In late November many enthusiasts are thinking about prepping their Ford performance machines for winter storage. In Florida, the rain wanes, the air cools and the cars come out to play. For the last 25 years, enthusiasts have flocked to the Mustang Club of West Central Florida’s annual show.
The show began a quarter century ago as an indoor display at a local mall. It eventually moved to the parking lot and on to the historic St. Armand’s Circle in Sarasota, Florida. Eventually the show outgrew that site and moved to its current location in nearby Bradenton.
“We have two keys to success. One is that, ordinarily, we have good weather this time of year and, secondly, a location that has other amenities around it that people will enjoy,” Dave Bishop, Secretary of the Mustang Club of West Central Florida, said. “One of our goals was always to have a pleasant environment—someplace where people had other things that they could do.”
One of our goals was always to have a pleasant environment—someplace where people had other things that they could do
What impressed us was the quality and variety of the cars on display. From two three last-gen Ford GTs to a host of vintage iron mixed with plenty of modern muscle, there was something for everyone to enjoy, including restaurants and shopping as well. The club also raised money by raffling off a huge table full of prizes from its 27-plus show sponsors.
We are usually able to contribute $4,000 or more per year to split between the charities and it makes a big difference
“We have always worked with charities. It has always been a charity show. Southeastern Guide Dogs is a longtime charity and then a more recent on is Take Stock in Children, which they help kids that would not normally be able to attend college…” Lee Fitzstephens, President of the Mustang Club of West Central Florida, explained. “We are usually able to contribute $4,000 or more per year to split between the charities and it makes a big difference.”
Ruby Curtis, a puppy raiser at Southeastern Guide Dogs explained that they train dogs from six month of age to prep them for a career as a guide for a visually impaired person. Donors that contribute to a certain level earn the right to name one of the puppy, and this year the group named a new puppy “Mustang,” in honor of the club and its contributions.
There was also a relatively new charity benefitting from the club for only the second year and it is designed to break the cycle of poverty by helping kids in need graduate and attend college.
“Take Stock in Children is a college scholarship and mentor program for low-income an at-risk children throughout the entire Manatee County school district,” Diana Dill, Executive Director of Take Stock in Children, said. “We select students as early as the sixth grade and we match them with a mentor. The students sign a contract with us to remain drug-free and crime-free; to maintain good grades; and to meet with a mentor.”
That is definitely a worthy cause, and is successful as the show that supports it.
“With all of those resources in place, we have a 96-percent success rate of our students graduating high school and matriculate through college,” she added. “The proceeds that the Mustang club donates to Take Stock in Children help to pay for scholarships and all of our scholarship funds are matched dollar for dollar by the Florida Prepaid College Board.”
We left the show with plenty of reasons to smile. It was a beautiful day filled with great cars and in benefitted two great causes. If you find yourself in Florida in late November next year, we’d recommend bringing your car out. You can also likely see this club participating in next year’s NMRA Spring Break Shootout in March, so be sure to thank the members for their good deeds.
Until then, enjoy our highlights and full photo gallery from Ponies Under the Palms 2016.