In the late 1950s, drag racers were terrorizing downtown Venice streets. But instead of arresting them, the chief of police organized them into a drag racing club called the Vagabonds and gave them a place to race safely.
"Chief Shockey was instrumental in getting the city council to approve the club and getting the lawyers involved to make sure everything was on the up and up and getting the FAA at that time to use the airport as a drag strip."
The races were held right on the taxi way at the airport. The drag strip attracted races from Tampa to Fort Myers to Florida's east coast. That was huge for Venice.
"At the time in the late 50s, Venice wasn't well populated."
And so the drag racing in Venice died; but, it had put Venice in the spotlight and caused a surge in Venice's population.
"It really brought in a lot of people who'd never been to Venice before and they were able to move here later on and that's when we started having our boom in the early 60s."
And the Vagabonds are still around today.