The fifth pilgrimage to America’s sports car mecca since 1994 will be led by the law.
Four 2014 blade silver or cyber gray 2014 Corvettes will lead massive Corvette Caravans into Bowling Green on Aug. 27 sporting Kentucky State Police light bars across the top of the cars. A state trooper will be behind the wheel of each special marked car, and the owners will sit shotgun.
Four caravans will be led by the marked cars, according to Katie Frassinelli, marketing and communications manager for the National Corvette Museum. The cars will have to be at the museum Aug. 25 for the striping and installation of light bars, and the special KSP Corvettes will meet up with caravans at least 66 miles away. The cars will only be moved if troopers are behind the wheels and won’t be driven until Aug. 27. Those interested in leading caravans are asked to email Karen@corvettemuseum.org or Bryce@corvettemuseum.org. If more than four people are interested, a drawing will be held.
There are more than 30 Corvette Caravans coming to Bowling Green next month, and many of the 6,000 hotel rooms in southcentral Kentucky have already been booked for the entourage.
Bowling Green has the Corvette Caravans every five years. When the caravans arrive, they will fan out into neighboring communities for entertainment, food and fun.
The first Corvette Caravan was in 1994, when the museum was opened. The second was in 1999. The third caravan, in 2003, was a year early in the cycle to coincide with the iconic sports car’s 50th anniversary. That year, 13,000 people came to Bowling Green for three days. After six years, the Corvette Caravan returned in 2009.
Now it’s caravan time again.
The caravan this year coincides with the museum’s 20th anniversary and the opening of the National Corvette Museum Motorsports Park across Interstate 65 from the museum. Pre-registrations totaled 7,000 people as of Friday for the Aug. 27-30 events, Frassinelli said. All 50 U.S. states and several foreign countries are represented in the registrations.
Paul Mariano, caravan national chairman, said this year’s caravan and anniversary, combined with the excitement of the opening of the motorsports park and the notoriety the museum gained from the sinkhole collapse, could result in record attendance. It’s several days of what could be described as a combination family reunion, car show and pilgrimage to a sports car mecca.
“People built relationships,” Frassinelli said.
She said aerial pictures of previous caravans at the museum showed “a lot of colored jelly beans on the lawn.”
As the caravans arrive at the museum, people stand and applaud. In 2009, more than 4,000 people pre-registered for the Corvette event and 5,000 people attended. About 5,000 people also attended the opening of the museum in 1994. The events include local musical entertainment, massive displays by Corvette Racing, Michelin and Holley, and opportunities with a $50 donation for people to ride shotgun while a professional race car driver takes a Corvette around the new 3-mile road course at the motorsports park.
Mariano said in past years, people have come from Australia, then rode in vans along the caravan route. In 2003, people came from from Hawaii, shipped the car to California and drove to Bowling Green in a caravan, Mariano said. This year people will join the caravans from Austria, The Netherlands, Hungary and England.
Some caravan trips are legendary.
“We had a guy drive a 1954 Corvette – with no air conditioning – all the way from California, including through the Mojave Desert,” Mariano said. The temperatures in the desert soared to 115 degrees, Mariano said.
Mariano finds captains to lead the caravans, and the captains put together detailed route books that show where the group will stay and eat.
“The amount of (car) breakdowns is astonishingly few,” Mariano said. “People look after each other.”
The captains also network with Chevrolet dealerships to set up sponsorships to help defray some of the cost of the caravans.
Robin Forrer, a Corvette Caravan captain from Forest Grove, Ore., will lead the caravan from the Pacific Northwest. The drivers will be on the road for six days. They will be in Bowling Green for about a week and then travel six days home. Mariano said Forrer is one of his “shining star” captains who has worked extensively to line up sponsorships and organize the long trek.
“I started this four years ago and set the route for the caravan. It’s trying to figure out the who, where and what,” Forrer said of her group, which is the second-largest in size with up to 250 cars and about 467 people. The largest group is coming from New Jersey, she said.
“I do it for the love of the Corvette and to see the museum again,” she said. One stop along the trek will be in Bozeman, Mont., where the group will get to see VIN number 3, a 1953 Corvette – the oldest Corvette in existence – that was purchased by its owner for $1 million.
Forrer said along the way they also will auction off a 5-by-7-foot quilt that is emblazoned with the words “All Roads Lead to Bowling Green,” as they make their way in and out of 19 hotels during the trip.
Caravans vary in size. Some might have 100 cars while others can have up to 800 cars as the various caravans converge along the journey. Mariano said a 2003 caravan traveling through Little Rock, Ark., was so big the Arkansas authorities shut down the main highway during rush hour to let it proceed through town.
“There’s probably some people in Arkansas who don’t like Corvettes,” Mariano said.