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Venice Florida Corvettes, Inc. – Our History
Where did we come from? Where are we now? Where are we going? These are questions we ask of ourselves and Venice Florida Corvettes, Inc. (VFC) is no different.
Where did we come from? As a club, we started with a group of like-minded folks who own Corvettes and want to enjoy them together. As members of VFC, we are typical of the melting pot that is Florida, ranging from Florida natives to those who have migrated from all regions of the United States and across the globe. Members come from all walks of life and are both full-time residents of Florida and “seasonal members”, who spend time up north for the summer. This mix of talent and experiences make Venice Florida Corvettes what it is today.
It all began in October of 2002 with a gathering of seven couples at the home of John Vidas, a founder and three-time President (2004, 2006, 2013) of the club. Determined to drive their Corvettes, meet new Corvette owners and have fun, the group formed Venice Florida Corvettes, Inc. and elected Peter Campisi as its first President (2002, 2003). The club soon outgrew its’ meeting place in the home of John Vidas and moved to the Jacaranda Library. Before long, it became necessary to move to a larger room within the library. A short time later, VFC meetings were moved to the Venice Community Center to accommodate the ever-growing membership and continue to be held there today.
Club representative approached management at Bill Buck Chevrolet of Venice (now Jenkins Chevrolet) for support. The request for $200 seed money was denied, but Bill Buck Jr. presented the club with a check for $500 and become the first sponsor of VFC. This strong partnership propelled the club into the future and VFC Corvette owners were off and driving. During the first three years, the club experienced rapid growth and membership increased to 135 memberships with 190 Corvettes. VFC has become a recognized entity within the community by participating in community events such as those sponsored by the Sertoma Club of Venice, a service and philanthropic club, the Venice Holiday Parade and much more.
In January 2003, VFC held their first car show, “Corvettes on the Gulf” at Bill Buck Chevrolet. The car show became an annual event and was moved to Centennial Park in downtown Venice. Along with the new venue came a new name “Corvettes in Venice - A Vette Together”. The first “Vette Together” was held September 10, 2004.
Where are we now? The VFC family has grown to over 400 members. The annual car show is considered to be the best Corvette show in Florida by the participants and car enthusiasts who come to view the Corvettes on display.
In 2013, Al Royal, President (2014, 2019), and JoAnn Royal attended the Pelican Preserve car show in Fort Myers. They took home a very nice pelican trophy, which was unique to this show. This starting them thinking about the trophies for the VFC annual show. How could we make our trophies unique? Since Venice is known as the “Shark Tooth Capital of the World”, what could better represent Venice and VFC than trophies incorporating a shark’s tooth? An Internet search located a company making “museum quality shark’s teeth”. With the help of Ron Kubala, VFC member, who had been involved in the show trophies for several years, some samples and bases, a design was developed, and the new trophies were born. The original shark’s tooth design trophies, custom built and assembled by Al Royal, Ron Kubala and Charlie Zuberer, were used from 2014 thru 2019. In keeping with the shark’s tooth theme, the design for the trophy was modified by John Marchiando (President 2017) and Bill Sabatino to present the “tooth” in an inverted position. We are sure this second version of the shark’s tooth trophy will be well received by winning participants.
In 2013, Norma Jean’s Sports Bar & Grill joined our support network by providing the funds for these unique trophies. Their support along with the support of Jenkins Chevrolet has allowed us to make VFC’s “A Vette Together” a continuing success.
In an effort to give back to the community, Harry Hite, president 2015, was instrumental in earmarking the proceeds from the 50/50 drawing held at the show for our food bank initiative. Fighting hunger in the community is an ongoing project for VFC. Food donations along with cash are collected at each monthly meeting. In 2017, John Marchiando, (President 2017), asked the membership to approve a $50.00 donation each month for the selected food bank. Donations of food and cash are delivered to an area food bank following each meeting.
Our charitable endeavors have continued to expand in the last few years. In 2019, our first VFC Golf Outing benefitting veterans with PTSD was held at the Plantation Golf and Country Club. As a result, a check for $5,500 was presented to Southeastern Guide Dogs, Inc. for the purpose of training a companion dog to be given to a veteran.
In 2020, Englewood Bank & Trust and Sage Auto Studios, who specialize in ceramic coating and other technologies to protect the Corvettes from the elements joined our team of supporters. Their additional support will allow us to continue and expand our charitable work in the community.
As membership director, John Marchiando introduced the New Member Orientation program. The purpose of the program is to introduce new members to VFC, the board and the options available to them. A gathering of new members along with board members and key committee chairs is held over dinner.
Where are we going? With more memberships than ever (and growing) and four (4) terrific sponsors, we are in a perfect position to continue our community activities and to be a socially active car club.
2020 was a year with challenges for everyone everywhere. Less than 72 hours before the start of our 2020 Annual “A Vette Together”, we were notified by the City of Venice that we must cancel the show due to the COVID-19 threat. Thanks to the understanding of the businesses we had contracted with, the diligent efforts of our Car Show Committee Chairs, the VFC Board and the approximately 200 volunteers from the club, the cancellation was handled swiftly with as little disruption to the community and show attendees as possible. The wonderful support of our sponsors, Jenkins Chevrolet of Venice (formerly Bill Buck Chevrolet), Norma Jean’s Sports Bar & Grille and Englewood Bank & Trust, allowed us to close the show, cover expenses and still make a contribution to a local food bank. Unfortunately, we were also unable to present a 2021 show because of COVID-19. We are looking forward to the 2022 “A Vette Together” scheduled for March 20, 2022, and we are hoping to receive approval from the City of Venice so we can have our show.
At the core of the club are activities that revolve around the Corvettes themselves. We will continue to offer the Membership the widest spectrum of outings to car shows, car seminars and items that would appeal to the “technical” side of the club. Local tours of garages, detailing shops and businesses that specialize on Corvette repairs and restorations will also be on offer, as they have been in the past.
Our members joke that VFC is really a social club which just happens to have Corvettes as vehicles for transportation.
Participating in community events is a part of VFC activities. A favorite of ours is the Annual Venice Christmas Parade. In 2018, we were the proud recipients of the “Brightest Lights” award. Being selected from the field of 125 entries in the parade by the parade committee was a great honor. Likewise, we help local High Schools and Colleges with their car shows by attending, judging and contributing to their charitable fund-raising activities.
VFC continues to make meetings meaningful for our members by providing informative topics and items of interest, timely communication, and fun monthly events. (See the About Us section on the Website for more information on events planned by the Social Committee.)
2020 brought challenging times to everyone. We hope to return to a full schedule soon and continue to use our award-winning web site, our monthly newsletter, the Vette Gazette and informational e-mails to keep the membership up-to-date on club activities.
As we look back, we thank all of our member and our past leaders, who made us who we are today. While we are very proud of our past, we strive to make our future even brighter.
jlu & ar