was a couple of 308 GTS, one was an Si and the other QV. The QV was owned by Bill Scott; he is a fireman and drives his car often.


    Amid a sea of red 360s, Al Cartlidge’s titanium 360 Spider with bordeaux interior stood out of the crowd. A few cars farther up was Debbie Pyle’s 458 Italia to start a group of 458s.


    The other side of the street featured a Portofino, a GTC4Lusso and a pretty California in light blue metallic with cream interior brought by Lawrence Heil.


    488s were well represented with a Blu Corsa 488 Spider brought by David Varwig standing out among the red and yellow cars nearby.



    Towards the end of the row was Tefft Smith and his two replica classic Ferraris. One a GTO and the other a Testa Rossa. Both these cars draw a large crowd. Tefft spent hours answering questions and letting children sit in the GTO.


    The smile on their faces says it all. It is a memorable experience and who knows what that experience will spark in the future. This is what makes Celebration special.


    The owners who displayed their cars have contributed in bringing these special automobiles for the public to see. Families with children stroll along the street to view and enjoy all of the different exotic and interesting cars.


    At show center is a special area, that for an extra donation it is possible to go behind the fence and get up close to other special cars. There was one Ferrari displayed, a Monza SP2, brought by the Rare Wheels Collection.



    I say extra donation, but that is a bit of a misnomer; the show is free. Show up and walk in, enjoy the cars, and go home, all without spending anything except lunch and ice cream from the various stores lining the streets.


    But the reason for the show is to raise money for Make-A-Wish Foundation. The participants are the ones making the donation and the entry fee is a part of that. There is also a dinner at the Waldorf Astoria.


    The Saturday evening dinner is an exquisite affair. Outside the ballroom is a silent auction with items ranging from model cars to multi-night stays in the Bahamas.


    ZD Wines from Napa Valley provides pairings to each dinner course. The ballroom is packed, and conversation flows freely. My table has several young people and two couples I had never met before.


    As we introduce ourselves, I meet Murray and Tonya. Murray is one of the volunteers coordinating the event with Universal Studios and the Waldorf. He handles all this with a calm demeaner since his business is providing VIP experiences to many of the parks around Orlando.


    I also discover one of the young people is Zayne, a Make-A-Wish child. His parents, Chaz and Lori, are there along with his brother and girlfriend. I’m sitting with the guest of honor!


    There was a short video chronicling the discovery and recovery of Zayne’s cancer diagnosis. He had brain cancer that was causing double vision. The tumor was operated on and then radiation treatments continued for two years. First diagnosed at twelve years old, he in now eighteen and has been cancer free for four years.


    Zayne’s wish had been granted after he had completed his treatments. Hawaii? Yes, that was the dream to help him through all the difficult days in the hospital. When his wish was granted, he and his family got to spend time on the beaches and explore the island through the generosity of people like us.


    Today, Zayne is vibrant; he loves rock climbing and other outdoor activities. He hopes to be a 3D graphic designer one day. Who knows? There may be a video game with his name as designer in the future.


    That is exactly why we are here tonight. To celebrate one success story and to raise funds to help fuel more success stories. After dinner there were several items auctioned. This is where the big money is raised.


    Things like a private tour of Jay Leno’s garage or a VIP concert experience with three bands: REO Speedwagon, STYX, and Loverboy including autographed guitars.


    Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly came on stage to encourage the crowd to bid on a signed jersey and football which also included a tailgate party and suite seats with Kelly at a football game of your choice. It was so popular at the end the winner and second up both got a package.


                Parents Lori and Chaz, with Jim Kelly and Zayne


    The generosity of the patrons was amazing and this year a total of $400,000 was raised. Each year Jeff and Jim Ippoliti have organized this event and throughout the nineteen years they have raised $4 million, all for Make-A-Wish.


    My story of Celebration Exotic Car Festival is just a piece of the total event. Sunday there is a rally through the back roads of Florida. More than one hundred cars participated. Then there is a chance to drive your exotic on the banks of Daytona International Raceway. Monday and Tuesday are dedicated to spending track time on the speedway.


    Daytona had a turnout of nearly three hundred cars. While I wasn’t there, I know there were cars from the most exotic down to the mundane, all driving on this historic track. Of all the participants, I know one was having the time of his life.


    Zayne got to choose which car he would like to ride in. I would bet there were more people willing to volunteer than Zayne could handle. I would also bet the smile will not leave for a long time after his ride.


    Isn’t this what it’s all about?


    Next year Celebration Exotic Car Festival will be held March 31 through April 4th. Since it will be the 20th anniversary, you should add this to your calendar and make plans to bring your car.


    Next year’s goal of $1 million should be easy to attain. How much is a child’s smile worth?


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