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St. Armands' Corvettes on the Circle canceled due to city decision

The Skyway Corvette Club was told vehicles are no longer allowed on the St. Armands Circle Park grass, which stopped the event that celebrated 25 years in 2023.

Corvettes on the Circle would draw in Corvette owners from all over, with a maximum capacity of 175 cars.
Corvettes on the Circle would draw in Corvette owners from all over, with a maximum capacity of 175 cars.
Photo by Sidra Wali
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This spring, don’t expect to see Corvettes on the Circle.

The event celebrated its 25th anniversary last year, but this year the Skyway Corvette Club of Sarasota and Manatee counties isn't able to hold the event on St. Armands Circle. For now, there are no plans to move the event to another location.

Allen Harmsen, vice president and show chairman for the club, said he had begun preparations for this year’s event in early January and reached out to the St. Armands Association to get the ball rolling. But instead of maintaining momentum, the planning was stopped in its tracks.

Harmsen said the city of Sarasota told the association that it would no longer allow motorized vehicles on park grounds, including St. Armands Circle.

“Following the 2022 Winter Festival, the grassy area within St. Armands Circle Park was renovated and turf grass installed,” Jan Thornburg, communications general manager for the city of Sarasota, said in an emailed statement to the Longboat Observer. “Vehicles are not allowed to drive on the grassy areas of St. Armands Circle Park, Selby Five Points Park, Payne Park and Bayfront Park.”

Thornburg said special events can still take place in those areas, just that motorized vehicles are not allowed to drive on the grass. 

Also in January, the association and city offered that the event could move to the Boulevard of the Presidents.

But Harmsen said street parking was less than ideal, especially for the large amount of Corvettes that show up. The club set the maximum capacity for the show at 175 cars.

But the Corvettes on the Circle event was allowed at St. Armands in 2023. 

A 1973 Red Convertible owned by Frank Crawford from Brandon at the 25th annual Corvettes on the Circle on May 6, 2023.
Photo by Sidra Wali

Last year, Harmsen said the club was cautious because the turf in the Circle had recently been replaced after another event tore up the ground. He said everything was done to make sure the area was left better than before the event.

This also meant using sandbags to hold down tents instead of stakes, in order to preserve the grass. 

After the event, he said everything seemed fine to both him and the city officials. There were a couple patches that the city felt were brown, but it wasn’t able to be determined if those were caused by the cars, according to Harmsen. 

Harmsen wondered if those previous events — not limited to Corvettes on the Circle — had done too much damage and led to this recent decision. 

President of the Board of Directors for the St. Armands Circle Association Scott Macdonald was unavailable for a phone interview, but sent in an emailed statement regarding the city’s decision. 

“The St. Armands Circle Association is disappointed that Corvettes on the Circle has been canceled after 25 years due to the City of Sarasota's decision to not allow motorized vehicles in the Circle Park,” Macdonald said. “Our Board of Directors are continuing to speak with the City, in the hope that a solution can be found which will allow the long-standing and community-based events to continue in the future.”

Harmsen said the club sent notices to show participants of the last five years, letting them know the show would not go on this year. 

“They’re all coming back saying they’re disappointed, saying it was one of their favorite shows,” Harmsen said. “A lot of people are disappointed that we’re not having the show this year.” 

Missing out for now

Corvettes on the Circle was one of the most popular Corvette-only shows in the state. It was held the first Saturday of May every year, said Harmsen.

“It’s arguably probably the best scenic Corvette-only show in all of Florida,” he said, pointing out that most other car shows are parking lot shows. 

With Corvettes on the Circle, though, he said participants would come from all over the state and other parts of the county. Owners would bring their families and make a weekend out of it. 

It was a great location because the family members could shop around the Circle during the show, and all the shop vendors were always accommodating, Harmsen said.

Harmsen has been chairman of the show for about 10 years. 

David Baxter, from Sarasota, stands next to his 1959 Corvette.
Photo by Sidra Wali

The event was also a fundraiser for charity. For the past several years, proceeds from registration fees and the event went to The Honor Flight of West Central Florida. The organization flies World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., to honor their service. 

As of last year, Harmsen said the Skyway Corvette Club show sponsored 30 veterans.

At the show, the club also awarded trophies to “best of” categories, including Best by Corvette Generation, Club Participation, Best of Show and Skyway Corvette Club Favorite. The trophies were modeled after the Unconditional Surrender statue on Sarasota’s bayfront. 

While this event won’t be returning in 2024, Harmsen said that if the city were willing to work something out, the club would be happy to return. 

“We’re not going to react to this and just go and have another show on the same day in a parking lot,” Harmsen said. “If they (the city) would take us back, obviously that would be our first choice because we’ve done it for 25 years and everybody loves it … We’d love to come back.” 



Carter Weinhofer

Carter Weinhofer is the Longboat Key news reporter for the Observer. Originally from a small town in Pennsylvania, he moved to St. Petersburg to attend Eckerd College until graduating in 2023. During his entire undergraduate career, he worked at the student newspaper, The Current, holding positions from science reporter to editor-in-chief.

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