The term “hidden gem” has been used repeatedly when referring to little known attractions around the Sunshine State. But we think it never has been more appropriate than when it’s applied to The Florida Flywheelers. And it looks like this year’s Christmas presentation could well be the best yet.
Nestled in southern Polk county between Frostproof and Fort Meade, the club owns a sprawling 374 acre site. On it sits a village with more than 70 structures and more antique cars, trucks tractors and other vehicles than you can shake a stick at. Since 2003, members of the club have decorated the village for Christmastime, and this year is no exception. There are miles of wire and tens of thousands of bulbs that are draped over just about everything.
On the weekends of Dec.13-14 and Dec. 20-21 there will be more than 5,000 individuals who will come to experience The Florida Flywheelers’ Christmas. Two dozen vintage trams, each pulled by an antique tractor, will be running through the village to see the hard work of the many volunteers. “We’re all volunteers out here,” said Marly Warner. She and her husband Ray are the full time caretakers at the site. They live there 24/7 and oversee all comings and goings.
Marly also is an accomplished artist. With nothing more than a hunting knife, she is able to carve tires into all manner of things. She can replicate animals, machines or just about anything you can imagine. She and her husband also are mechanics and have made several of the vehicles that are parked on the property that composes the Flywheelers’ Village.
The buildings, which have the old Florida look, are as varied as they are numerous. Taking the tour you will see a quilt shop, several garages, a motorcycle shop, a feed store, grist mill, mercantile and farm store. And what would a village be without a sheriff’s office, jail and a church? They have all three. But it’s more than a ride through a vintage Florida village. There are several stops along the way. Visitors will have an opportunity to visit Kracker Bob’s and the Ullrich Building. There will be treats including hot dogs, hot chocolate and hot apple cider.
The Ullrich building (shown in top photo) plays host to a dozen or so “windows” which are reminiscent of the department store windows of old, with moving figures and displays of Christmas toys and goodies. Also are several photo ops geared to the Christmas season. In fact, the entire site is rife with great opportunities for family photos and selfies. Moreover, Santa will be there and local musician, Billy D. Williams, is slated to perform as well.
The trams will be running from 6-9 pm. For those who have mobility issues, there also will be a few handicapped-accessible golf carts that also will run the route.
The best part is the admission. The Flywheelers ask for a canned good or non-perishable food item, an unwrapped toy or a cash donation. Each evening’s proceeds will go to a different food bank. Set to benefit this year are operations in Fort Meade, Frostproof, Lake Wales and Avon Park.
The street address is 7000 Avon Park Cutoff Road, Fort Meade. Their number is 863-285-9121 and the website is floridaflywheelers.org They ask that groups please call in advance.
Photos from Barry Foster