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VW beetles and buses come together at Bugfest

Someone once told Lynne Azzaro of Sanborn that Volkswagen Beetles are like puppies: You just want to take one home.

She got to do that, and driving her 1974 red VW is “big fun,” she said Saturday, sitting behind the car at the VW Bugfest, a part of the German Sommerfest at the Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village in Amherst.

Azzaro’s bug was a 50th birthday present.

“I always wanted one,” she said. “Everybody has a story about a Volkswagen.”

Ken Corey of Bath has more than 20 stories, one for each of the bugs he has owned. When he retired, he had accumulated 23. Now, he’s down to 18. Corey and his wife, Leah, brought the youngest to the Bugfest: a 2005 diesel New Beetle. He doesn’t usually name them, but he calls his 1974 Sunbug Gaston, and the custom-painted silver and speedway blue metallic 2005 is known as Belle, from “Beauty and the Beast.”

The story of the bug started in the 1930s when Adolf Hitler wanted a car the people could afford, and Ferdinand Porsche, the founder of the Porsche Co., designed it with his son, Ferry.

“They were very similar in design and engineering to the Volkswagen, but they cost a lot more,” Corey said, pointing out a Porsche among the cars at Bugfest.

Anyone playing “punch buggy” would have been busy Saturday, with VW bugs of every color and shade of yellow, blue, white, orange, green and red. They were joined by Audis – Volkswagen purchased Audi – VW buses, Rabbits and dune buggies, including a Myers Manx, designed by Bruce Myers.

“They’re all kind of like cousins,” Corey said of the cars.

With German music playing from the German Sommerfest beer and food tent, visitors wandered about, gazing into the 120 cars and buses and chatting with the owners, who came from Erie and Niagara counties, from Rochester and Honeoye Falls, and even Ohio and Ontario.

Don and Jennie Brown of Honeoye Falls brought their 1977 Westfalia camper bus to Bugfest.

“We’ve gone all over the country,” Jennie said. “They’re so convenient and easy and they’re just like a car to drive. It’s not like driving a huge motor home.”

There’s a lot of camaraderie on the road, especially when you have a peace symbol hanging from the rear view mirror.

“You drive, and everyone’s happy to see the bus,” Don said.

“People are passing us giving us peace signs,” Jennie said.

Derek Young of Acton, Ont., has had one-third ownership in a 1976 Westfalia camper bus since 2006.

“I’ve never had a problem with it, other than I had to replace the starter,” said Young, sporting a bushy beard that would make Jerry Garcia proud. “It’s been really good to me. I go to festivals, concerts.”

He also had a 1977 bus that he drove when he followed the Grateful Dead for years, before it fell apart, he said. He got thumbs-ups on the road, and someone always wanted to talk to him at gas stations or parking lots.

“I actually had one German lady crying, bawling her eyes out, because her parents bought one brand new when she lived in Germany, and they toured all over Europe in it,” he said.

Nothing beats camping in the bus.

“With these things, you just park it, push a button and there’s your bed, throw the roof up, there’s the other bed,” he said. “It’s the home on wheels.”