Vandango XIII, September 3rd, 2011

VANDO090311 035Dave and I acknowledged more than a couple of certainties before we left home to “Trip the Light Vandango” on Saturday at the Brooklyn (CT) Fairgrounds. After having such a good time at Super Somer, we were certain Vandango XIII and the hospitality of the vanners wouldn’t disappoint. We were sure we’d catch up with some old friends, and make some new ones. We were certain we’d take lots of photographs and lots of notes for a lengthy blog, and for submission to Connecticut Cruise News. But we knew we were up to the challenge. Vanners have a story to tell, and they were glad to share them with us. Dave and I were right on all three counts.

We arrived, parked and headed over to catch up with Johnny O. After a hearty welcome, he offered us some much-appreciated beverages. “I’ve been vanning since 1982. I was 18 years old and right out of high school,” he told us. “I was always interested in custom vehicles, and this is my third customized van.” After owning 1971 and 1976 Ford vans, Johnny O bought the 1973 Dodge B100 short body seven years ago, and did the interior and motor work on it. The van is actually white with sunset pearl, a striking orange color, over it.

Parked next to Johnny was Alfred James from Southington, CT, and his “attack” dog, Zak. “This is the first time I’ve had the van out,” he said of the 1975 Dodge B100. “I met Todd Vaillancourt at the Vanning for Animals event in Southington, and he invited me here. I’ve had the van for seven years. It was my father-in-law’s and I bought it from him. The front plate, Chucky’s Joy, was his. I’m looking forward to going to as many van events as I can.”

Meriden, CT resident Roger Moyles was taking five in his “Sinsational” 1965 Chevy G10 van. He was quick to show us the custom bed frame and custom lights in the back of his van and said fellow vanner Mike Midnight did the work. I knew Dave and I would have to track Mike down and say hello. “I did the welding and basic bodywork and the interior. Ron “Knighty” McCasland did the stitching on the bed. I’ve owned 41 vans that were built between 1964 – 1971 mostly for parts. I bought this van in 2001 and it sat for seven years before I did a swap of the body.”

Dave and I first met Jonathan Davis, from Pomfret, at Super Somer, where he gallantly offered to share his umbrella. On Saturday, Jonathan was joined by three other members of the Phuckrwee Van Club – Russell and Veda DeStefani, and his better half, Patricia. They gladly posed for us in front of Jonathan’s 2006 silver Ford van. Russell and Veda made the trip from Woonsocket, RI, in their 1994 Ford Econoline.

Fall River’s Pete Guthrie made such an impression on Dave and me at Super Somer that we knew we had to track him down. We had watched Paul Mennett, of Cruisin’ New England, interview Pete at Super Somer. Well, we watched Paul start to interview Pete, but pretty quickly, it was Pete who was interviewing Paul.

Dave and I followed the sounds of a good time and it led us right to Pete and some other folks, relaxing under a gazebo. I managed to coax Pete out of his chair for a photo. Dave and Lisa D’Amaral, of Freewheeler Vans (MA), Cheryl and Frank Marsolais, of Salisbury (MA) Seaside Vans, and Kurt Zmyslowski of the Massachusetts Mudsharks, joined Pete in front of his one-of-a-kind 1972 Ford E200, Golden Voyager. Pete teased me about whether I remembered his club’s name, which I correctly identified as Spindle City Truckers.

A big “Thank you” to Pat Doolan of, for bringing us some much needed bottles of cold water as we walked around the fair grounds. They really hit the spot.

Riverside, RI’s Mike Midnight was next on our list, and it wasn’t hard to find his Eagle-themed van. “I won the van in a raffle. It was ready for the junkyard. It needed a new battery, because it had been sitting for two years. You should have seen the acorns come pouring out of the exhaust pipes when I started it. We also cleared out mice nests, and took the hot tub out and put in a bed.

“I did all of the work except the mural. The original paint had become worn, so my friend, Guy Frechetti, repainted it and really enhanced the mural with mountains and colors. It was an eight-hour drive to bring the van to Guy, in Canada, but it was worth it.”

After telling us, “I made my first van run back in 1978,” Mike took a lot of good-natured ribbing from his son, Luke. Mike’s partner, Dianne, extended some much appreciated hospitality in the form of bottles of cold water.

Refreshment break over, we moved on and met Steve Kardel, another Rhode Islander, when we stopped to admire his glass etching. “I’ve been etching glass for about 15 years. My dad did it as a hobby. I’ve taken this a step further, with my company, GlassTat.”

We saw Steve’s work on the back window of George Scott’s 1977 Dodge B200. George and his daughter, Rebecca, made the trip to Brooklyn from Paxton, MA. “I’ve owned the van for three years. I changed the wheels, the front end, the tranny, removed the running boards and had some paint work done.”

Dave and I want to send a shout out to Trish and “Rooster” Kenney, who we had seen leaving the campgrounds in Trish’s van, Emerald City, as we pulled into Vandango XIII. Missed you guys!

All too soon it was time to leave, but not before we paid a visit to Johnny O’s Pub ‘n’ Grub, where refreshing beverages and Buffalo wings were on tap.

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