Gathering toys for children in need and checking out vintage rides was the name of the game Saturday night at the annual Christmas in July Cruise In at Spanish Springs Town Square.
An afternoon rain shower didn’t stop residents and car owners alike from getting into the Christmas spirit by donating cash and gifts that will be distributed by the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office to help brighten the holidays for underprivileged children in the tri-county area. And those in attendance were entertained by Villages favorite Scooter the DJ, whose antics were on full display at the Gazebo.
“I think this is great,” said Don Rogers, of the Village of Piedmont, as he showed his vintage 1955 Chevy and talked about the need for collecting toys for needy kids. “They need to do it more often, not just the one time.”
Ann Pelle, captain of The Villages Twirlers and Drum Corps, and her 10-year-old granddaughter, Madison Vebrnick – an honorary squad member who has her own drum and definitely enjoys being in the show – did their part by dropping off presents to help the drive. Then they performed a number that had the crowd on its feet applauding.
“It was great,” said Pelle, of the Village of Briar Meadow. “The audience was very receptive. There were a lot of kids and they loved the fire batons.”
“It was really good,” she said with a million-dollar smile. “I really liked it and I enjoyed the fire number the most.”
Sisters Nancy Sondel, of the Village of Poinciana, and Jayne Marvin, of the Village of St. Charles, also were having a great time at the Cruise In as they checked out the classic cars and enjoyed spending time together.
“We have some friends that are visiting from New York and one of them has never been here before,” Marvin said. “So we’re kind of showing him the ropes, too.”
Meanwhile, Villager Dave Mrvica was also enjoying himself as he showed his 1951 four-door Hudson Commodore 6 that’s he owned since 2012.
“I like the shape of the body and the style of it,” said the Village of Silver Lake resident. “Plus, it kind of rides like a cloud. The suspension is really soft and it’s just nice to drive. You just float over the bumps.”
Fellow classic car owner Larry Janney, of Mount Dora, was showing his 1939 Chevy street rod sedan, a car he hopes to sell so he can purchase a different vintage automobile to add to his collection.
As for why he drives the 25-plus miles to participate in the shows at The Villages, Janney said it’s really quite simple.
“It’s got a lot of people and I like listening to the music,” he said. “I also like looking at the cars and talking to different people.”
Dave Kozak, of the Village of Fernandina, was showing a perfectly restored 1972 Oldsmobile 442. Like Janney, he said he enjoys meeting so many new people and swapping stories about cars.
“It’s a good, clean venue,” said Kozak, who longs to own a 1966 Volkswagen Bug like his first car. “There’s a lot to do during the time that we are here.”
For Geralyn and David Vilar, of the Village of Glenbrook, Saturday night was a time to reminisce about cars from an era long ago.
“I owned a couple of these cars when I was a young man,” David said. “I had a lot of fun with them and there’s a lot of memories. I wish I could own one but we have other interests now.”
David said he owned a 1959 Ford Galaxie 500, a 1965 Chevrolet Malibu SS and a 1969 Cadillac Eldorado before he got married.
“Then I went down to a 1971 Volkswagen Beetle from all the hot rods,” he said with a hearty laugh. “That was a family car. There were no more race cars. Four kids later, those days were over.”
Ginny McDonald, who was visiting from Brainerd, Minn., also was thinking about her first car – a 1957 Chrysler Crown Imperial – as she walked around the show Saturday night.
“You could fit five people in that trunk,” said Ginny, who along with husband Mark recently purchased a house in the Village of Hacienda and hopes to move to Florida’s Friendliest Hometown before winter.
Her sister-in-law, Kristil, who also is looking for a house here along with her husband, John, suddenly broke into a huge smile as she remembered the large trunk on Ginny’s car.
“You needed that for the drive-in theater in Minnesota,” she said with a laugh. “You just piled all the kids into the trunk and then you let them out afterwards.”
As for Saturday’s Cruise In, Kristal said it was an unexpected highlight of their trip.
“This was very much a surprise to us,” she said. “So in the midst of the massive storm that we had (earlier in the day), we were all looking at the cars.”