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Four-day fest features old autos and antiques

The roaring of engines and rapping of an auctioneer will reverberate at the 16th annual Auto and Antique Winter Festival Thursday through Sunday in Zephyrhills. All events will be at Festival Park at 2738 Gall Blvd., also known as U.S. 301 S. The 209-acre park is expected to be jammed with vendors and an estimated 40,000 customers during the four-day period.

"We have a mailing list with addresses outside of the country from Europe down into Central and South America. They come from all over for this," said Michael Sierra, who purchased Festival Park and the rights to the Winter Festival three years ago.

The center of activity at the Winter Festival will be an automobile and antique flea market with more than 2,000 selling spaces available to merchants.

Shoppers have a chance to buy items ranging from classic juke boxes, cash registers and phonograph equipment to practically any kind of replacement part for cars, trucks and motorcycles. In addition, a general selection of antiques, including china, silver and furniture, will be offered for sale. The flea market is open from 8 a.m. until sundown each day.

The weekend's highlight is a collector's car auction beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday and at noon Sunday. Hundreds of autos will go on the block, including some with interesting histories.

One item for sale is a Studebaker Avanti, one of only 109 manufactured. Others range from modern exotic cars to a 1917 Model T. Another vehicle, a 1936 Ford, was once owned by country-and-western singer Tammy Wynette.

"It's all documented, no question about it," Sierra said. "We have tons of very interesting cars. One guy just called and is bringing a 1929 Ford Phaeton, a four-door convertible touring car."

Between 250 and 300 autos are expected to be sold. The auction is open to the public, but hopeful buyers must obtain a bidder's paddle or number at the bidder office on the site.

For people who prefer racing to buying, the Winter Festival will present an antique open-cockpit auto race from 11 a.m. until about 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

A flywheel exhibit, celebrating the one-cylinder engines that powered the world through the Industrial Revolution, will be displayed.

"It's difficult to say what the centerpiece is of the festival," Sierra said. "It's a multifaceted sort of thing."

Barney Barnhardt and his Dixieland Band will perform under the entertainment tent starting at 11 a.m. each day. Concession stands, including vendors from Steak n Shake and Pizza Hut, will serve sandwiches, snacks and beverages.

Admission to the festival grounds is $5 per adult for each day, and a four-day pass is available for $15. Children 12 and younger are admitted free. There is no charge for parking.