The Museum of Bus Transportation/AACA Museum 2023 Spring Fling

The annual Museum of Bus Transportation/AACA Museum “Spring Fling” on June 9th and 10th in Hershey, PA was unique this year. In addition to being the traditional annual homecoming of bus industry veterans and enthusiasts, the museum joined with the Pennsylvania Bus Association in celebrating its hundredth year of service to the industry and the nation.  The PBA is the oldest bus association in North America and remains one of the most effective.

Total attendance was over 300, down from pre-Covid Flings, but still respectable. More than 22 visiting buses supplemented the museum’s historic fleet of 56 buses. 

This is despite headwinds resulting from having to change weekends (resulting in some conflicts). Other factors that impacted attendance were high fuel prices and expensive accommodations nearby.

Enthusiasts could see, touch and smell everything from a 1912 White Transit to a new Van Hool double-decker entertainer bus. Parked in front of the museum was a 1917 Packard motorhome, the oldest in the world. There were several conversion coaches; one highlight was a new Van Hool double-decker entertainer coach.

Van Hool double-decker entertainer
Annex during the workday.
More of the Annex.
Lunchtime at the annex during the workday.

One popular feature was the shuttle bus to tour the George Sage Annex, again donated by Wolf’s Bus Line. The Annex is not often open to the public and is where the coaches not on exhibit in the museum are stored and maintained.

Visitors hailed from all over the US (including California) and even Switzerland.

Town Hall Friday night Randy Wilcox speaking.
Boyd Raymond (Volunteer of the Year).

The Friday night Town Hall was well attended and was held in the museum rotunda.

Both the Town Hall and a noon celebration in front of the museum highlighted the Museum of Bus Transportation’s Volunteer of the Year. Boyd Raymond has only missed one workday in three years, despite having to travel from Syracuse, New York. 

According to Randy Wilcox, the Fleet Committee Chair there isn’t much Boyd can’t do, from cleaning buses to driving them as well as becoming a fine mechanic on these rare and finicky vehicles. Rumor has it he was on a trip with his mom and hijacked her to the museum because some things needed to be done.

The Town Hall also gave folks the chance to hear about the state of the museum and future plans, but more importantly, Fling Chairman Dave Schmidt and Randy Wilcox introduced six new additions to the fleet. In the past year, the museum has had to trade or scrap four buses that were so far gone they could never be restored to even static display condition.  Replacing them are five buses donated by highly regarded New England bus executive Tom McCaughey. Tom is retiring and wanted to be sure that the buses he acquired and restored would have a happy home.

All five, as well as the Gillig donated by Jack McVicker, not only are in great shape and run well. Most have appeared in movies.

During both the Town Meeting and Saturday’s celebration the museum’s Fleet Chair, Randy Wilcox, went out of his way to recognize the small army of volunteers who descended on the annex Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, and all volunteers received a free 1-year subscription to Bus Conversion Magazine.

They cleaned and washed buses, then serviced, jump-started, and moved a major percentage of the fleet up the hill to the museum. A massive undertaking… most of these treasures have no power steering or A/C, virtual brakes, hinky clutches, and mirrors that are often a bit cross-eyed.

Fleet Chair and Chef Randy Wilcox.

It was sweaty work made worse by Canada’s targeting Hershey as the epicenter of severe wildfire smoke. Folks on the route between the annex and museum campus must have felt they were in a time warp as buses of yesteryear transited their neighborhood.

Next year’s Fling will revert to the traditional FIRST week in June. Motorhomes are welcome and can camp on the scene. One committee member made the point that “300+ attendees is respectable… with some effort, we should be able to crank this event back up to pre-pandemic levels. 

We’re going to do a better job with publicity and make a serious impression with local media. This year’s quality was great, thanks to dedicated volunteers and museum staff, now we need to do as well on quantity. If only those smokey Canadians will give us a break…”

Click HERE to see a video of this event.

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