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Phillip Retamoza of Watsonville dusts off the front of his 1959 Mercury on Sunday at the Castroville Artichoke Festival.

Fried thistles and Ferris wheels are great, but for some, this weekend's Castroville Artichoke Festival was all about the cars.

From muscle cars to low riders, there was enough chrome and metallic paint to please anyone's tastes. And if you didn't get your fill of musical entertainment elsewhere at the annual celebration, Phillip Retamoza had your back. In the trunk of his car.

Decked out in purple behind his chopped, purple metallic 1950 Mercury, Retamoza thrilled passersby by pulling a purple electric guitar out of his amplifier-equipped trunk and laying down a decent set of Carlos Santana classics.

Retamoza, of Watsonville, was the winner of the weekend, taking Best of Show and a huge trophy to go with the People's Choice Award he'd won Saturday at the fan festival for boxer Robert Guerrero in Gilroy. Retamoza had that unusual trophy laid out on the back seat of his Mercury, a large boxer's belt signed by "The Ghost" himself.

A lot of people are "crazy 'bout a Mercury," but Retamoza takes his passion to a whole new level. The purple paint job that sparkles with crushed glass was perfected by the legendary Gene Winfield and set Retamoza back $20,000. All told, he said, he's put $100,000 into the car.

Retamoza's was one of about 100 cars and trucks on display at the festival, attended by about 8,000 people over two days. John Petri of Prunedale put his automobile pride on the line twice Sunday. A muscle car fan, he found a shady spot behind his 1970 Chevelle Super Sport in the afternoon.


But in the morning parade, the Waste Management worker went vintage, driving a 1941 step-up garbage truck.

Frank Calderon of Salinas had his 1942 Chevy Fleetline Super Deluxe displayed like a museum piece, behind white chains and parked on a black-and-white checkered pad.

For Calderon, a member of the Oldies Car Club, it's all about his dad, who purchased the car shortly before he shipped out to Pearl Harbor and World War II. When he shows the Chevy, Calderon sets up photos of his father, Otilio Calderon, and memorabilia of the war. The classic gold and black license plate also honors his dad: Tilos42.

The festival car show is sponsored by the Castroville Midnighters car club and raises about $3,000 annually for toys and a Posada for local children each holiday season.

Club President Benny Diaz said the name's history goes back to his brother's "gang" who liked to hang out on the streets of Castroville at midnight decades ago. Now in their 70s, they passed down the name and Diaz used it for a car club.

While many in the show were from local cities, there were exhibitors from the Central Valley and beyond. For most, the Castroville Artichoke Festival is just one stop on the summer tour, with next weekend's destination Santa Maria.

Calderon laughed when asked if he comes to the Castroville show for the festival artichokes.

"I grew up in those fields," he said, pointing behind him. "I went to that church over there. We played dodgeball with artichokes."

Virginia Hennessey can be reached at 753-6751 or