BACKSTAGE at VINTAGE WEEKEND
Credit for this unique Ocean Reef tradition belongs to the unstinting efforts of three remarkable Members
By Joan Birsh, Member Since 1997
The continuing 24-year success of the annual Ocean Reef Vintage Weekend, with its parade of antique automobiles, astonishing air shows, and collection of classic yachts, is the result of the initiative and hard work of three OR Members, each of whom has responsibility for one aspect of the exhibits: Vicki Goldstein (boats); Ron Elenbaas (cars); Lenny Sikora (planes). What follows are short takes on interviews I had with each of them about their personal connection to Vintage Weekend.
VICKI GOLDSTEIN and boats
An Ohio girl, Vicki’s first experience with boats came in her early 20’s when she embarked on a five-year sailing trip around the world with her first husband. When the trip ended, Vicki continued to be involved with boats – she wrote about them in sailing magazines, sold them at a yacht brokerage, and when she married Alan Goldstein, she raced with him for 30 years in their restored 1907 sailboat sailing out of Winter Harbor, Maine.
It was at Southwest Harbor that Vicki visited a classic yacht show that was her inspiration for the first OR Vintage Weekend. “I thought it was an event that might bring new Members to Ocean Reef.”
On her return to The Reef from the summer in Maine, Vicki immediately took on the formidable task of creating a boat show.
Finding and selecting the yachts for exhibit was then, and still is, the first order of business. Vicki used her connections with yacht brokers, boatyards, maritime museums, classic boat societies and yachting magazines to help her persuade the owners of the most desirable classic boats to participate. The yachts had to be at least 25 years old and carefully restored to be eligible. Twenty accepted the invitation and the first Ocean Reef Vintage Weekend, now a cherished tradition, was launched.
RON ELENBAAS and cars
By both nature and nurture, Ron Elenbaas is a “motorhead”. Ron grew up in a small community, Clawson, just outside of Detroit. His father worked for General Motors. Most of the kids in his neighborhood had fathers who worked for one of the “Big Three” automakers.
Ron bought his first car at 16 and paid for it out of his wages as a busboy at a local restaurant. “It was a used 1971 Chevy Vega, an awful car and I loved it.” When he went to work for Stryker Corp., a medical technologies firm, he spent his first bonus check of $6000 on a used 1973 Porsche 911. “I blew it all on that car and then 3 weeks later it was the engine that blew.”
Ron’s first venture into antique cars was the restoration of a 1938 Ford wagon, a project he took on with his 12-year-old son.
Over the years, Ron’s interest in classic and antique automobiles increased, so did his collection. When his wife Nanette complained there was no garage space left for her car, Ron teamed up with his buddy, fellow ORC Member, Bill Johnston. They formed a partnership “Off (only for fun) Brothers” and bought a building to house their cars. In time, they added two additional buildings, 4 employees (including the essential mechanics) and on last count 90 cars.
Then in 1999, Ron and Nanette found Ocean Reef through an invitation to exhibit a car by Bill Parfet, ORC Member. Vicki Goldstein, who had decided to include cars, wasted no time in lining up Ron for the second Vintage Weekend.
Ron knew many owners to invite and which of them to pursue or save for another year (repeaters are welcomed only after a 3-year hiatus). He set his goal for 60 automobiles, but in the 19 years he has been doing this job, he seldom succeeds in getting the number of cars to fewer than 85.
Perhaps Ron’s major contribution to Vintage Weekend is his gig as the announcer for the Concours d’ Elegance, which takes place on Sat. beginning at 10 a.m. This popular event (free to Members and guests) is a parade of 60 magnificent automobiles, which are introduced and described by Ron Elenbaas.
Ron prepares his comments and times them so that each exhibitor gets exactly 2 minutes. His commentary is informative and often amusing and he delivers it without ever consulting a note. It is an amazing feat, but it is not magic. Ron showed me his folder with research on every car and owner. It was 5 inches thick.
LENNY SIKORA and planes
Lenny began flying at 15 years old and got his pilot’s license at 18. From then on, flying was not just a hobby, it was his favored means of transportation. As the head of a metal stamping, precision sheet metal fabricating and laser cutting company, Lenny serviced many of his customers by flying from Cleveland to their locations around the country. During this period, he owned and piloted several planes. His favorite: a L39 jet, designed in the 1960’s. He is justifiably proud of having more than once clocked 750 hours of flying time in one year.
At Ocean Reef, Lenny’s lifelong interest and knowledge of flying made him an obvious choice to revamp the airplane elements of Vintage Weekend. Though aircraft had already been added to automobiles and yachts as an exhibiting component, they did little more than a flyover of Alabama Jack’s, the legendary Keys restaurant/bar on Card Sound Road that is the Friday rally destination for the exhibitors of the antique cars.
About 8 years ago, Lenny Sikora managed to change the venue to Buccaneer Island, and two years ago, arranged for the acclaimed Aeroshell Aerobatic Team to give a spectacular Saturday noontime performance, flying in formation in their vintage AT-6 Texans.
Last year, Lenny persuaded the Aeroshell team to add an additional show on Friday night. OR Members and their friends found the sight of four aircraft performing their stunts in the darkness enhanced only by their lights and smoke, an extraordinary experience. (Happily, the 5 p.m. show is now on the schedule for 2019 and hopefully for years to come.)
This 2019 Vintage Weekend is honored by the presence of Patty Wagstaff, a multiple award-winning pilot. In 1996, Patty was the top-scoring US pilot at the World Aerobatics Championship. Her aircraft is on display next to Amelia Earhart’s at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum.
To arrange every Ocean Reef air show, Lenny Sikora must plan months in advance. The FAA (Federal Aviation Adm.), the Coast Guard, and our own OR Airport have to be informed and the proper permissions secured. Lots of meetings and paperwork.
“Safety is always my main concern,” says Lenny. And Friday afternoon, the pilots and everybody else involved with the air shows gather in the Med. Center’s conference room to carefully review the weather report and other conditions that might affect the scheduled flights. Lenny concludes the meeting by quoting the generally accepted advice for these presentations – If you haven’t done it before, don’t do it here.
So thank you Vicki, Ron, and Lenny for Ocean Reef Vintage Weekend 2019 and for all the wonderful Vintage Weekends we look forward to in the years to come.