Staff Photo by Margaret Fenton -- Ryan, left, and Christopher Easton take over the driver's seat in their family's eighth Volkswagen camper, a 1987 VW Vanagen Camper. The Eastons came from Atlanta to the 11th Bug-A-Palüza, sponsored by Scenic City Volks Folks and Village VW of Chattanooga, which ended Sunday at Camp Jordan in East Ridge.
For Volkswagen Beetle enthusiasts Rhonda and Wayne Meeks, the 740-mile drive was worth it.
The couple, who live in Deerfield Beach, Fla., decided to make the long trip to Chattanooga after hearing about Bug-a-Palüza, the city’s annual convention for Volkswagen drivers.
“Most shows in Florida that we go to, people are packed up and gone by 3 p.m.,” Mrs. Meeks said. “Here we stayed until the movie started (Saturday night) at 9:15 p.m., so no one was in a hurry to leave. And everyone is friendly. That’s what we love about the shows.”
The three-day celebration, presented by the Scenic City Volks Folks and Village Volkswagen, kicked off Friday at Camp Jordan in East Ridge.
Although Sunday’s rainy weather turned some of the crowd away, organizers said they were very happy with the attendance.
“We had a huge event this year,” said Fielding Clark, a member of Scenic City Volks Folks who helped present over 40 trophies to Volkswagen owners on Sunday. “It’s the biggest turnout we’ve ever had. We had over 300 show cars by themselves (on Saturday), and that’s not counting 200 campers and the club members’ cars.”
Mr. Clark said the event has grown significantly since the first Bug-a-Palüza took place in 1999, when only about 20 to 30 car owners met at a dealership on state Highway 153.
“It’s possible that one day this show is going to move to the (Volkswagen) factory when they get it built,” he said.
A free concert on Friday night by local rock group Penguin opened the event, which also included raffles, several games and contests for children, a blood drive and a Ronald McDonald mobile bus that attendees could tour.
Mrs. Meeks said she spent most of the weekend cleaning her car, a 2002 new Beetle orange turbo with matching leather interior and rims.
According to the couple, only 2,000 of the cars were made in the U.S. in 2002.
“Being a UT fan since I’m originally from Tennessee, we decorated it with a lot of UT stuff,” Mrs. Meeks said. “In Florida, we just enter the car. We don’t put all the UT stuff on it because I’m competing with Gators and Hurricane and Seminole fans.”
Mr. and Mrs. Meeks said they definitely plan to attend future Bug-a-Palüza shows in Chattanooga.
“I’m going to try to get our South Florida Volkswagen Club members to come (next year),” Mrs. Meeks said.
The event also raises money for the Ronald McDonald House of Greater Chattanooga.
Brian Dempsey, president of Scenic City Volks Folks, said last year’s Bug-a-Palüza raised about $10,000 for the organization.
He said this year probably will bring in about the same amount of money.
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