There are two big shows in Florida that are permanently engraved on every lowrider's calendar. The first is the season opener, the Miami show in January, where many new cars are traditionally introduced. If your ride wasn't quite ready in January, you don't have to wait long for the second big event on the schedule, the Tampa show in April. Both bring out large numbers of fans, excited about participating in the event, meeting old friends, and getting new ideas from the huge collection of vehicles on display.

As always, the Florida Fairgrounds was the perfect location, with plenty of wide-open spaces for cars outside, as well as spacious, air-conditioned, indoor facilities. The Saturday roll-in saw a huge crowd of people with an especially large number of vehicles, many in line from the day before. This year, the Fairgrounds had an amazing collection of quality cars, trucks, bombs and bikes, along with an excited crowd of spectators enjoying the fun. They got a chance to see an unusual array of vehicles, from beautiful handcrafted cars and trucks making their first appearance to well-known favorites like Abe Lopez' radical '85 Olds Cutlass, "Pure Elegance," from Loyalty C.C. and "Tlaloc, God of Rain," the beautiful '82 Buick Regal of Augustin Cruz from Brown Impressions C.C.

Dozens of clubs parked their vehicles together, representing their finest and enjoying the camaraderie that comes with this show. Obsession, Rollin', Low Lyfe, Uce, Bottom Out, Rollerz Only, Blvd. Aces, Loyalty, Mystics, Latin Kustoms and Nobility Bike Club, were just a few of those on hand with club members enjoying the event like a family reunion. And you've gotta love sponsors Quaker State, CCE Hydraulics, Hispanic Lending and Thump Records for believing in the cause.

Hundreds of vehicles, inside and out, meant that you could spend the day seeing superb examples of lowrider art, but that was only the beginning. DJs kept the music pumping throughout the day, aftermarket suppliers had a tempting selection of accessories to personalize your ride, and the food court was handy when your tank was running low. About the time that you finally made your way through the three large indoor buildings and spent some time outside checking the huge gathering of righteous rides, the next phase of entertainment began. It was time to get ready for the Hop.

The facilities at Tampa are first-rate, with an unobstructed view of all the action from the cool and comfortable, air-conditioned balcony seats. Talented switchmen from throughout the Southeast showed up, eager to display their talents and collect their share of the fat prize money. They dazzled the crowd with trucks heading skyward, planting their bumpers and establishing new Tour records, cars flipping on their sides with ease during the dance, and a six-year-old switchman who convinced the audience about the benefits of starting early! It's hard to find a car show anywhere with more action than Lowrider Tour events. (See our Hop article for more details.)

Excitement of a different sort occurred after the Hop, with Florida's favorite homie, DJ Laz, emceeing the live entertainment that featured Brooklyn's premier rap and hip-hop legend, Fat Joe, rockin' the house with his own brand of high-energy sound. With hardly a break in the action (and keeping the excitement level equally high) was the all-time guy-favorite, the world-famous Lowrider Bikini Contest.

For show competitors, however, the real adrenaline starts to pump about the same time that the entertainment phase ends. That's when they listen closely for the announcements of who will be taking home the gold. Prized trophies were awarded to deserving customizers as a way of certifying their unique talents. If you would like to be part of the fun, either as a competitor or spectator, check out the schedule listed in every issue of Lowrider for a show near you. We'll have our cameras ready and we'll be lookin' for ya.

TampaWinnersBest Car Of ShowFirst-Abe Lopez, '85 Olds CutlassSecond-Augustin Cruz, '82 Buick RegalThird-Ben Garcia, '72 Chevy Impala

Best Traditional LowriderFirst-Luis Aviles, '69 Chevy Impala

Best TruckFirst-No nameSecond-Arturo Fuentes, '99 Ford F-150Third-James Cobb, '86 Mazda

Best BombFirst-T.C. Coleman, '49 MercurySecond-Frankie Dee, '53 Chevy

Best Custom CompactFirst-Paul Ireson, '65 Mini CooperSecond-Benny Saenz, '99 Honda CivicThird-Rolando Puerto, '01 Toyota

Best BikeFirst-Mike LinvilleSecond-Jesse HopkinsThird-Mark Alonso

Best TrikeFirst-Alex QuinonezSecond-Michael MerrimanThird-Richard Alvarez

Lowrider Excellence AwardAbe Lopez, '85 Olds Cutlass