Event: MustangFest 2014

Mustang Fest 2014 Featured

Kick the Tires

With 350 Mustangs on the deck of an aircraft carrier, MustangFest celebrated the 50th in style

By Steve Turner
Photos courtesy of Island Tom and Island Charlotte

We have been to a few car shows in our day. More often than not they are held in a basic parking lot. Sometimes that lot is in a great place, but it’s still a parking lot. Every so often the location is cool, like a waterfront park or a scenic attraction. However, to celebrate 50 years of the Mustang, one show promoter really wanted to pull off something special.

At MustangFest over 350 Mustangs of all descriptions filled the deck of the U.S.S. Lexingtion aircraft carrier anchored in the bay near Corpus Christi, Texas.
At MustangFest over 350 Mustangs of all descriptions filled the deck of the U.S.S. Lexingtion aircraft carrier anchored in the bay near Corpus Christi, Texas.

And, pull it off he did. The man in question goes by Island Tom, as all MustangFest participants are bestowed with an “Island” name and encouraged to live on island time during the full Muscle Car Week events, which include Mustang Fest. Making this year’s show for the Mustang’s 50th Anniversary so special was 350 Mustangs that stepped up to the Chromium registration were parked on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier!

“We had a number of naysayers who said we couldn’t pull it off, but we did, and our team did a professional job,” Tom said. “If not for our volunteers and dedicated Mustangers—who assisted on the Flight Deck and Hangar Deck—the event might not have been the tremendous success it was.”

As such, a wide variety of Mustangs filled the deck of the carrier for a spectacular show. Among the group were Boss 302s, Foxes, Roushes, RTRs, SCJs, Saleens, Shelbys, and Steedas. All these cars parked floating above the ocean and next to various fighter craft was a sight to behold.

How many Top Gun references must have been made at this year’s Mustang Fest? It would have been worth hearing them to see this scene in person.
How many Top Gun references must have been made at this year’s Mustang Fest? It would have been worth hearing them to see this scene in person.

“A special ‘private tour’ was provided to me, including climbing the rungs up to Level 8—where only the staff is allowed to go — included sitting in the Air Boss chair in the Air Control Center where the Commander of Air Group would often visit. For those who are unaware, the CAG is like the Skipper or Captain of the vessel when air group operations are being conducted…” Island Tom explained. “I was honored to be allowed nearly free-reign to make announcements on the 1-MC shipwide PA system; I would end each announcement with: ‘This is Island Tom. That is all. Carry on!’ It made me feel like all four years of planning/work was recognized by the staff of the aircraft carrier.”

So a cool car show and an exclusive tour of an aircraft carrier, it really doesn’t get much better than that for a day out with your Mustang.

How cool is this? Looking 50 feet down at the middle of the deck loaded with Mustangs.
How cool is this? Looking 50 feet down at the middle of the deck loaded with Mustangs.

“We had Mustangs registered from 26 states, plus Mexico. Many met new friends, others reminisced with old friends they’d met years before at MustangFest. Everyone aboard had a great time, as evidenced by their posts on our Facebook page,” Island Tom said. “We even had a couple of stragglers, and I had to persuade the Executive Director of the vessel to allow one last lift for those latecomers — and he graciously did just that.”

Making the show even more fun and relaxing, there was no judging. All the participants brought home some hardware to go along with the smiles on their faces.

The Mustangs loaded on and off the ship in small groups via an elevator. “The offload was lightning-fast... I had planned it for four years and rehearsed it in my mind thousands of times in that quad-year period — the crew took direction well, and we all worked together to get the Mustangs off the Flight Deck safely, smartly and efficiently,” Tom said. “Everyone received a departing salute from the Producer as they left the Flight Deck Elevator #3 platform and drove back onto terra firma for their farewell pass by the waiting crowd.”
The Mustangs loaded on and off the ship in small groups via an elevator. “The offload was lightning-fast… I had planned it for four years and rehearsed it in my mind thousands of times in that quad-year period — the crew took direction well, and we all worked together to get the Mustangs off the Flight Deck safely, smartly and efficiently,” Tom said. “Everyone received a departing salute from the Producer as they left the Flight Deck Elevator #3 platform and drove back onto terra firma for their farewell pass by the waiting crowd.”

“Sunday’s awards went well — every Chromium Registrant was a winner!” Island Tom explained. “We saved back funds so we could order enough awards to avoid judging, allowing every Chromium Registrant to take home one of our 18-inch aluminum awards as a commemorative item they can hang on their garage wall to display proudly in front of their Mustangs.”

Of course, if you missed it like we did, you won’t have another chance next year. This was a special event for the 50th. However, it sounds like Island Tom has something brewing for the Mustang’s next big anniversary interval.

MustangFest is but one part of a weeklong Muscle Car Week held in Port Arkansas, Texas. Post-Mustang events, like Muscle Car Monday and Taste of the Island were held at Port Royal Ocean Resort.
MustangFest is but one part of a weeklong Muscle Car Week held in Port Arkansas, Texas. Post-Mustang events, like Muscle Car Monday and Taste of the Island were held at Port Royal Ocean Resort.

“We made Mustang history in this, the 50th year of America’s car, and everyone was proud to have participated. As far as years to come, we will not hold another of the same show aboard the aircraft carrier — it was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Tom added. “I have, however, already discussed another Mustang celebration with the staff of the U.S.S. Lexington—I have plans for the 55th Anniversary of America’s Car… at 57 feet above mean sea level!”

However, if you can’t wait five years to live on island time with your Mustang, the show’s dates for next year are locked in. Mark your calendar for October 2-4, 2015.

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