Family & Friends
By Don Graham, F181499
Howdy, partner! What a powwow we had during the Great Lakes Area Spring Spree (G.L.A.S.S.), held May 26 through 29 at the Berrien County Youth Fair in Berrien Springs, Michigan. I’ve never seen so many covered wagons (motorhomes) in one place. All of the cowpokes with their 10-gallon hats and their snakeskin boots did a fine job making the visiting dudes feel right at home. And as if the goings-on at the old corral weren’t enough, the weather gave us Texas temperatures and Southern sunshine.
With 971 motorhomes attending, the parking crew, led by Ed Byberneit, F98411, and Bud Kohn, F174021, did a bang-up job of getting the wagons all lined up and tied down. Folks came from 28 states and Canada to take part in the rally. The gang that welcomed the wagons coming in off the trail was led by Larry Schroeder, F177103, and Wanda Riemersma, F211043.
The shindig really didn’t get started for the tenderfoots until Thursday. Just after sunup some of the hands gathered at the Coaches for Christ meeting led by Dianne Metevia, F224961, and Jerry Wessel, F179742. Getting together with your Maker is a fine way to start the day.
The registration crew, led by Max and Gloria Sutton, F205618, and Phil and Liz Davis, F231735, opened for business in the morning. Folks flocked past the bales, saddles, and steer heads to sign up and get their denim “pony bags,” which contained rally programs and Western kerchiefs. The program was produced by George Abbott, F214693, who also publishes the “Knightletter” for the Michigan Knights of the Highway chapter. This year, 175 first-timers attended the rally. Across the road, some of the boys were signing up for the Monaco factory tour while others were putting their mark on the line for the RVAA Safe Driving Course.
Around noon, the commercial buildings opened and rally-goers stampeded in to rustle up supplies. The vendors surely had a grand collection of stuff to fill folks’ saddlebags and wagon compartments. There was even a whole mess of stuff for the ladies.
Sometime before sundown, a posse rode over to Berrien Springs Middle School to catch a spaghetti and meatball dinner. It must have been good, because there sure was a mob gathered.
Back at the ranch Howard Cowles, L18517, did a fine job of calling the square dances. We moseyed up to the big building where they held the seminars and watched the dancers as they strutted, do-si-doed, and promenaded through their squares and rounds. For those who would rather line-dance, Howard taught the steps and found the perfect music to keep the dancers in sync and the rest of us thumping our boots to the rhythm.
Friday was the pivotal day of the rodeo. The trams were running full tilt, taking folks to the commercial buildings. Merlyn Martin, F35517, oversaw the Information Booth, which was in full swing, and a whole string of covered wagons were lined up at the gate waiting to get in. Other folks were bustling through the multi-slideout display coaches, oohing and aahing at the interior finery, the leather seats, and the ballroom-size living spaces. Doug and Sandi Nie, F170279, were real busy bringing in all of those exhibit coaches.
At mid-morning the gals got together to watch the Great Lakes Area Style Show put on by Connie Wilson, F277172, and her bevy of beauties. Those models went in there wearing denim and came out wearing calico. Man, they sure were pretty.
There is a group called the Frustrated Maestros that plays music. What I don’t understand is why they’re so frustrated. They play terrific. Heck, none of us country boys ever heard anything better. They played marches and popular songs, and all the while I couldn’t keep my toes from tapping. They were led by the talented Lynn Gilmore, F223975, with his wife, Mary.
Later in the afternoon I wondered what all of the people were doing lining up in the street, until I saw them strutting down the avenue with ice cream bars. I love ice cream and the wait in line was worth it. It was a hot afternoon, and that cold confection slid down real easy. Thanks to Midway Motorhomes for their kindness.
Come dinnertime, everyone was invited to a free snack and, again, the lineup was somewhat substantial. But the line disappeared through the dining hall door in jig time and smiling folks emerged a short time later, looking pretty contented. The tuna and chicken sandwiches didn’t stand a chance. (I know they were called “croissants,” but don’t you know that cowboys never eat croissants!)
After dinner we all ambled over to the grandstand, where the proceeding started with a stirring ceremony: a presentation of the U.S. and Canadian flags, the flags of each of the Great Lakes chapters, and the singing of both countries’ national anthems, led by Ben Boyce, F59326, and accompanied by the Frustrated Maestros. Ginny McGrath, F87335, Great Lakes Area vice president, introduced the FMCA national officers who were in attendance.
Then they brought out the evening entertainers, Rich Eddy’s Rockin’ Oldies Band. They played a repertory of old songs I haven’t heard since I was a teenager. Everybody had a good time and for the first time in years, we didn’t freeze our bottoms off. Thanks to Jerry and Jean Wessel for their work as stage managers.
After the show, Sandy Byberneit, F98411, and her 50/50 crew rounded up the winners of the draw. Some of those dudes left with big smiles and pockets full of pelf. Despite the purchase of three guaranteed-to-win tickets, my number wasn’t called. Something’s mighty smelly in the woodpile, if you ask me.
Saturday morning began with a good old country breakfast: scrambled eggs, sausage, muffins, juice, and lots of coffee. Then it was off to work for the parkers and the registration bunch. Bill Schueller, F85235, gathered up his golfers for a morning of intense play at the Hampshire Golf Club.
The Frustrated Maestros took advantage of the sunny afternoon to regale us once again with their very professional-sounding music featuring marches, dances, and old-time favorites. Meanwhile, some of the cowhands took advantage of the Lemon Creek Winery Tour. They seemed extraordinarily happy when they returned, bottles clinking in their pony bags.
In the gazebo on Main Street, Howard Cowles was at it again, organizing the rhythm-seekers to enjoy a few rounds of line dancing and square dancing.
That afternoon the cowhands were invited to hear FMCA executive director Don Eversmann, F240000, elucidate the benefits of being a member of FMCA and the good stuff about chapter membership.
After dinner (barbecued chicken with all the fixings), we strolled to the grandstand to be thoroughly entertained by Three Men and a Tenor, an a cappella singing group that created the sounds of their own band with just a little recorded tympanic help. They sure managed to keep the dance floor full and hopping. After the show, Sandy trotted out her 50/50 crew and, again, my guaranteed-to-win numbers were not called. I think somebody must be yanking my lasso!
On Sunday morning, after a satisfying country breakfast, we walked to church. Well, to the grandstand. Jerry Wessel led us in prayer and then turned the event over to the Royalheirs, a sensational singing group out of Flint, Michigan. We thoroughly enjoyed an hour of old-time Southern gospel music. I liked them so well I bought a CD.
After church, most of the cowhands gravitated to the commercial buildings, the display coaches, and the food vendors. If you didn’t try one of those steak burgers with cheese and fried onions or one of those deep-fried, sugary confections, I pity your loss. Then there was the Book Swap organized by Judy Kohn, F174021, in which many of us replenished our supply of whodunits and romance titles. The ice cream social, sponsored by Best Buy RVs, C8894, and hosted by the Ontario Overlanders chapter, was a hugely popular event where everyone who attended sauntered away with a whole brick of delicious ice cream.
Every afternoon the clowns tended to the crowds lined up for meals and such. Weren’t they a bunch of fun? Their names were Bluebird (Twyla Grovom, F117484); Dutches (Marilou Yost, F229445); Stitches (Dianne Metevia); Dotty (Joyce Agle, F98757); and Flakey (Henry Gartner, F197563). That other unnamed clown was Mary Lou Fisk, F75584.
Nobody won the 50-foot putt for $10,000 cash. Bill Schueller breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Judy Kohn was the big chief of the lady’s Red Hat Tea. I think the attendance was far larger than she anticipated: somewhere just shy of 200 red-bonneted women. They all enjoyed the afternoon get-together as they compared their millinery.
The gang at the old chuck wagon sure had their hands full spitting all those chickens to feed the 2,000 ranch hands who showed up. But wasn’t the chow downright finger-licking delicious? When the evening meal was finished, it was off to the grandstand where we were entertained by Johnny Counterfit and his group of fantastic musicians. Not only was the music sensational, but his humor left me with aching sides and eyes running from laughter. One of the best shows I’ve ever attended. Once again, my guaranteed 50/50 winning tickets were a washout. Oh well; better luck next year.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m just joshing about my 50/50 luck, but let me tell you, the door prizes this year were terrific. Every night rally masters Dave and Penny Hough, F246114, drew names for big prizes. Heck, I’m sure that at least one Canon A95 digital camera was won by some super-fortunate attendee. Just consider that businesses and sponsors from all over Michigan and even adjacent states contributed, not to mention what was donated by FMCA’s national office. Even I won a copy of the FMCA North American Road Atlas & Travel Guide, which lists campgrounds, Wal-Marts, Flying J fuel stops, and Cracker Barrel restaurants.
Monday morning, Memorial Day, found us wending our way behind the Berrien Springs High School and Middle School bands to the flagpole, to take part in the ceremony honoring our veterans. The flag-raising was carried out by Bob Metevia and other veterans in uniform, after which there was a rifle salute and the playing of the “Last Post,” with a second bugle sounding an eerie echo. Dianne Metevia read a salutatory to the originator of the “Last Post” and a tribute to our noble fighting men and women past and present.
The phenomenal success of this year’s get-together must go to rally masters Dave and Penny Hough, with assistance from the weatherman. They were always cheerfully available to those chairpersons who needed help or guidance. And we can thank their enterprise for the delightful entertainment.
There isn’t room here to name the 500 volunteers who gave their time, their talents, and their labor to make the 2005 G.L.A.S.S. the success story that it was, but we know who you are and applaud your efforts.
Even before the gates officially opened, Dave and Lois Hockman, L4015, and Marv and Marilyn Hills, F174041, labored tirelessly to make certain the food services would be up and ready for the rally-goers. And they couldn’t do that without the help of those tireless workers who set up the hundreds of tables and chairs.
Tom and Carol Ross, F198936, tended to the folks in the commercial buildings, while Paulette Pace, F156715, and her hands did a fine job of watching the barn until the vendors got set up. Wanda Hogle, F30660, pinned up the Daily Draw numbers. Again this year, Cal Courtney, F158229, wore more than one Western hat as he served as president of the Michigan Knights of the Highway; treasurer of G.L.A.S.S.; and, along with his wife, Doris, looked after the food concessions. And don’t forget Richard Coller, F185006, our assiduous photographer.
I wish there was time to tell you about the seminars organized by Chuck Borcher, F164191. I tried to sit in as many as I could, and they were excellent. I learned a great deal and as a result, my covered wagon (motorhoming) experience will be less fraught with anxiety.
The G.L.A.S.S. is supported by most FMCA chapters in the Great Lakes Area. Each of these chapters brought a delegation of members to help in a variety of ways.
So, until next year, keep them nose bags full of oats, shine up them covered wagons, tell your neighbors what a fine time you had, and don’t let the high cost of hay keep you from the 2006 G.L.A.S.S.
Southern Alberta Drifters Host Calgary Stampede Rally
By Dave Wylie, F267410
FMCA’s Southern Alberta Drifters chapter was formed in August 2002. Before the first year was over, we decided to do a feasibility study on holding a large rally as part of our ongoing fund-raising activities. In the summer of 2003, chapter president Dave Wylie, F267410, and vice president John Fraser, F194954, proposed to members that the chapter hold a rally centered on the Calgary Stampede, and the go-ahead was given.
The Calgary Stampede, held in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, has been an annual event for more than 80 years. Billed as the “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth,” this 10-day event draws visitors from all over the world who take in the Western atmosphere and hospitality of the city of Calgary. Although Calgary has a population of slightly fewer than 1 million, it regularly draws more than 1 million visitors to Stampede activities.
Long hours of planning culminated in the 2005 Calgary Stampede Rally. A total of 124 FMCA member coaches representing at least 22 states and three provinces arrived at Lynnwood Ranch for a four-day rally on July 7, and the party was on.
As planners, our objective was to have an upscale event that offered the highest possible bang for the rally buck. Being a small chapter with 59 member families, we could only make this work by contracting out the main functions of the rally.
Our hosts at the Lynnwood Ranch delivered fantastic food for all meals, prepared and served in their event facility. Our guests attended the Stampede Parade, Chuckwagon Races, and Grandstand Show as well as the Stampede Rodeo as part of the planned activities. We had excellent seating at all events and were delivered to and from those venues in air-conditioned Prevost highway coaches provided by Brewster Transportation. We had a great four-piece band for the Saturday night dance and a fantastic prime rib dinner. Mother Nature helped by providing five days of clear skies, moderate temperatures, and enough light breezes to keep the mosquitoes at bay.
In short, it was a magical and special event, and everything went as planned. There were no glitches and the outpouring of sincere thanks from those attending was overwhelming. The success of this rally was in large part due to our willing chapter volunteers, many of whom took a week off from work to be on-site and available as needed.
We also owe a great big “thank you” to the many FMCA members who had faith in our little chapter’s ability to pull off this endeavor and encouraged their friends to join them in Calgary at our rally. To those who attended — thank you so much. Our chapter members have been deeply moved and impressed by your genuine good wishes and enthusiasm.
Who knows what we might try in the future, as we get more members and ideas?
Outgoing FMCA national president R.G. Wilson, L21025 (center), was made an honorary member of the Frustrated Maestros during FMCA’s 74th International Convention in Minot, North Dakota. He was presented with a red T-shirt emblazoned with his initials and a special Frustrated Maestros Minot patch. Of course, as a member of the Maestros, R.G. was required to demonstrate his musical talents, so he and his wife, Geri, took the stage for a rendition of his favorite song, “Oklahoma.”