HUTTO, Texas (June 22, 2018) – John and Sheila Voeller have gifted the City of Hutto with a 2002 Volkswagen Turbo Beetle Hippopotamus named “Sunshine.”
Sunshine was created by the Voellers, members of a group of hippo fans, known as the Hippolotofus. The 1,100+ members of the group met online and have carried a love for all things hippo into reunions staged all over the country. In 2015, they met in Hutto, and spent four days exploring the city, learning of the community’s affectionate regard for its hippos, dating back to a legendary rail incident in 1915.
Sheila Voeller is the event coordinator for the last six or seven reunions celebrated by the group, and John Voeller a member at large. Members of the group join their fellow hippo fans from as far away as France, including members of the French hippopotamus club. The group pools airline miles to ensure others who want to attend a reunion are able to do so. Hippolotofus also supports hippopotamus programs in zoos, including Fiona, the baby hippopotamus in the Cincinnati Zoo.
Sunshine is “one of our most precious possessions,” said John Voeller. As part of downsizing, they were looking for a new home for Sunshine. The Voellers hired custom freehand airbrush artist, Pepper Greer of Florida, to paint the playful Hippo renderings onto the vehicle.
Sunshine’s first appearance was in Chicago, where she sported a bubble machine and a trail of bubbles behind her.
The Voellers reached out to Hutto because of the city’s long association with the hippo. According to the local lore, a circus train stopped at the Hutto Depot to restock on food and water, deliver mail, and take on passengers.
The circus hippopotamus escaped its railcar and took off for the nearby Cottonwood Creek. After unsuccessful attempts to lure the beast out, the Hutto Depot agent was forced to send telegraphs to Taylor and Round Rock that said “STOP TRAINS. HIPPO LOOSE IN HUTTO,” and the rest is hippo history.
“We were looking at possibly selling the Volkswagen but suspected we would not find people as crazy as us to buy such an unusual car,” said Voeller. “However, we did suspect someone would like to own her as part of the festivities of the city.”
The Voellers were right, and Sunshine is coming home to stay. “We are thankful to the Voellers for their generosity and excited that families and groups are remembering Hutto for their charitable donations,” said Eliska Padilla, City of Hutto Executive Director of Communications/PIO.