EFFINGHAM — Volkswagen enthusiasts returned to Mid America Motorworks over the weekend for the 2021 Air-Cooled VW Funfest.
Friday and Saturday’s show was the first major car show held by Mid America Motorworks since COVID-19 crowd restrictions started last year.
“We had no idea of what size the crowd would be. Obviously, it has exceeded our expectations,” said Chief Cheerleader Mike Yager.
Yager said the Volkswagen event typically only draws people from 10 or 15 states.
“This year we have people coming from Georgia, southern Alabama and Texas,” Yager said. “That’s a farther reach than we typically get.”
“This is our first actual event since COVID started and our biggest challenge was finding the staff,” Michael Yager Jr. said.
Even his young son, Michael Yager III, helped at VW Funfest announcing door-prize winners over the public-address system.
Kathy O’Hara and her husband, Jerry, of Columbus, Ohio, have been coming to the Air-Cooled VW Funfest since the beginning. Kathy has a baseball-themed VW Beetle that was part of a Cracker Jack giveaway. It has a baseball-threaded pinstripe circling around the car.
“Cracker Jack had a contest in 2000 and you could pull it as a prize out of box. They gave 15 of them away. We tried to win one back then and we didn’t,” Kathy O’Hara said. “Years later, my husband found one online located in New Jersey and we restored it.”
Jerry O’Hara has a Hot Wheels version of a 1999 VW Beetle, along with several car models placed on the dashboard, on top and around his car that are painted the same as his car.
“I’m not a car person and my husband was always a car person. I was always a baseball fan,” Kathy O’Hara said. “This car was his way of getting me into his world.”
She said this year’s VW Funfest was a little different.
“I think the cruise-in was always one of the highlights of the show. In past years, they had food trucks, photo booths and many other things going on traveling to different locations,” Kathy O’Hara said. “This year there was nothing and that was kinda disappointing.”
Kathy O’Hara said other than the lack of fanfare in downtown she thought this year’s show was great.
“The Yagers put on a good show,” O’Hara said.
Yager’s Chief Choice trophy for Friday was a dark blue 1967 Volkswagen with the license plates “Lucy” mounted on the front and back. Tom Hardesty and Tim Presnell drove the VW to Effingham from Collinsville.
Hardesty drove his VW to downtown Effingham, along with a handful of VW owners Friday night, before making the trip back to Collinsville.
“I was really honored. This was Mike Yager’s choice for Friday,” Hardesty said. “I’ve been here for the ‘vette fest, but this is my first time coming to the Volkswagen fest.”
Hardesty had owned a 1963 VW in the past and purchased his 1967 model in Glen Carbon in October of last year. He said the car had a full restoration in 2015.
Jim Caraway of rural St. Elmo didn’t have too far to drive in his 1979 Super Beetle convertible. His vehicle was clean and ready for car show competition. He even added a few famous character items to accent his bug — Chucky and Alf.
A stuffed Chucky doll riding a bicycle serves as a decoration on the back of the car while Alf helps shift gears inside.
Caraway said he was glad the event was back.
“It seems like it’s been forever, but we’re back again,” Caraway said. “I could hardly wait for this to happen again. This is something I do and I enjoy it.”
He feared it might rain over the weekend and the field might be a mess.
“The rain didn’t come. It’s all mowed and everybody is out having a good time,” Caraway said.
Kevin Ames of Long Creek brought to the VW Funfest his Thing he purchased six years ago.
“This is a 1973 VW Thing,” Ames said. “I’ve had lots of other Volkswagens and had a cousin that had one of these.”
“We started coming to VW Fest when we bought this Thing,” Ames said.
Marci Shields Wease of Bloomington, Indiana, said owning a VW is a family tradition and they all made the trip to Effingham over the weekend with their vehicles.
“I’ve been driving Volkswagens since I got my driver’s license,” Wease said.
Wease brought her family to VW Funfest along with her 1967 VW double cab. She has the double cab decked out with period luggage on top, ice chest and a ‘60s-era picnic basket. Wease has her own YouTube channel, marcijunebug, and engineered a ladder to attach to the driver’s side of the ‘67 double cab, restored the optional Volkswagen tilt (canopy) on the back of the unit and added an awning to one of the sides of the tilt.
“It was the last year for the split windshields,” Wease said. “Volkswagen was cool. They had a double cab before anyone else did.”
Her son, Dalton, drove around the VW on his ‘60s-era tricycle with a wagon attached. Marci’s husband, Aaron, brought a ruby red VW Beetle to display.
Wease gets her love for the Volkswagen from her parents, Mike and Marlys Shields also of Bloomington, Indiana. Her parents brought their own off-white 1955 VW Beetle to the festival.
“It’s really nice to see people out again,” Mike Shields said.