CRUMPLER-If you ask Jamie Auch, of Shelby, what keeps him coming back to the annual High Country Bus Festival at Twin Rivers Campground, he will respond with a smile and a gleam in his eye.
“It’s the camaraderie and diversity of the people,” said Auch.
For the past decade, the Crumpler campground has hosted a week long celebration dedicated to the iconic Volkswagen bus, and owners who love the classic design.
Along with exchanging tips on how to stave off mechanical breakdowns on their aging steeds, these die hard 1960 era enthusiasts come to the festival to form lasting bonds, swap Volkswagen stories and dip their toes in the cool waters of the New River.
And they come from all walks of life. Many are – or were – professionals with backgrounds that might challenge your preconceived notions about the type of person who own a VW party machine.
Some are lawyers. A few are doctors. At one tent, you might run into a long haired gentleman offering free lessons on the fine art of tie dying clothing while – just a few yards down the trail – you might sit in on a lecture about Wall Street and how the stock market has rebounded nicely since the Great Recession.
“The money is all there,” one shirtless individual will tell his friend before making his way back to his VW bus, which is one of dozens scattered around the campground next to the river.
They may come from various diverse backgrounds, but they are united in their love of these quirky buses that remind them of a bygone era. Although that time has long passed, the principles of unity and family prevail annually at the festival.
The festival is now in its ninth run at the campground after beginning at Grandfather Mountain in 1999 by Appalachian State University student Buddah Myers.
While there are several similar festivals slated to be held across the southeast, many goers say it is the unique mountain atmosphere and the lazy river that keeps them coming back, too.
Developing lasting connections, however, makes the trip worthwhile.
“I teach at the Christ school in Asheville and I recently did my chapel speech on my experience here,” said Auch. “I described the folks I encounter and I tell them about my first impression of them while sitting around the camp fire. It’s
a wonderful experience for everyone involved.”
Ian Janes, of Virginia Beach, Va., agreed that it’s the relationships that make the festival truly enjoyable.
“You start building a relationship and family with everyone here,” said Jones. “It’s like having an extended family.”
Kurt Glatte, of Charlotte, said he enjoys the safety and security that the festival offers.
“It’s like one great big family here,” he said. “You don’t have to worry about safety. Everyone watches over everyone else.”
Reach Jesse Campbell at 336-846-7164.