Ruskin’s Veterans Day parade: The Bonnie Blue Corvette: Three Cheers!
The Bonnie Blue Corvette: Three Cheers!
By Captain Phil Walters                                 
It was a fine fall morning for a parade. The sun was beaming down on Ruskin’s famous tomato fields, with a slight breeze from the South cooling us as we lined up in the staging area for Ruskin’s annual “Veteran’s Day” parade down US Hwy 41. As our parade contingency consisting of members of the Augusta Jane Evans Wilson chapter #2640, UDC-Tampa and the General Jubal A. Early camp #556-SCV Tampa rallied round the “Bonnie Blue,” finishing setting up the UDC chapter’s banner & last minute wardrobe needs. Dave McAllister, the “Bonnie Blue’s” custodian & driver did a very good job of detailing her out for the parade. I could not help but to admire the “Bonnie Blue” as she glistened in the morning’s light and reminisce of her history.
The “Bonnie Blue” corvette was the brainchild of cultural warrior Bart Siegel, a northern born but staunch defender of Southern Heritage and member of the Gen. Early camp. Bart was always seeking ways to educate the public on the truth of Southern Heritage as he thought of something that could draw universal interest from the public. While the “Dukes of Hazard” had their General Lee, a car beloved by the public, Bart wanted something different. First, he wanted a car to highlight the UDC ladies for parades so a convertible was a must. He also wanted something made in Dixie, so the ‘Vette was a natural as they are manufactured in the Southern state of Kentucky. After many months searching E-bay, Bart located a candidate and bought his 1986 Corvette convertible from a gentleman in Dover, Tennessee.
I accompanied Bart on the “adventure” to get the car. Upon first sight, I was somewhat skeptical of this “Vette with the “Disco-glitter” paint job but Bart saw past it and already had a plan. “This will work out just fine,” I remembering him telling me as the seller was telling us of all the attention he received when driving the car. “OK, Bart, it’s your baby so we’ll see how it works out,” I said to him as I rolled my eyes and we loaded her onto the trailer for the drive home.
Once home, Bart started the customizing. “War for States Rights” went along both sides along with a single large white star upon her hood and on her flanks. “Bonnie Blue” also appeared upon her sides and finished with an ‘Ole Miss” Rebel plate upon her front. After extensive detailing and wheel refinishing, she was ready for service as a “Parade Ambassador” for Southern Heritage.
Once upon the parade route down Ruskin’s Hwy 41, I often heard as I’ve heard many times before the cheering for the ladies riding on the deck of the “Bonnie Blue” and questions of “What year is she?” & “How fast will she go?” (I think it’s a safe assumption those questions were directed at the “Bonnie Blue” and not the period ladies…..) This happens at every parade I’ve participated in when the “Bonnie Blue” is doing her job. The crowd loves her!
Since her inception in 2007, she has participated in many events including living histories, the dedication of the worlds largest Confederate flag at Tampa’s Confederate Memorial Park (and as a memorial to Bart), small town parades and big city parades such as Ybor City’s (Tampa) Rough Riders St Patrick’s Day parade and also drew an adoring interested in more than one “Martin Luther King” Day parade, all the while drawing interest to the topic of Southern Heritage. Bart’s vision of the “Bonnie Blue” as an ambassador has certainly proved it’s worth and brought smiles to the faces of many. Oh, yea, and the UDC ladies enjoy riding upon the deck and waving to their fans too.