By Peggy Jordan, Associate Editor
This close-knit group is based near a local landmark from which it takes its name.
Gateway Piasas is an unusual name for a chapter of motorhome owners. But then again, the word “Piasa” represents an unusual thing.
The Piasa Bird, pronounced “pie saw,” is a mythical creature of American Indian lore. In the 1670s when explorers Louis Jolliet and Father Jacques Marquette traveled the upper Mississippi River region, they saw two of these creatures painted on stone bluffs above the river just north of where the city of St. Louis now stands. The creatures looked like dragons with deer antlers, or, at the least, very ferocious birds.
Over the years as the original Piasas faded, the new Americans kept the myth alive by replacing a rock painting on the bluffs north of Alton, Illinois. Today a park is located beneath the current Piasa painting, on State Route 100 just north of Alton. FMCA member Fred Widman, who lives in Godfrey, Illinois, was used to passing by the unusual bird painting, and so he suggested it become part of the chapter’s name when the group was formed in 1985.
Most people from this area know about the mythical creature, and so it’s fitting that the chapter stays true to its geographical roots. Chapter president Juanita Orr said most Gateway Piasas members live in northeast Missouri (north of St. Louis), with a few from as far west as Jefferson City, Missouri, and as far east as western Illinois.
“It’s mostly social, and we just all get together and have a good time,” Juanita said. They meet at rallies in April, May, June, August, September, and October.
Rallies are held within close proximity of the members’ stationary homes. Previous get-togethers have been in Hannibal, Danville, Bowling Green, and Canton, Missouri, and at Osage Beach along the Lake of the Ozarks.
The rallies typically take place over three days, Thursday through Saturday. Sometimes activities are available near the RV parks at which chapter members gather. “When we go to Bowling Green, we like to go to the bluegrass shows there,” Juanita said. Also, chapter members go out for meals, or have carry-ins and catered meals. Other activities involve playing cards and games.
And, since they will attend the upcoming Six-State (South Central Area) Rally in Sedalia, Missouri, September 25 through 28, Juanita said she and others in the chapter were working in August to complete a quilting project. The quilts will be gathered at the Six-State Rally and donated to injured veterans. Juanita said chapter members are making “the smaller version of a quilt, more of a lap-top or crochet afghan type.”
Once winter arrives, several Gateway Piasas members still get to see each other as they travel southwest to warmer climes. “Several of our members are in Yuma, Arizona, and we’ll just get together at someone’s RV,” Juanita explained.
Chapter dues are $10 per year per couple, and Juanita said the group, which consists of approximately 21 couples, is seeking new members. For more information about Gateway Piasas or other FMCA chapters, contact the Chapter Services Department at the national office: (800) 543-3622; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like your chapter to be featured in “Chapter Spotlight,” contact FMC associate editor Peggy Jordan at email@example.com or (800) 543-3622, ext. 212.