Queen Elizabus is a transportation must during your visit to Garrison for the Dickens Village Festival.
A few years ago when the Dickens Committee showed a picture of the bus to a bus manager in England he said, “Oh, she’s a Majestic Old Beast.”
She’s majestic and we love her. And we're even more proud of her since she underwent a complete makeover and facelift. It was way more than a Mary Kay cosmetic night!
The windows were removed, the interior and exterior were sandblasted and then sanded for painting. Holes were patched, all the inperfections were smoothed. Painting began just a few weeks ago and today -- she's a beut!
Besides the paint, the seats were upholstered and improvements were made to the heat and PA system and all new weather stripping was applied before the windows were reinstalled. We still have a little work to do before next year's festival. The carpeting and interior wall upholstery will be complete and we will more adequately recognize the contributions that made the bus improvements possible. A building was erected in 2010 to house the Queen Elizabus throughout the year.
The efforts to improve the bus were all part of a major fundraising effort that involved the individual "sale" of seats, corporate donations and the generosity of the Garrison Sales and Use Tax Committee.
Since the arrival of the bus in May of 2005, she has been worthy of her name, Queen Elizabus, which she was named before arriving in Garrison.
The cherry red double-decker 1960 English bus first appeared at the Garrison Chamber of Commerce’s annual kick-off to summer in 2005. Since then the Queen can be spotted at many local events, wedding, area community celebrations and open houses.
True to its origin, the bus sports a Union Jack flag on each side. The driver of the bus also sits on the right side, again something that's very British.
The double decker came to Garrison as part of a brainstorming session by Fort Stevenson State Park Manager Dick Messerly and local business owner Mike Gackle. After exploring on the World Wide Web, they found out such a vehicle existed, and they searched for one that was affordable and able to transport to Garrison. The closest bus to Garrison was in LeMars, Iowa.
After hearing about the idea, the Dickens Village Festival Committee decided to purchase the bus, without even looking at it. The next step was to pick up the Queen.
The trip from Iowa to Garrison could have been an actual scenario from a big screen comedy.
Local resident John Kallberg was enlisted, along with Dick Messerly, to retrieve the Queen. John had the proper license to drive the bus, however, he had never driven a vehicle where the driver is situated on the right side.
“The trip was definitely interesting,” said Kallberg. He said it took him a little while before he got the hang of it. Messerly followed in his vehicle. One unexpected visitor Kallberg was joined by was a mess of bees that had built two hives in the bus. One of these hives was directly above Kallberg’s head in the driver’s compartment. Entering the bus through the ventilation system did not make the bees happy, nor did it put our heroic driver in a good mood. Stopping the bus, the two men shooed the bees out.
The trip was a great eye popper. People waved and stopped the two travelers along the way back to Garrison.
Since her arrival, people have been really enchanted with the bus and the committee has had many requests to use the bus. Besides using her in the festival, she’s been rented out for festivals, weddings and celebrations.
Tickets to ride on the Queen may be purchased the Information Center at the North Dakota Firefighter's Museum.