With the passing of Ponte Vedra Auto Show chairman and head judge, Larry Weisman, earlier this year, car connoisseurs, Ken Perry and Bob Grant, were chosen as head judges for the 2019 show. As they honor their old friend by filling his position, they’re also excited to take on new perspectives for judging the show scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Originally scheduled for Sept. 15 at Nocatee Event Field, the show has been rescheduled to Sept. 22 because of weather forecasts.
“I’ve been a judge at the event before,” said Grant, who judges Florida’s Festivals of Speed shows alongside Perry. “But Larry was a judge for 15 years.”
“These are big shoes to fill because Larry built something that had its own culture, its own brand,” Perry added.
According to Perry, the head judges are responsible for the planning, problem solving and execution of the show.
He mentioned that although the Ponte Vedra Auto Show has always had lots of cars compete, they’re always similar, without very few markets or brands represented.
Grant and Perry worked together to “freshen up” the execution by offering a wider variety of categories to the competition so more unique cars can be featured and given a chance to win.
“There’s a stigma that you have to have a certain type of car,” Grant said, “but that’s not really the case. We’re trying to be more inclusive with what cars are invited to the shows. We personally walk up and invite people now. We found that we can be car enthusiasts and appreciate different cars.”
“We’ve revamped the trophies to solidify that,” Perry explained. “The trophies used to be about this Mustang or that Ferrari. Now, they’re not brand-specific. We’ve got awards like ‘Best of the Autobahn’ or the ‘Fast and Furious’ award, so it’s been fun.”
When Grant and Perry say they’ve been having fun, they mean it, and they want both the competitors and spectators at the show to feel the same.
“Sometimes people think of this as a concours, but we’re really trying to make it a more entertaining automobile event for everyone,” Grant said.
The judges conjured a Willy-Wonka-inspired idea — they will hand out five golden tickets to the Auto Show to five lucky car enthusiasts at the upcoming Cars and Coffee event, Saturday, Sept. 15 at 7 a.m. at the Avenues Mall.
“It’s funny. When you do this, you find most people were interested in cars when they were teens and they just never grew out of that phase,” said Grant, looking back at his own childhood memories. “From growing up, they’ve always had an interest in them.”
When he was younger, Grant’s neighbors were car collectors and he would help them work on the cars they had. He particularly remembers a 1972 Ferrari Daytona.
Perry vividly remembers the moment he fell in love with cars, particularly the Porsche, on a chilly President’s Day in Massachusetts, comparing it to a Porsche commercial he had coincidentally seen a few years earlier in which a kid wandered into a Porsche dealership.
“The Pontiac dealership was across from the Porsche dealership, so I would always beg my parents to take me to get dropped off at Porsche while my dad would go look at Pontiacs,” he recalled. “I remember doing the same thing as the kid in the commercial, jumping all over the Porsches, peeking my head in them. And then the same thing happened to me. A salesman comes up and starts talking to me like I’m a customer. When my father joined, the salesman asked, ‘Do you mind if I take this young man out for a ride?’ We went for about 10 minutes and oh my God.”
Perry laughed as if he’d just got out of the Porsche he rode with the salesman just minutes ago.
“Yeah, that leaves an impression,” he said.
It’s safe to say, these two judges share the same passion, know what they’re doing and they’re looking forward to at Sunday’s Ponte Vedra Auto Show.
Whether young or old, aftermarket or stock, European touring or Japenese domestic market (be on the lookout for an original 1980s Corolla, they hinted), the judges expect a great turn-out with new faces and fresh builds.
“We’ll just hope for good weather,” Perry said.