If you’ve never been to the Chirco.com Bugtoberfest Aircooled Automotive Showcase weekend well….I feel sorry for you.
I don’t mean that as an insult, it’s pure unadulterated pity on your poor person for never having had the opportunity to experience what is one of the most unique air cooled enthusiasts weekends in this part of the country. Hmm…I just read that back and it’s kinda insulty, but I’m gonna go with it.
The purpose of this blog post is to share the weekend that was Bugtoberfest 19 and also to get you motivated to get down here and have some fun with us next year. Now, if you don’t know what Bugtoberfest (Bfest) is, let me learn you bout it.
Bfest started out as a small local gathering about 20 years ago. At the time there wasn’t any real air cooled VW show of note in Tucson so Joe Chirco and his staff at the time decided to see what would happen if they made an event. I think that first show had about 45 cars and the grand prize was a handshake or wedgie, I think the winner got to choose. I think he chose both. :)
Fast forward 20 years and now Bfest is a multi-day VW extravaganza! There’s a Bus campout that goes for 3 or more days. There’s a massive VW cruise that snakes through some of the most beautiful desert you’ll ever see. There’s a massive BBQ at a park WITH GRASS (note: Grass is a big deal here), and of course there is the actual Bugtoberfest show which sees hundreds of cars, thousands of spectators and more fun than you can shake a dip stick at.
Let’s recap this years’ festivities.
The Red Barn Round Up Campout. October 17 – 20
Location: The land just east of Chirco Performance and Restoration:
For years VW buses have come to Bugtoberfest and camped next door. It wasn’t until 5 years ago that a guy named Morganflash and his friend named Harris put their heads together and through some semi-disgusting yet pleasantly smelling form of osmosis, the name Red Barn Round Up was born. There actually is a Red Barn on the property and everybody knows if you give something a cool name, folks will dig it. (see X-Games).
This year was a little bit smaller than years past. Maybe only 20 buses on night 1 and maybe 40 on night 2, but the amount of fun was probably double years past. First thing many noticed was the new gate hung between the properties. This meant that Red Barners wouldn’t have to walk around through “Rattle Snake” alley to get next door. It also opened up the Red Barn to foot traffic from the Bfest show. It’s a great addition. The number 2 new thing was the fire pit. A couple Chirco guys spent a couple days digging an 8 foot wide 1 foot deep pit. They gathered big rocks from the wash and then back-filled the entire thing. “It’s pretty spectacular.” said one of the guys. The other guy just groaned a lot and mumbled something about a dislocated spine. He was hard to hear bein all face down and what not. Anyway….it was a cool fire pit.
The Red Barn crowd is always a joy to be around. There were the familiar faces and then there were quite a few new faces. It was nice to see so many people deciding to do this event for the first time. As folks set up camp I made note of the great job the Tucson Bus Mob does with this event. They are seasoned campers and they just make everybody feel welcome. They did so much work on the grounds this year, it was super cool. It was cleaner when they left than when they got there. No joke. The Tucson Bus Mob has a cool Facebook group here. Look them up.
There was a lot of hugging and laughing and smiling and more hugging. As night fell the spirits emerged and a good time was had by all. They had a great band named “Top Dead Center” play, and they had kid activities and more. Many of the locals came down just to hang out and enjoy the company.
My favorite Red Barn moment from this year was getting to sit down with my good friend Brian and the love of his life Melodee and hearing the story of how they met. They are both kind spirited people so it was very fun to hear her tell the story and him correct her and her correct him and everybody laugh over and over again. It was a great story. Friends bonding through sharing the things that bond them….That’s Red Barn right there. The Red Barn Round Up is one of those intimate feel good events that you just hate to see end. Your cheeks hurt from laughing. Can’t wait to do it again.
Big thanks to the Tucson Bus Mob for all they do. Great group.
The Bugtoberfest Cross-town Cruise:
I guess “cross-town” doesn’t really apply anymore as we have changed the route from what it was 7 years ago. It’s more like the “Velvety Vail Cruise”, or the “Eastside Euphoria Cruise”. Last year we cruised from Speedway and Houghton (How-ton) to Purple Heart Park in Rita Ranch. It was fun…kinda long…about 29 miles and there were some 4 way stops right near the beginning…not good. This year we moved our starting spot about 4 miles south. We actually began the cruise on the road we would spend 20 miles on! There wasn’t a traffic signal for 17 miles! So…
The lining up is always hectic. I came up on the starting point and there was already 60 somethin cars there. I made my way to the front and began the first of 3 trips up and down the line. Now…you may not know but I have a thing for Golden Oreos so walking nearly half a mile 3 times really burns into my cookie fat surplus. It’s cool to great everybody individually and it’s also cool to lose your voice trying to holler instructions. By the time the cruise takes off I’m sounding like the decomposed castle guide in HellBoy 1.
I set my camera near the front of the line and checked with my 3 other videographers to make sure they were in their locations. Once confirmed I did the whirly bird arm motion which is universal for “Get in your car! We’re gonna do this!!”. One of our locals led the group in her 58 vert. The cars piled into the line and whizzed by me. There was swearving towards my camera and lots of honking and some booty shaking….the people in the VWs did silly stuff too…so it was fun.
After the cars passed me I hopped in my car and raced back the opposite way to get to the park and film their arrival. My film crew handled the rest. They got great footage along Old Spanish trail by the monument and some elevated footed out by Colossoal Cave road. It’s hard to describe but you can see it in the video below. Just about everybody told me it was a blast.
I got to the park and my Mom came over to witness the arrival. When the cars turned the corner onto the street near the park, my Mom gasped. She said “There they are!”….after 30 minutes she was still saying the same thing. The line of cars along the street was terribly impressive. Many of the local residents came out to see what all the blappy blap commotion was. I took notice of all the youth at the skate park stopping in their tracks to check out all the VWs.
Over 100 cars again this year. Not our biggest, but may very well have been our best to date.
Joe’s World Fammous BBQ
Purple Heart Park sits on the far Southeast side of town. It’s not a huge Park but there’s trees and playground stuff and GRASS!!!! (Once again…that’s a big deal here.) We were smart and booked the park for the entire day. That meant our cook could get there early and start grilling before the cruise crowd arrived. We wanted to avoid a long line but it wasn’t possible. However, there’s a big difference between waiting to put a burger on a bun and waiting for a burger to be cooked. The line moved really fast and people were pleased. Funny how something as simple as burgers and dogs always seems to bring out smiles. As folks got their grub they settled into little pockets. I walked around and greeted as many as I could. I made jokes about relishing “relish” and being happy to “Ketchup”…they weren’t funny jokes but the groans and polite laughter was pretty satisfying.
There were about 300 people there which isn’t bad at all. Joe Chirco spent time serving the customers like we try to do on our site and he shared some Bfest memories. The BBQ used to be held in the Chirco parking lot so he was always the grill master and the cleanup crew. He really likes it at the park now.
I was fortunate to have my Mom there. She over shared childhood stories that included words like “knuckleheaded”, “bubble butt”, and “Shag-bandit”. Many spectators came through asking about all the cars and wondering what was going on as it was clearly the largest gathering at the park. The food ran low and I ended up getting a cheeseburger cut in half in a hotdog bun. I went with mustard and relish and you know….it was pretty good. If I can think up a name for it, I’m sure it’ll be cool just like the X-games and just like the BBQ was again this year.
We need to take a second to thank Chris W. and his crew from Jerry Bobs Restaurant for coming down and cooking for us. It’s nice to have friends in the biz. We are thankful for all the support we get from Chris. They made a good BBQ a GREAT BBQ.
The 19th Annual Chirco.com Bugtoberfest Aircooled Automotive Showcase.
I rolled up on Chirco about 5:40am for a show that is supposed to start at 8am and what do I see?!?! Man….there was like 20 cars in the parking lot, the swap meet had wrapped around the building already….no less than 7 people were walking around the lot with cans of food looking like lost zombies with creamed corn! I started to yell, but then I thought, maybe this is good.
Maybe the 20 cars were volunteers to help. Maybe the swappers had dispensed with the pre-requisite posturing and just got to buying and selling. Maybe the zombies were….ok, they were just zombies but 2 out 3 aint bad, right?
The whole scene was very cool actually. So many of the locals have done this event year in and year out, things just fall into place. I actually got to spend time greeting folks and just chillin out. The Others (a local VW club) had agreed to do the show parking and they were there bright and early. I gave them quick and unneeded instructions and went to talk to our sponsor Chapman VW of Tucson. They had like 4 or 5 new VWs there and they were just getting into position. I did one of those stand in the middle of the lot and think to myself things…I thought “Dang, this coffee is pretty good!”…I know, profound.
The store was closed and plenty of people were rolling in. We changed the registration to being inside this year so cars had to park and then wait to register later. No biggie. It was such a mellow vibe, I didn’t think it would be an issue. By the time the store opened the lot was almost full. Peoria VW showed up with their awesome show trailer. Steve, the Kettle Corn King was set up and ready to go and just like that, the show began. Joe Chirco opened the store and all I saw was this huge rush of arms, legs, creamed corn and something that looked like a Polar Bear. The ladies at the registration counter did an excellent job implementing our new icon based registration system. They explained to everybody how it worked and they did a fantastic job getting the crowd calmed and registered. It went very smooth.
The show grew rapidly and by 9am we were already putting cars in the spill over row. The crowd of spectators was a steady stream all day long. It was nice to have an explanation of all the classes so folks who didn’t know what they were looking at could understand a bit better. The sandrail area was packed!! The big rails were back and that was a sic sight.
I spent time walking around putting out small fires and greeting people. Outside of me forgetting little golf pencils everything went pretty good. Our vendors provided sweet raffle prizes so the raffles went smooth. I saw lots and lots of smiles, including my own. One thing I notice every year is how much mingling there is. It’s a very very friendly event. Very very cool.
The engine blow did have some issues. Not that it didn’t run and blow up like it was supposed to. I tried for a second year in a row to add a chemical I got from DOW that is supposed to change the color of smoke. I saw it in aerobatic planes….anyway….the secret red smoke juice went in the oil like it was supposed to, but the engine blew a seal early and it just kinda looked like it was bleeding to death. The stain that remains in the parking lot is now serving as a daily reminder to me.
The big winner was Joe Wilson. He’s a local product and he owns a beautiful Notchback. He took first in his class and Best of Show! Congrats to Joe!!
Here’s the other winners:
Best Type 1 pre-67 – Britt Rosenberg
Best Type 1 68 – 79 – Jane Cananza
Best Type 2 pre-67 – Juan Pablo
Best Type 2 68-79 – David Morganflash
Best Daily Driver – Hector Noriega
Best Type 3 – Joe Wilson
Best Ghia – Jeff Stewart
Best Baja – Pete Gannon
Best Fiberglass Buggy – Jeremy Cravey
Best Sandrail – Paul Doherty
Best Thing – Brian Green
Best Watercooled – Shawn Maslowsky
Best Special Interest – Chris Buffington
Best Paint – Will Jones
Best Interior – Joe McDermott
Best Engine – Chris Hughes
Best in Show – Joe Wilson
In addition to the amazingness that the show already is, Joe’s nephew Lorenzo brought his GoPro Drone and flew all over the show area! Getting that footage really helped make the video below something special.
All in all the Bugtoberfest was fantastic again. We can’t thank the people that came to the show enough. We look forward to the show every year. We’ve already started planning for BFest 20. Thanks again to all the people that had a role and helped put the show on and thanks again to Chapman VW of Tucson. We’ll see all of you next year!
Here’s our video of the weekend: