52nd Annual Frank Maratta Auto & Cycle Show, January 28th to 30th, 2011

FM 013011 117While most visitors left last weekend’s 52nd Annual Frank Maratta Auto & Cycle Show at the CT Expo Center in Hartford with pictures, postcards and autographs, Cruisin’ Photography left the show with sore feet and worn out voices. Kathy and I decided to visit the show on all three days and we thoroughly enjoyed every minute spent there. We started Friday evening with a walk around the Expo Center to get the lay of the land. Kathy and I were there to interview Roger Misiaszek and photograph the debut of his 1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass S W-31.

We made the acquaintance of Frank Grillo and his grandson Mike. Frank brought along his Mohegan Sun-sponsored 900bhp Camaro dragster to promote the 100-foot drag races held at the Waterford Speedbowl throughout the summer months. Kathy and I tested our reaction times on the ‘Christmas Tree’ set up in Grillo’s booth. I set the bar high with a reaction time of 0.5 seconds, just 0.1 off of a perfect light. Kathy asked for a rematch and I beat her again. She was spoiling for revenge on Saturday…

Day two was much busier, with long lines of people buying tickets. One of the day’s big draws were two of the New England Patriots Cheerleaders, who signed calendars on the Town Fair Tires display. Needless to say the line of males waiting for autographs and photos was a lengthy one.

Saturday’s ‘Christmas Tree Challenge’ saw the roles and ‘lanes’ reversed, with Kathy taking both victories. I wanted another race to settle the score and decide who would be buying dinner, but Kathy declined.

One of the major attractions was live airbrushing demonstrations by world-renowned artist Alan Pastrana. Alan had his amazing “Hip Hop Bike,” featured in “Easyriders” and “Airbrush Action” magazines on display. The floor area around Alan also featured custom bikes by Evolution Cycles and Vindicator Cycles.

Sunday morning was an early start for us to ensure that we got in as much time as possible at the show. The day’s star attraction was an appearance by Connecticut-born NASCAR driver Joey Logano, the driver of the #20 Joe Gibbs Racing/Home Depot car. It goes without saying there was a huge crowd waiting to see the oval-racing star.

The crew of the Follow A Dream/Permatex Top Alcohol funny car obligingly posed for a team photo. The team is led by drag racing’s only totally blind crew chief, Jay Blake. Jay and his crew couldn’t have been more helpful in setting up the shots. Later in the day, Jay and his Dream Team serviced and fired up the 3,000bhp Funny Car. There was a huge gathering around the car, but it soon thinned when the engine burst into life. The sound inside the Expo Center was awesome. When the throttle was stabbed a few times, I saw people jump in surprise. Those who didn’t jump quickly enough plugged their ears to drown out the sound of the supercharged V8. Even with some hall doors open, the smell of methanol fuel filled the air. The engine run was my highlight of the weekend.

As the show wound down, we said hello to Gary Collin and Tony Sciavone from Vindicator Cycles out of Cromwell, CT. The guys had a beautiful Pastrana-airbrushed Harley on show that looked superb. Our conversation somehow turned to one of our favorite TV programs – British Top Gear! My voice was just about gone before we met the guys and now it was just a whisper. It was great meeting Gary and Tony and we’re looking forward to paying them a visit for an interview, and working with them in the future.

Before leaving, we said goodbye to Manny Rivera, one of the event organizers. “Overall the show went well considering the major snowstorm that hit us in the days before we opened,” according to Rivera, in his second year as the Import Cars Coordinator for the show. “We had to do a lot of running around and scrambling to fill the spots of the cars that cancelled. It’s been hectic.”

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