2014 Silver Springs Ford and Mustang Roundup
Getting Better With Age - The 20th Annual Silver Springs Ford & Mustang Roundup doesn’t disappoint
For many Mustang fans, the annual Silver Springs Ford & Mustang Roundup, hosted by National Parts Depot (NPD) and sponsored by Source Interlink Media's Ford-based magazines, is the “kick off” for each year's car show season. Held every January at the Silver Springs nature park in Silver Springs, Florida, we've attended this show every year in some capacity or another (attendee or media member and now a sponsor) and we've seen license plates from as far away as Indiana, New York, and even the occasional tag from Canada. Of course, NPD helps make that decision easier by footing the bill for the first 1,000 registrants! Not a bad deal at all—a show with free entry for two at a nationally registered historic natural landmark—if you can get your registration in quickly. Unfortunately, a lot changed for 2014's show, an event that almost didn't happen.
Silver Springs is one of Florida's oldest tourist attractions, opening in the late 1870s and becoming a popular tourist destination. The privately operated attraction featured the now famous glass-bottom boat rides (which offered tours of the Silver River and the springs), an amusement park, and more. Through the decades, Silver Springs served as a filming location for movies and TV shows (including James Bond and Tarzan movies, plus the Sea Hunt TV series). Ownership changed hands several times over the years, but in 2013 the current owner, Palace Entertainment, made the decision to relinquish the property to the state of Florida. Silver Springs is now part of the Silver River State Park adjacent to the property and the entire area was renamed the Silver Springs State Park last October. With the change to state ownership, the remaining animals on the property were sold off and rides/attractions dismantled.
NPD vice-president Rick Schmidt tells us there was a lot of speculation throughout 2013 as to whether the 20th annual show would even happen. With the change to state ownership, there was little time to get the Ford & Mustang Roundup plans approved with the new state ownership. Schmidt explained, “Having never worked with the State Park system, or the new subcontracted concessionaire controlling all the services within the park, it was like starting over again with all new faces and all new terms. I didn't know them and they didn't know me. I had a lot to explain, justify, and assure. In retrospect however, I couldn't be more pleased with how it all turned out. I'm confident that moving the show forward into the next 20 years will be very positive.”
While much has changed over the last year with the Ford & Mustang Roundup's venue, thanks to the efforts of NPD and the Florida State Parks division, we can look forward to coming to Silver Springs State Park each January for many years to come!
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A Pony Trails cruise on the Friday before the Ford & Mustang Roundup has become a well-attended tradition. I've participated in most of them, usually riding along with a reader or sponsor. This year, however, I jumped behind the wheel of Mark Morley's unrestored, 80,000-mile '66 convertible for the approximately 65-mile, hour and a half drive from NPD headquarters in Ocala to Cedar Key on the Gulf of Mexico.
As I've said before, unrestored Mustangs typically drive better than restored Mustangs, and Morley's '66 was a case in point. With only the usual maintenance, the convertible drives more like a three- or four-year old Mustang than one that was built 48 years ago. The steering and front-end are tight, the engine fires up at the first twist of the key, and the gauge needles held strong and firm, including the temperature gauge that never reached the halfway point in the warm Florida weather. In fact, after grabbing a grouper sandwich at Cedar Key's Steamer restaurant, we dropped the top for the return trip and cruised back to NPD in 1966 style. –Donald Farr