The VW New Beetles returned to Roswell this weekend for three days of exciting competitions, a car show and a Saturday night light cruise down Main Street. (Jill McLaughlin Photo)
The flames may be painted on, but New Beetle owners seriously burned up roadways from coast to coast to arrive for this weekend’s Return2Roswell gathering.
Colorful Beetles lined the Best Western Salley Port Inn parking lot Thursday evening and more were expected today from as far away as Canada.
“Half of the fun is just getting here and going back home,” said Carl McCutcheon, of Solvang, Calif. “A lot of us don’t see each other except once a year.”
Events will kick off beginning at 10 a.m. today in the parking lot beginning with the “Parking Lot Olympics.” Drivers will run through different challenges, including the “show-box toss” where they take a pice of the car’s air intake system and see how far they can chuck it while still staying between pylons. Another challenge will be to hold a flimsy cup of water outside the window while driving around markers in the lot — a tough task with the car’s bubble-hooded view.
“Everything is just for fun, it’s just a contest,” said Ray Townsend, of Lakehills, Texas. “All of my most treasured trophies are my alien trophies.”
The group will also cruise to the Carlsbad Caverns later that day before spending the evening at the drive-in movies in Carlsbad.
Saturday’s car show will begin at 8 p.m. at the International UFO Museum on North Main Street. The public is invited to view the cars and talk to the owners. A Hot Wheels car race will also take place during the show and awards will be given out.
But for most, that evening’s “Glow Cruise” at 11 p.m. is the most anticipated event. Owners start decorating and glowing-up their cars at 9:30 p.m. at the museum lot.
“For the people, 11 p.m. is the big deal,” McCutcheon said.
The Beetles started gathering in Roswell in 2000, following the release of a Volkswagen advertisement that inferred the vehicles were “reverse engineered from UFOs.” The first few years were heavily attended, but numbers started to dwindle. After 2009, the group decided to start returning every few years.
“That’s how it all came about,” said Antoine Delton, organizer of this year’s event.
This year, some 40 cars registered online to attend the event, but organizers think more will show.
“It has evolved over the years,” said Sue Isley, of Albuquerque.
Owners name their Beetles most of the time, even assigning genders. Isley has two, a 200 model called “Ciao Bug” and a 2012 called “Halcyon.”
One group that formed from the yearly gatherings is the “OFF” club, or “Old Farts with Flames” club. All flames, though, must be hand painted. “You have to commit,” McCutcheon said.
Organizers hope the newly redesigned VW Beetle will reignite the passion for the Roswell gatherings and the group will start to expand again to include the number of attendees seen in the past.
“We’re hoping the launch of the Beetle will keep the show going,” Delton said.