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Auto festival revs up today

Mike Sierra took a quick breather from preparing for the 18th Annual Auto & Antique Winter Fest to tick off some of the highlights of the festival, which starts today and continues through Sunday at Festival Park.

You would be hard-pressed to decide which is Sierra's favorite part of the event, held at the park he and his wife, Cynthia, own. He jumps from subject to subject, enthusiastic about each.

About 2,500 vendors will be at the flea market, with diverse displays of collectibles, antiques and auto-related items. Each year, something else pops up as a collectible.

"I'm always enthused when I see the development of new antiques," Sierra said. "The metal lunchboxes I used to take to school are worth money now."

Besides the vast flea market, the festival will feature the musicof Barney Barnhart and Vic Hyde, who will alternate giving performances each day.

Another ongoing festival feature is a display of flywheel engines and old gasoline engines.

"This is the machine that powered us through the Industrial Revolution," Sierra said. "Not only do the machines sit there and run, but they are powering various apparatuses."

A couple of hundred engines will be displayed, and children, in particular, are encouraged to check out the machines.

"It's a history lesson that will be much more valuable than any book because they can actually see it work," Sierra said.

Ditto for the old race cars that will cruise around the track at the park.

"In many instances, not only is the car vintage, but so is the mechanic and the driver," Sierra said. "It's not unusual to have a driver in his 70s or 80s. You can actually go out there and see the racing that went on 40 years ago."

After the car engines have cooled following the races, the pits will be open so that festival patrons can see the cars up close and talk to the crews. Sierra said the drivers and mechanics enjoy this part of the festival and like to tell stories about the cars and old race days.

Even for those who don't plan to buy, the collector car auction on Saturday and Sunday is a big draw. About 300 cars will be placed on the auction block, beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday and continuing into the evening, then again from 11 a.m. until about 5 p.m. Sunday.

Sierra said that cars will be sold as low as $1,500 up to $100,000.

"There will be many excellent buys there," he said. "We'll have 2,000 or 3,000 people around the (auction) block at one time and they'll just be awed at what's going on, at the excitement of the auction."

The festival also will offers visitors a chance to enter the world of collectible cars. A red 1965 Mustang will be the prize in a drawing Sunday.

Autos and antiques

The 18th Annual Auto & Antique Winter Fest opens today at Festival Park in east Pasco County and continues through Sunday. Admission is $5 for adults and free for children under age 12. Multi-day tickets cost $8 for two days, $11 for three days and $13 for four days. Festival Park is three miles south of Zephyrhills on U.S. 301.

Daily: Gates open at 8 a.m. for the flea market, swap meet and flywheel exhibit. Entertainment begins at 11 a.m.

Today: Vintage auto exhibition racing warm-ups begin at 10 a.m.

Friday: Vintage auto exhibition race at 10 a.m.; antiques and collectibles auction at 3:30 p.m.

Saturday: Collector car auction at 10 a.m.

Sunday: Vintage auto exhibition racing at 10 a.m.; collector car auction at 11 a.m.; drawing for a red 1965 Mustang at 3 p.m.

The 18th Annual Auto & Antique Winter Fest continues through Saturday, featuring exhibits, races, a flea market and an auction.

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