Aurora HearseCon event celebrates classic cars, the macabre and the just plain weird

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AURORA | A roving band of macabre motorists will be storming into Aurora this weekend — flamethrowers and all.

HearseCon, the annual celebration of vehicles used to transport caskets, is setting up outposts at several Aurora locations June 1 through June 4 for a slew of events, including a marquis gathering at StevO’s Pizza & Ribs at 800 S. Havana Street June 3.

The so-called “Decay and Shine Hearse Show” is scheduled to take place in the parking lot of StevO’s Saturday, with live music, an obstacle course, “flaming sword battles” and an award ceremony, according to the event’s Facebook page.

Steve Wieand, owner of StevO’s on Havana, said he expects about 60 hearse owners to attend the gathering at his shop.

Wieand, who hosted a portion of the festival at his pizza spot for the first time last year, said he became involved with HearseCon — celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2017 — shortly after he bought his own hearse, a 1970 S&S Cadillac, about three years ago. It was around that time he joined the Denver Hearse Association, which was founded by fellow hearse aficionados Jeff Brown and Zachary Helm in 1996, according to the group’s website.

Helm, who owns about five hearses at any given time, has continuously organized HearseCon over the years, navigating several homes for the event, from Golden to Aurora. He said he and Brown started the club as a means of rounding up hearse owners in a more a efficient way than simply leaving handwritten notes on the rare hearse windshield spotted around town.

“It started prior to there really being much of an internet … this was just a good way for us to try to meet people,” said Helm, an Englewood resident, of the local hearse group. “Before, we had to hunt down hearse owners that we had just seen on the streets — we’d chase after them, we’d leave a note wrapped in a plastic bag so we could hopefully get in touch with these people.”

Helm said HearseCon attracts people from across the continent, including regular attendees from Florida and Canada.

“It’s, you know, kind of an unusual car that people could be intimated by and it has this verboten quality to it,” he said of a hearse’s appeal.

The grave gathering at StevO’s is just one of several events scheduled during this year’s celebration, according to several webpages for the event. The four-day-long festival will begin with a movie night at the 88 Twin Drive-In in Commerce City, which will be followed by a mix of public and private events centered around hearses, music, camping and food. Sandwiched between evening gatherings at Indian Paintbruch campground in Morrison and immediately preceding a cemetery picnic in Golden, the event at StevO’s is scheduled to take place from 3-9 p.m. June 3. Another slice of HearseCon will also take place Friday night at Rosie’s Diner in Aurora.

The hearse event only touches a portion of Wieand’s longstanding affinity for cars, however, as he also owns working replicas of the Pizza Planet truck from the Toy Story franchise, the Mystery Machine from Scoobie Doo and The Magic School Bus from the eponymous kids series.

“I’m just a car guy — I like old cars,” he said. “I like the attention that you get. I love it when somebody smiles.”

Wieand, also a member of the Colorado Movie Car Club, will be showing off more of his themed vehicles at the Cruizin’ Havana car show in central Aurora the weekend of June 10.

But unlike the Cruizin’ Havana event, the HearseCon gathering this weekend is not necessarily recommended for young children, according to Gayle Jetchick, head of the Havana Business Improvement District, which encompasses StevO’s.

“It really is unique,” Jetchick said of the gathering.

For more information and a complete list of events, visit the HearseCon 2017 Facebook page or go to hearseclub.com.