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Club gets ready to showcase Vette love

It's been called "America's Sports Car" and devotees of Chevrolet's fiberglass sportster are putting on a show dedicated exclusively to the Corvette Saturday at Lake Yosemite.

"Corvettes make a statement. It's part of American history," said Verna Cagle of Merced. She's vice president of the Yosemite Corvette Club, which will present its 10th annual "Vettes at the Lake" show from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. About 60 to 75 Corvettes are expected for the show, which will benefit local charities.

Ric Rocco of Chowchilla is president of the 48-member group of Corvette devotees, who own 30 of the automobiles, first produced in 1953. Rocco got his 1982 T-top Corvette five years ago through the Internet auction site eBay and drives it sparingly.

"I've always wanted a Corvette; I love the car and the history behind it. It's a great American sports car," Rocco said.

Rocco's Corvette, which has only 32,000 original miles, usually is covered up in his garage. He drives it about once a month and takes it to shows. When the Florida owner's pregnant wife wanted a van, the Vette had to go and Rocco stepped in.

Yosemite Corvette Club members meet the second Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. at Cool Hand Luke's on West Olive Avenue and also find time to go on monthly "runs" -- day-trip excursions to places including Columbia, Bass Lake, San Simeon, Knights Ferry and Lake Tahoe.

Cagle's 2003 50th anniversary limited edition Corvette has 38,000 miles; it was driven to Merced by an older East Coast couple who traded it for a Hummer. Her husband, James, is general sales manager at Courtesy Automotive Center, the ultimate candy store for a Corvette fancier.

"It's not a trailer queen. I show it off. I drop the top as often as I can. The kids aren't allowed to drive it and I'm going to be buried in it," Cagle said.

Cagle's son, Jimmy, 11, is a junior member of the club. He likes the newer Corvettes and hopes to have a 60th anniversary Corvette when it's made -- six years from now.

Saturday's "Vettes at the Lake" will feature a barbecue, scavenger hunt, music and fun. Rocco anticipates a bigger turnout than previous years, based on extra efforts to promote this year's event.

Sandy Sorge of Merced is club secretary and drives a 1978 silver anniversary T-top coupe she bought two years ago. The car's third owner, she is in the midst of restoring the vehicle, which was in sad shape when she got it.

"I drive mine everywhere; it's a driven car. It gets lots of attention. I wanted one since I was a little girl. I saw my first Vette in elementary school and it's taken this long," Sorge said.

She laughs that she had horses before and traded four legs for four wheels. She likes the looks and sound of her Corvette. "It's a strong, sexy car with lots of curves," Sorge said.

Sorge's Corvette has a new silver paint job along with brand-new seats, carpet, radiator and steering column. In two years, when her daughter, Elena Goldfoos, turns 18, she will get the car and her mom hopes to acquire a 1982 Corvette.

Nick Risner of Chowchilla has owned a 1977 T-top coupe painted white. The 18-year-old June graduate of Chowchilla High School has had his Corvette for two years. He has driven Mustangs, a Porsche Boxster and Mitsubishi Eclipse but says they don't even compare to the Corvette.

Risner is the youngest full-fledged member of the Corvette club. His car has 119,000 miles, needs new paint and a windshield, but the high-performance 350 cubic-inch engine came from a 1972 model.

Cagle said the Corvette club tries to get involved in the community. The nonprofit club belongs to the Greater Merced Chamber of Commerce and will designate a charity to receive the estimated $500 in proceeds following Saturday's show.

Late entries, the morning of the show, are encouraged, Rocco said. Entry fees are $45, which includes a meal ticket, dash plaque and goodie bag. Awards will be presented at 2 p.m., Rocco said.

A Friday Night Rally will be held tonight at 6 at the Sonic Drive-In at West 18th and R streets from 6 to 8 p.m.

Cagle said the local group, established in the mid-1970s, is the oldest existing Corvette club in California.

Associate Editor Doane Yawger can be reached at 209-385-2485 or dyawger@mercedsun-star.com.

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