story by Emily Hilley-Sierzchula, special to The City Wire
Hundreds of people gathered in downtown Eureka Springs Saturday (Aug. 24) for the parade of Volkswagens, which was the highlight of the 21st annual Volkswagen Festival and Tourcade.
The festival is held each year by the Northwest Arkansas Volkswagen Association and the Arkansas Volkswagen Volksmeisters with the help of the Eureka Springs Chamber of Commerce.
Activities included the display of unique Volkswagens that were judged, a swap meet, a barbeque cookout, parade, and a four-hour "tourcade" along the serpentine, mountainous roads of Northwest Arkansas on Sunday.
The parade was a Mardi Gras-like affair, with cars honking and throwing beads and candy to the excited crowd. Peace signs were on display in many cars, referring to the association between Volkswagen vans and 1960s hippie culture.
People attended for a variety of reasons. Some have been going every year, others were new to the event. Many adults had memories of Volkswagens in their past, which were associated with happy times. Children who attended the parade thought the cars just looked cool. Volkswagens on the parade route ranged from antique and traditional to unique and modern. Each one was a way for the owners to express their personalities.
The NWAVWA was formed in 1992 as the brainchild of VW aficionado Michael Mountjoy. The VW festival started soon after as a one-day affair. Later on it stretched to three days with the addition of the Sunday tourcade.
With each passing year, both the number of cars that participated and the number of swap meet vendors grew. In 1998 the NWAVWA and Arkansas Volkswagen Volksmeisters joined forces and the union has led to “one of the premiere events in the Midwest,” according to the NWAVWA.