Cadillac Ranch's 30th Anniversary

"So, here we are, trying to relive something that happened 30 years ago."

The facetious cry came from behind one of the 10 classic cars that make up the roadside art piece known as Cadillac Ranch. On Sunday, a local art group had been charged with covering the upright vehicles in a fresh, white coat in preparation for festivities the next day.

An unending stream of sarcastic remarks followed, mostly in reference to the quality of the paint. It wasn't sticking to the vehicles very well, though thanks to the harsh Panhandle winds, it had no problem covering the ground and splattering anyone standing in the vicinity.

The painters were an eccentric — some might call crazy — bunch known as the Dynamite Museum, the art collective that carries out much of the creation and maintenance for the public art pieces dreamed up by Stanley Marsh 3, the man responsible for Cadillac Ranch. This time, they were prepping the automotive attraction for its 30th anniversary, after which they would be camping overnight to protect it from acquiring any new graffiti before the next day.

Mission accomplished, Monday arrived with Cadillac Ranch in near-pristine condition. But it didn't stay that way for long.

Marsh kicked off the party by scrawling in yellow "Paint Now" across one of the Caddies. Partygoers quickly followed the order, redecorating Cadillac Ranch's clean slate using spray paint and markers provided for the occasion.

Handprints and eyeballs. Peace signs. Fried eggs labeled "Chef Pack." Names, hometowns and messages to loved ones. One visitor wrote "Kick a Donkey." Another wrote simply "Drugs," in front of which someone added "No." A third tacked on "Are Free."

A thick waft of aerosol swept across Interstate 40.

Residents, traveling fans and local officials all turned out for a chance to take part. Also there were Chip Lord and Hudson Marquez, two members of Ant Farm, the artists who created Cadillac Ranch back in 1974.

Sadly, Ant Farm's third member, Doug Michels, died in a tragic accident last year. "We Miss Doug" was painted across one of the cars' hoods.

As attendees continued to decorate, Buddy and the Flashbacks played classic tunes fronted by Elvis impersonator James L. Wages. In the tent next door, bartenders served up spirits to the crowd and kept tubs full with ice and beer.

Attendees were set to party late into the evening, but unfortunately, the sky was making other plans.

Due to the harsh winds, everyone and everything was already covered in dust, and it was only getting worse. The band played on through one last set, then hastily packed up.

The more foolhardy stayed for a bit more sandblasting, figuring the free booze and excitement were worth a few corneal abrasions. One couple sought refuge inside Cadillac Ranch itself, though with no windows to speak of, it wasn't much help.

After a few lightning strikes and the report of a possible tornado nearby, the crowd decided enough was enough. Revelers ran for their cars. Tents were abandoned. Chairs and empty spray cans were left to ride the wind. The party was over.

Yet, despite the torrential rains, hail and destructive winds that followed, the party's honoree would survive. And with any luck, we'll be celebrating Cadillac Ranch again in another 30 years.

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