Pirates, race cars, monster trucks, Santa's sleigh, all in Bradenton on a Sunday

rdymond@bradenton.comSeptember 23, 2012 

MANATEE -- It's not every day a 3-year-old boy looks out the window of his grandparent's car while driving on 14th Street West in Bradenton and sees a full-size pirate ship with dagger-equipped pirates, Santa's sleigh, a stock race car, three monster trucks, an ambulance and a fire engine.

Langdon Bennett may have wondered if he and his grandparents had been transported to Orlando.

But, no, the Ellenton youth was actually seeing these objects of his every obsession in the parking lot of GFS Marketplace, 4605 14th St. W., Bradenton.

And, best still, his grandparents, Jake and Cheryl Bennett, were pulling in.

"He loves monster trucks," Cheryl Bennett, said a few minutes later as the excited Langdon, whose father is Joshua Bennett, principal of Bashaw Elementary School on Morgan Johnson Road, joined a crowd of 200 at Sunday's "Touch A Truck Day."

The event was sponsored by Gordon Food Service, also known as GFS, with donations accepted and all monies earned from the sale of hamburgers and hotdogs benefitting the Anna Maria Island Privateers' scholarship fund for local high school students, said GFS manager Matt Blank.

"One of our stores, in Fort Myers, had the idea and we piggybacked off," Blank said of the community out-reach event.

GFS assistant manager Tony Kuchnicki worked heroically to get fun vehicles that kids could touch, feel, sit and play in, Blank added.

Although the monster

trucks stole the show, not far behind was Rob Vigilo's silver, blue and black "Circle Performance" 1976 Olds Cutlass race car.

Vigilo, who owns Bradenton's Circle Performance, where enthusiasts can get go-fast, turn-fast and stop-fast goodies for their cars and trucks, lifted kids into the race car all day without a quibble.

"My dad is dedicated to his sport," said Stefanie Vigilo.

Parker "Moose" George, 2, and Zoe George, 8, were two of many kids who got to sit in the race car and play with the steering wheel.

"She'll do 18.2 seconds on a three-eights of a mile circle track," said the 46-year-old Vigilo, who races in the "bomber class" on circle tracks like DeSoto Speedway and tracks in Punta Gorda and St. Petersburg.

"He's the fastest bomber in the South," said Kevin Walters, a general contractor who not only advertises on Vigilo's car, but helps prepare it for races.

A few paces from Vigilo's car sat the monster trucks owned by Bradenton's Eric Maser and John Wiener. The men have JSJ Extreme 4x4, 212 7th St. E., Bradenton.

Maser, who graduated from Southeast High School in 2007, never tired of answering questions Sunday about his 1989 Toyota monster truck, which is 6-foot from the ground to the front bumper.

"The tires cost $3,000 each new," he said.

"Driving it is an adrenaline rush because it has lots of horsepower," Maser added. "It's nitrous-powered and the faster you go, the smaller amount of tire is actually on the ground because the vehicle lifts. The feeling you have is floating. At high speed it's an unusual sensation and a little intimidating.

"I wanted a monster truck since I was born," he said.

Besides the trucks and race car, the Anna Maria Island Privateers' pirate ship float was a big attraction Sunday, but not as great as the men and women pirates themselves. They included John Hallahan, Lisa Lash, Wayne "Stickey" Collins and Big John Red Beard, among others.

Big John Red Beard, a large man, is the Pirate version of Santa Claus. The kids were not sure they wanted to be near him because he is big and a little ferocious looking.

However, as parents snapped pictures of their kids with Big John, Big John advised the kids that instead of saying, "Cheese" say "Argggggggh."

The kids replied with enthusiasm and warmed up to the gentle giant.

There is, apparently, something magical about yelling out, "Argggggh" while standing on a pirate ship in your hometown in the company of crusty pirates.

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