“The Gang’s All Here” was the theme of this year’s Spring Fling at the Museum of Bus Transportation/Antique Automobile Club of America Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
On June 3rd and 4th, hundreds of enthusiasts and industry veterans gathered in perfect weather to celebrate the history and evolution of the bus industry in North America.
Roughly 30 “visiting” coaches braved the $6 per gallon diesel prices to join with the museum’s 53 buses, offering the opportunity for guests to see and touch more than 80 historic vehicles. Virtually every era of bus development was represented, from a 1912 White to a 2022 Van Hool battery-powered coach.
Attendance was down slightly from pre-pandemic levels and high fuel prices gave the event a more “Middle Atlantic” flavor than years past.
At Friday evening’s “Town Hall”, Bus Committee Chair John Oakman gave a “State of the Museum” briefing, indicating that since merging with AACA Museum the bus group’s financial state has not only stabilized but, for the first time, revenue exceeded expenses. Oakman said the fleet in the past two years has grown by more than ten units. Oakman is stepping down at year’s end after a 3-year stint, and he introduced Daniel Lenz as the next Chair.
Fleet Manager Randy Wilcox pointed out that movie bus rentals have made a large contribution, both in terms of revenue and industry recognition. Giant strides have been made in cataloging and sorting of parts, and the Annex library has grown to well over 250 maintenance and parts manuals. These books are both historic records and a valuable maintenance resource for the museum, antique bus owners, and colleagues across the country.
After pointing out that none of this would have been possible without a dedicated team of volunteers and museum staff, he announced that the museum was starting an annual “Volunteer of the Year” award, and the inaugural winner was Tom Mozer. Mozer loves “all things wheeled” and has become virtually indispensable in every aspect of managing and maintaining the fleet.
A fun stat typifying the bus industry is that, among the nearly 20 volunteers who labored for three days to get set up for Fling, there were at least four ex-bus company owners and three retired executives. It was great fun watching an ex-CEO mowing grass and wielding a mean “weed whacker”.
Wilcox also expressed the museum’s gratitude to Gary Hatt for donating subscriptions to Bus Conversions Magazine to the volunteers who gave up their time to prep the buses and annex for the Fling. Bus Conversion Magazine has been a consistent supporter of the museum’s efforts to preserve historic buses.
Every bus at the Fling is special and all have stories, but perhaps this year’s best was the 11 members of the Parra family from Chihuahua, Mexico who made the 8-day, 4,400 miles (round trip) journey to Fling in their spectacular 1970 4-axle Sultana coach.
Cesar Parra has been in the business for 30 years running two companies. This coach is still in revenue service for “Noroeste”, and Parra family lore has it that the President of Mexico once rode in this coach.
Cesar’s son Isaac pointed out that he has 11 uncles… and every one of them is a bus driver. The family headed home with plaques representing the three awards they won to keep them company.
The Best Conversion Coach award went to Dan Hunt’s 1989 Model 15 Eagle. Sadly, and most likely as a result of $6/gallon diesel, there were fewer conversion coaches than usual. Attendees were in large part from the Middle Atlantic States. Hopefully, next year diesel prices will moderate and Fling will again attract conversions and restored buses from all over the continent.
Next year’s Spring Fling will be a celebration of the Pennsylvania Bus Association’s 100th anniversary. PBA has been one of the most ardent supporters of the Museum of Bus Transportation/Antique Automobile Club of America Museum. The bus industry in Pennsylvania has a rich and colorful history, which will be prominently on display.