A popular 1960s hit song “Daydream Believer” became a reality for a group of young men who shared a fondness for Corvettes, willingness to work jointly rebuilding cars, and the camaraderie of road rallies, and speed events. Farrell Hardiman, Lee Resoa, Ray Sisk, and Mike Ungeman, of Pensacola, Florida spent their weekends competing in events sponsored by Autocross of America. Since the coastal area has long carried the nickname “Miracle Strip,” the men formed the Miracle Strip Corvette Club (MSCC) in 1967 as part of the National Council of Corvette Clubs.
Their original focus was hosting high and low speed events. Early on, organizers officiated at trials using an old fashioned stop watch. Municipal landing strips were a popular location for autocross. In addition, parking lots at local shopping centers were available on Sundays. These events were extremely popular for local residents and served as an attraction during winter months for Corvette enthusiasts who wintered in the area. Graduating to righteous timing equipment, the growing club extracted Corvette performance at the Casino Beach parking lot on Santa Rosa Island and Bronson Naval Auxiliary Field. Interest in the organization began to expand when residents in the area learned there was a group promoting sanctioned speed events and rallies for Corvettes. Later, with the cost of cars increasing, combined with the expense of fuel and maintenance many owners became hesitant to race their cars. Then in the late 1970s the availability of racing venues declined. Shopping centers, which previously closed on Sunday, began opening their doors seven days a week, and the military began to use the once abandoned Bronson airfield again for training.
Judy and Bruce Olson became members when she received her first Corvette, a 1970 Donnybrook Green Convertible, as a birthday gift from her husband. As a new member, Judy saw opportunities for social activities. She encouraged other wives to become active. Membership was dwindling and it became apparent the group needed a new direction to survive. Shortly after joining, she became the first female president in 1989. Now, the Olson’s are the longest continuously active members. All three of their son’s share a common interest in Corvettes and enjoy reminiscing with their parents about the good times they’ve shared driving and working on their cars as a family. Oldest son Mike is an active member having served as the official club photographer and webmaster.
Bob Dylan’s 1960s pop single, “Times they are a-Changin” became more apparent as couples began to attend meetings introducing new endeavors to enjoy. Members credit Diane and Jim Kalivoda who joined in 1981, along with Carol and Terry Mills, members since 2003, for developing annual events which give the club continuity while building lasting friendships amongst members. Many activities have grown into club traditions. This includes “Mystery tours” to new dining adventures and touring Mississippi, Alabama and Florida’s many scenic back country roads. Annual favorites include the February Valentine’s Day, May Pre-Mother’s Day, and June Pre- Father’s Day dining adventures.
The annual “Pot Luck Dinner” provides everyone the opportunity to demonstrate his or her cooking skills. Guests enjoy delicious creations from homemade seafood cervichi, award winning bar-b-q and ‘too die for’ desserts. Over mouthwatering dishes lengthy discussions debate the pros and cons of the latest change to Corvettes.
A highlight each year is attendance at a local Blue Wahoo’s game. They are a Class Double-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins Major League Baseball. Cheering the home team at the Pensacola Bayfront Stadium, MSCC rents a special section graced with ballpark food, beverages and souvenirs. The group enjoys a spectacular display of fireworks to top off the day.
A recent addition is the annual “Chili Cook-off.” Crock pots and Dutch ovens fill the air with a bouquet of aromas to tempt hungry guests. Once diners finish taste testing, everyone votes for their favorite chili. Selections range from white chili, mild to hot and spicy, along with such novelty flavors as sweet potato chili. Chefs remark that they enjoy the contest because they can make the chili ahead of time which allows them to relax the day of the event.
The club’s most noted event is “Vettes at the Beach Show” held every September on Santa Rosa Island. Here the emerald green waters and the glistening white sand of Pensacola Beach forms the background for this prestigious Corvette Show. The weekend features a dinner and pre-registration for participants and their guests on Friday before the Saturday car show. The event attracts exhibitors who travel over 1,000 miles each year to participate. Annually the show includes entries from over 10 states with over 250 entries from over 30 Corvette Clubs.
The car show serves as the major fundraising base for the year which allows the club to make check presentations to two primary charities, The Pensacola Ronald McDonald House and the Santa Rosa Kids House in Milton, Florida.
The Florida Panhandle is also home to several military bases including the Naval Air Station, home of the Navy’s Blue Angels flight demonstration team, and the initial training site for all naval aviators, Near-by are Hurlburt Field, Elgin and Tyndall Air Force Bases. Anyone who has watched “Top Gun” knows the aviators have a “need for speed.” During the 1960s, the Corvette gained popularity as a preferred form of transportation for many of the Naval Student Aviators who purchased a new Corvette upon graduation from Flight School. It was a familiar sight to see Corvettes glistening in the Florida sun outside the barracks in Pensacola. Aviators wanted a car that would match the thrill of piloting an F-4 Phantom jet. No other American-made vehicle but the Corvette could accomplish on the ground the thrills of flying. Young graduates would compare the joy of being behind their new sports car to the powerful thrust of the Phantom’s engines versus the muffled sound of a newly acquired C-3.
A large portion of membership has included both active and retired United States military personnel. The organization’s members enjoy a strong working relationship with local military. In a show of support, the club sponsors “Vettes and Jets” at the National Naval Aviation Museum with proceeds benefiting the facility. This car show gives participants the opportunity to see the museum’s finest military aircraft up close. There have been several photo shoots of MSCC Corvettes in front of the Blue Angels F/A-18 Hornets.
In another show of support to the armed forces, the club participates in two events recognizing veterans who served our country. In the fall, a caravan travels from Florida to Bowling Green, Kentucky for the annual Vets “N” Vettes “program. During December, members participate in the “Wreaths across America “program at Barrancas National Cemetery. By laying wreaths at veterans cemeteries participants remember America’s fallen heroes.
Today the “Daydream Believers” of the 1960s live on through current members as the Miracle Strip Corvette Club celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2017.
PRESIDENT: MARK SCHMITT
VICE PRESIDENT: CAROL MILLS
TREASURER/NCCC GOVERNOR: ERNIE MARTINEZ
SECRETARY: DIANE KALIVODA
DIRECTOR AT LARGE: DAVE PARRA
WEBMASTER: RUSTY SPARKS
PRINCIPAL OFFICER (IRS): TERRY MILLS