Family & Friends
By Janet Stubbs, F107765
Anyone who has ever been involved in planning and executing an area rally knows that there are several required ingredients. A successful rally depends on large quantities and a careful blending of dedication, patience, flexibility, cooperation, labor, a sense of humor, and prayer. A dash of good luck doesn’t hurt the recipe, either. Fortunately, the Midwest Area Cooperative possessed all of those necessary ingredients during its area rally at the fairgrounds of the Freeborn County Agriculture Society in Albert Lea, Minnesota, July 14 through 17, 2004.
As FMCA area rallies go, the Midwest Area Rally is usually among the smaller ones. Average family coach attendance is 400 to 500, so we were right in the ballpark with 436 motorhomes. There were also several Passport registrations. In addition, excellent advance publicity by the local chamber of commerce and visitors bureau, as well as on-site media coverage, contributed to a much-larger-than-average day pass gate.
Although weather is the one factor that we cannot control, it is always one of the greatest concerns for most rallies. Above-average rainfall in the upper Midwest this summer presented some real challenges for the rally planners. When heavy rains fell on the Saturday before the rally, the already saturated ground suddenly sprouted several small “lakes” in many of the planned coach parking areas.
Midwest Area officers and other advance crew members flew into action. With quick response and outstanding cooperation from Albert Lea city officials and community members, hard-surface off-site parking was arranged at no charge to the association. Much of that parking was within walking distance of the fairgrounds, where enough space remained available to accommodate volunteers, those not towing vehicles, and the handicapped.
Initially, a few members voiced dissatisfaction with the unexpected parking arrangements, but many expressed relief at being parked on a firm surface after the area was deluged with heavy rains a few nights later. Once more, the small “lakes” appeared, and several members awoke to find they had a waterfront site. (We didn’t charge extra for that.) Jack Naylor, F2406, took advantage of the situation to go fishing just outside his motorhome. He is still complaining about the big one that got away. Everyone took the inconvenience in stride and, with no boats available, simply removed their shoes and waded in the ankle-deep water to higher ground. Patience prevailed and by the time everyone left on Sunday morning, no motorhomes had to be towed.
When high wind prevented the use of the planned curtain at the back of the stage, two attending families graciously agreed to park their Prevost coaches immediately behind the entertainment stage to provide not only a windbreak for our performing groups, but an association-appropriate backdrop. The coach owners did, however, draw the line at allowing us to staple banner and buntings, originally intended for decoration, to their coaches. Additionally, MAC members and Albert Lea residents Pete and Linda Phelps, F105189, donated the use of their motor coach as a dressing area for the entertainers.
On Wednesday, as hundreds of guests flocked into the grandstands for evening entertainment, Midwest Area vice president Nelson Stubbs, F107765, was frantically trying to reach the scheduled performers by phone. With the show scheduled to begin at 7:00 p.m., by 6:45 p.m. it was obvious that they were not going to show up. How fortunate we were that Dave Salyer and Daphne Anderson “” Dave and Daphne “” were at the rally to operate the lighting and sound equipment. Without costumes and most of their props, the talented duo graciously came to the rescue by taking the stage and providing a great evening of entertainment. Anyone who has heard them perform knows that the audience was not disappointed by the last-minute change. What troupers.
One of our FMCA members from Georgia became seriously ill and required hospitalization while attending the rally. When it became necessary to transfer him to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, Al and Dory Talbott, F223128, escorted his wife “” who had never driven the coach before “” safely to the clinic so that she could be near him.
FMCA national president R.G. Wilson, F21025, and national senior vice president, Don Moore, F154921, were on hand to present the Midwest Area Rally with its 25-year anniversary award, accepted by Mr. Stubbs. Seven Midwest Area chapters celebrated anniversaries this summer. Representatives from the Cruisin Chariots, Heartland Travelers, Lincoln Landers, Lincolnland Coachmen, Midwest Pacers, Over The Hill, and Ramblin’ Nodaks chapters received anniversary certificates for their chapters.
The commercial vendors and coach dealers were well visited, and the overwhelming seminar attendance kept the setup crew shuffling and scrounging for extra chairs. The seminar chairperson was kept busy scheduling repeat presentations of some seminars.
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) classes were again filled to capacity. Since initiating these Red Cross-certified classes at its area rallies three years ago, the Midwest Area has helped more than 120 FMCA members become certified in this potentially life-saving technique.
Use of the historic 126-year-old Lutheran church, located at the Freeborn County Historical Museum immediately adjacent to the rally grounds, as well as the talents of Dave and Daphne, added inspiration to the daily devotions conducted by the Coaches for Christ Midwest chapter. A welcomed first for the Midwest Area this year were the daily Catholic Masses conducted by a local priest and hosted by a group of members who, during the rally, established the foundation for what will become the area’s Roamin’ Catholics chapter.
Also in attendance was 2-year-old T.J. Anderson, son of Greg and Marianna Anderson, F313735. T.J., who was born with cerebral palsy and bronchopulmonary dysplasia, sent a letter expressing how much he enjoyed his first area rally. The letter (see below) pretty well sums up the importance of “family” in Family Motor Coach Association.
In so many ways, too numerous to mention, it was evident that Albert Lea was the place to be for Midwest Area members this year.
July 23, 2004
Dear Mr. Stubbs,
I am writing to thank you for all you did so that I could have a wonderful time in Albert Lea last week. You may remember me. I am the two-year-old boy who has cerebral palsy and bronchopulmonary dysplasia because I only weighed a little over a pound when I was born.
Mommy, Daddy, and I were so excited to be going to Albert Lea when they realized that our electric cord might not be long enough to reach the pole so that I could use my breathing equipment as needed. Daddy called lots of places, even in the city, and not one store had a cord on hand. When Mommy called you, you said, “Just come. I will work something out.” And you did!!
We know that you had a lot of very important things to worry about, like the entertainment, the weather, and all kinds of problems. But you took the time to worry about me, and I’m just a little boy! You even checked on me during the time we were there. You are a very special and kind-hearted man, and we are very appreciative.
The rally was great! Everyone was so nice to us. I am a little behind in enrichment experiences because I was connected to an oxygen tank and monitors around the clock for much of my life. The rally really helped me catch up. My favorite things were seeing all those people and the beautiful music at breakfast and in the evening. I love music!
Thank you again for all you did for us. God bless you and your lovely wife.
T.J. Anderson F313735
Past And Present Mingle Again
By Betty Hanegraff, F108407
Twenty isn’t old, except perhaps for dogs, mosquitoes, and FMCA chapters! In March 2004 the Full Timers chapter reached that venerable 20-year status, but the past melds into the present quite quickly. By August another rally was under way, this time in Sisters, Oregon.
This picturesque town, which lies between the Cascade Mountains and the High Desert, is the namesake of the Three Sisters Mountains, which appear to rise from the town’s backyard. The mountains’ 10,000-foot snowcapped peaks furnish the city with a skyscraper skyline, courtesy of Mother Nature. On the western edge of town, in a campground generously decorated with ponderosa pines and abutting forests of those same awesome trees, volunteers were busy setting up a four-day gathering for the chapter. As the 44 motorhomes arrived in Sisters, from the west through the scenic Santiam Pass or on a less serious drive from various points east, members gathered in this site of downtown relics and modern amenities for four days of fun. Our rally took place August 5, 6, 7, and 8.
For members, the rally gave them an opportunity to re-establish old friendships and build new ones with the dozen first-time new member families on hand. Under the direction of Bob and Sioux Smith, F122125, and Don and Wanda Fischer, L110294, past and present mingled happily.
Volunteers were everywhere, as is always the case with this chapter, managing to help organize games such as bean bag toss, dominoes, Zonk (a dice game), and George (a card game). Food was ample (another constant with this group), including continental breakfasts and a variety of dinners ranging from the simple to the sublime. With the shopping and eateries available in this Old West town, lunch was no problem, either. I reckon it was another 10-pound rally, although no one volunteered to publicly weigh in to confirm my suspicions.
Several highlights need to be mentioned, such as the auction conducted by Wayne Mills, F113170, our “in-house” professional auctioneer. Not only did more than 300 items change hands, but everyone enjoyed the lively proceedings. The highlight on Saturday night was a humorous melodrama, ably presented in a return engagement by the “Past Prime Players,” who were not afraid to show their true colors.
The sale of 50-50 raffle tickets is always a part of these rallies. Half of the money collected is returned to the members via a drawing; the other half is presented to a local charity. Whenever fun turns into funds for a worthwhile cause, it is a major plus. This time the Sisters Kiwanis Food Bank, which provides meals to 66 families, received half of the 50-50 money raised, plus other cash donations contributed by generous members. All of the money collected was presented to a member of the Kiwanis organization at our business meeting Sunday afternoon.
This “Summer Sizzle in Sisters” rally was the usual fun gathering of people collecting more information about the full-timing lifestyle, enjoying the camaraderie of others from all walks of life, seeing old friends, and meeting new ones. Happy hour, a regular feature of our rallies, is a misnomer. Every minute with friends was indeed happy.
Anyone interested in learning more about the FMCA’s Full Timers Chapter may contact the Chapter Services Department at (800) 543-4622; e-mail [email protected].