COLUMBIA — Michelle Gabelsberger has been around Volkswagens since she was a child. Her custom-made jewelry and Volkswagen collectibles showed years of history about the "people's car."
"My dad raced a 1954 bug when I was little, and my mom would sell memorabilia to help support his habit," Gabelsberger said. "You could say I was a VW baby. It's etched in my blood."
Many cars at the first CoMo VW Bugs and Bus Bash at the Joe Machens Volkswagen dealership were passed down from family members who restored the cars to their former glory. Shelby Gish, like some others at Saturday's event, started from scratch when she turned 16.
"I just came in to show my car off," Gish said. "I wanted to see people's reactions. The car just kind of grew once we repainted."
Gish's car, a black 1998 Bug, started its growth spurt with a black paint job, which was infused with pink flakes to sparkle when the sun hit it. The Bug was also decorated with pink eyelashes and rhinestone eyeliner on the headlights. It even had custom-made seat cushions so the side airbags could deploy safely.
The lot at Joe Machens was filled with Slug Bugs and buses from across Missouri. More than 200 people came to show their attachment to more than 55 classic cars that were shown at the event. With model years ranging from 1954 to 2013, various Beetles, Dun Buggies, Things and buses were lined up to show their creativity and restoration efforts.
Jenn Gronlund, service manager at Joe Machens Volkswagen, said the idea for the event came from the fact that there were so many enthusiasts in the area.
"We wanted this to stand apart from our grand opening from around March and bring out more variety of the Volkswagen," Gronlund said. "We wanted people to appreciate the old and the new stuff and appreciate the Volkswagen history."
Diana Breen and her husband said they owned about six Beetles and have about 40 years of Beetle ownership between the two of them. The Volkswagen "gets in your blood," Breen said.
Enthusiasts from all over Missouri came out for the event, hauling cars that showcased a variety of colors and themes. David and Alice Fryar have been traveling with their Taxi-themed VW for about 8 years.
"It's mainly just for show," Alice Fryar said. "But it's a classic."
For Gabelsberger though, it's about starting the tradition again. Even though she was selling off her collectibles, she brought her family to the event to instill the Volkswagen memories in her son.
"I'm really excited that the tradition is coming back," she said. "Now, I can start my own traditions with my family."
Supervising editor is Shaina Cavazos.