Starting Friday, April 1st, ‘Festivals of Speed’ makes a pit stop in Downtown St. Pete at Vinoy Park for a weekend of luxury and speed. The festival begins with a luxury lifestyle cocktail reception on Friday and culminates in the main event of the festival, the display of exotics, on Sunday, April 3rd.
The Festivals of Speed has been delighting luxury-car enthusiasts and collectors around the Florida state since 2004. The show currently operates in Miami, St. Petersburg, Amelia Island, and Orlando, and has previously operated in both New York and California. It not only showcases luxury vehicles, but motorcycles, aircraft, and watercraft.
This April, Festivals of Speed returns to where the show began. Joe Sabatini founded the event in St. Petersburg after an obsession with automotive art motivated him to host an art show. That initial show had a guest list of about 40 people, and primarily focused on automotive art. However, he lined the block surrounding the building with Ferrari’s. After the event’s success, the attendees marveled at the cars and suggested that he go to the Ferrari dealership and solicit sponsorship for a car show. Sabatini did just that, and secured Ferrari as the event’s first sponsor.
Since that first art show, attendance for Sabatini’s Festivals of Speed in St. Petersburg has increased 500-fold to approximately 22,000 attendees last year for Sunday’s display of exotics alone. The festival also had more than 350 cars, not including the vintage Harley Davidsons and brand-new Ducatis as well as dozens of aircraft and watercraft. More Ducatis will be featured at the upcoming Festivals of Speed event, along with new Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and Rolls Royces. As for the vehicle at April’s event that excites him the most, Sabatini names an ultra-rare ’65 Bentley open-wheel racecar, one of only two ever made and the only one that still exists.
“You don’t see a lot of Bentley racecars, especially the vintage, so this one is a real treat.”
This rarity is what makes luxury and exotic vehicles so appealing, says Sabatini. Not many people can afford vintage vehicles, and the amount of money buyers are willing to spend on these cars demands some attention. For instance, a vintage ’57 Ferrari 335 Spider Scaglietti sold for $36.2 million at an auction in Paris this past February. Other vintage vehicles routinely sell for $10, $20, and $30 million, Sabatini explains. Owning a vintage vehicle becomes a rite of passage into the world of upper-class elite. It is an aspiration. The “American Dream” is a white picket-fenced house and a Bentley in the driveway.
However, Sabatini appreciates the craftsmanship of these vintage vehicles over price tags and rarity.
“What you can really appreciate about [these cars], especially the vintage ones from way back when they were all literally hand-built, is the talent it takes to build them. Look at the vintage Ferraris. You can smell the leather seats, the engine, and the oil, and you really feel like you are a part of the automobile.”
Starting Friday, April 1, you will have a chance to experience these vintage vehicles. The luxury lifestyle cocktail reception takes place under a 100-foot tent, and features some of the best vintage cars and motorcycles in the show. The last FOS in St. Petersburg attracted approximately 600 people to the reception. The event this year will feature a Sinatra-style band that is sure to delight attendees with smooth jazz tunes all night. The reception ticket includes an open bar with premium liquors, and this year, Sabatini is introducing a new wine pavilion for attendees to enjoy fine wine from bistros around the park. The luxury lifestyle cocktail reception last from 8-11 pm, and the $125 event admission includes open bar, food, music, a gift bag, and an event poster.
On Sunday, April 3, the display of exotics takes place from 10am to 4pm. General admission is $20 and kids 12 and under are free. Tickets to the Supercar Lounge are also available for purchase for $85, which includes an open bar, gift bag, and event poster. VIP tickets for the display of exotics are $100, which includes a VIP Patron badge, open bar, lunch, a VIP gift bag, and an event poster. Ticket to both the luxury lifestyle reception and the display of exotics can be purchased now through festivalsofspeed.com.
For out-of-town guests looking to attend the weekend’s festivities, Festivals of Speed has rooms reserved at the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront and The Birchwood. Guests can find more information at