| For the Times-Union
With the 18th annual Ponte Vedra Auto Show now just two months away, the event’s new organizer says it’s “gearing up for what will be a great day of fantastic cars and family fun.’’
That’s the word from Justin Felker, president of Art ‘n Motion in St. Augustine. His company took the show’s reins from the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce in April.
This year’s show, originally set for Sept. 27, was moved back to Sunday, Nov. 15, to allow Felker, volunteers and sponsors additional time because of the pandemic.
The show, funded in part by the St. Johns County Tourist Development Council, will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the Nocatee Event Field located at 245 Nocatee Center Way. It will feature both classic and new collectors’ cars vying for trophies.
Art ’n Motion was created by Justin and his father, Paul, to display classic and rare automobiles that are available for sale in an eye-catching two-story early 1900s-designed brick building on San Marco Avenue that also serves an event and banquet venue. It also serves as the home base for Scott Lagasse Jr. and the NASCAR Gander Outdoor & RV Truck Series race team.
Now, Felker will be getting his chance to put on an event much larger in size and space.
“The Chamber of Commerce actually came to us and said that it was a good fundraiser for them, but they kind of outgrew it and were doing other projects. They wanted to pass it on to somebody who wanted to do it,’’ Felker said. “We talked about doing some car shows, then this fell in our lap — we went, ‘Perfect.’
“It’s a great springboard for us to do other shows,” Felker said.
He quickly dove into the work of taking on the Ponte Vedra show with a short time frame.
“It’s going well,’’ he said without hesitation. “We’re having to learn to do it as I’ve never done a car show like this … and a pretty big [one] at that. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not a big show, but to us it is.’’
Last year’s show was the largest ever with 250 registered vehicles and a crowd of more than 4,100. As of Aug. 28, Felker had some 60 vehicles registered for the November event. He’s aiming for around 200 — or as many as he can.
“I’m fine with the registrations where they are right now,’’ he said. “The Chamber of Commerce told us don’t panic because everybody signs up at the last minute.’’
The Chamber will still be involved, but to a much lesser degree.
Unlike previous years, there will be no registrations taken the morning of the show. All vehicles will have to register online at PVAutoshow.com. The fee is $35 for each vehicle. There will be a non-judged area for unregistered cars showing up the day of the show.
Also, Felker has combined and eliminated some classes, trimming the number of classes down from 30 to 25, making it more manageable for the judges.
Felker’s work ethic has impressed Nocatee officials.
”He (Felker) seems very on top of it,’’ Lee Hovis, operations manager for Tolomato Community Development District. “That’s important for us because even if it’s not officially our event, if it’s not a good event, we hear about it. If someone puts something on that doesn’t work right, it’s not their fault, but it’s our fault.
“We only want to work with people who are going to make the commitment and make sure that we have a quality event that’s part of the Nocatee lifestyle,’’ said Hovis, who’s been with Nocatee since 2009 and has seen the Ponte Vedra Auto Show evolve from being held in a vacant lot at the Town Center its first year to having a stage and multiple parking lots in 2019.
“We’re trying to make it ours but not really change it,’’ Felker said. “We just want to have a good family atmosphere. Come and enjoy yourself at the show.’’
Some other quick notes about November’s event:
- Special displays are planned for a collection of three generations of the Ford GT and the 50th anniversary of the Datsun/Nissan Z. The signature car of that collection will be a rare 1970 Fairlady Z 432. It’s one of only 420 built and it’s on display at Art ‘n Motion. “It’s a pretty exciting car to have,’’ Felker said. “People want to see it.’’
- Fields Auto Group will not be back for a sixth year as presenting sponsor due to the pandemic. However, Felker is hoping to have Fields back in 2021. “We’re trying to keep that relationship.’’ Sponsors already on board for this year’s show include Florida Blue and Ferran Automotive.
- The “Car Corral’’ for-sale lot that debuted last year is not part of this year’s show. Instead, that space will be used for unregistered and non-judged vehicles.
- Several food trucks will be back this year.
- Parking is free with shuttles running to and from the show field.
If you’re interested in volunteering, contact Felker by email at [email protected] or phone at 904-994-5662.
Although quite busy coordinating his inaugural Ponte Vedra Auto Show, Felker is already envisioning future enhancements to the show that will permanently move to October in 2021. Next year’s date is tentatively set for Oct. 10.
“Going forward, there’s some things I want to do different,’’ he said. “Next year we’ve applied for a grant with the Tourist Development Council to make it a two-day event so some out-of-town folks can spend the night in area hotels.
“Most likely we’ll do a cruise around the Ponte Vedra area on Saturday; maybe have a speaker that night or a diner somewhere,’’ he said. “We’re going to do something more.’’
Joe DeSalvo is the former Managing Editor of Specialty Publications and Drive editor for the Florida Times-Union.