Barnum Car Festival allows imaginations to run wild

Mark Hopco, of Shelton, admires the Bat Car at the Barnum Festival Car Show Concert/Carnival & Food Truck Festival at Z-Topia in Monroe Saturday morning. The 1951 Ford Business Coupe is owned by Nick Maccharoli, 90, Stratford who is known as "Batso".

An American LeFrance fire truck, a vintage military helicopter, a Bat car and the Love Bug from the 1969 Disney movie of the same name were on display amongst the classic cars and hot rods at the annual Barnum Festival Car Show Concert/Carnival & Food Truck Festival at Z-Topia on Route 111 in Monroe Saturday.

A black 1951 Ford Business Coupe with flames painted on the sides, a Grim Reaper with batwings over tombstones and “The Bat’s Revenge” on the trunk caught Mark Hopco’s eye. The Shelton resident took a picture with his cellphone.

The car was entered by Nick Maccharoli, 90, of Stratford, who is affectionately known as “Batso”. Peggi Gnandt, who organized the third annual car show with her husband Greg, said Maccharoli used to work in a body shop and had transformed his Ford into the Bat car.

Peggi and Greg Gnandt pose for a photo in front of the trophies.

Hopco, who brought his 1963 Ford T-Bird hard top to the car show, has participated every year. “We have cars from New York and Massachusetts. This is a big show and the 75th anniversary of the Barnum Festival,” he said.

Hopco said a lot of car clubs were represented Saturday, including the Connecticut Seaport Car Club, of which he is a member, and the Old Fart Car Guys Club.

The festivities in Stevenson began with a concert on Friday night featuring Bad Boy and Mullet, and Saturday’s car show featured kids rides from Marenna Amusements, a dozen food trucks, a beer and wine garden and vendors.

Peggi Gnandt expressed her gratitude to George and Paula Zwally, who own the property and allowed the event to be held there.

“We probably have 400 cars and the weather’s ideal for this,” she said. “We’re just blessed to be able to have this and be part of the festival. Thank you to Monroe and Terry Rooney.”

Christopher Soltis, left, and his father, Dennis, stand beside their Willys Jeep, which is named “For Pete’s Sake” after Dennis’ father.

Dennis Soltis and his son, Christopher, brought a jeep and helicopter from the Connecticut Air and Space Museum in Stratford.

The 1942 Willys Jeep is named “For Pete’s Sake” in honor of Dennis Soltis’ father Peter. A vintage bicycle hangs from the back of it and decorative touches inside include an old model baseball bat and glove, two cans of Schlitz beer, a Hershey bar and a football.

The Soltises also brought a Hughes OH-6 military helicopter from the Vietnam War era.

“It was shot down twice and recovered twice,” Christopher said.

Saturday was the first time the Connecticut Air & Space Museum participated in the Barnum Car Show.

“So far it’s great,” Christopher said of Saturday’s event. “It’s really well attended. The weather couldn’t be more perfect. It’s exciting to be part of it.”

On Sept. 15 the museum will host the Corsair Car Show on Lordship Beach in Stratford.

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1 Comment

  1. Did I miss the publicity on the auto show? You need more advertising for it next year. I hated to miss knowing it was taking place this Saturday.

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