By Jay Blumenthal, F230605
On June 10, 2008, an armada of motorhomes filled with land-lubbin’ pirates braved tempestuous foul weather to seize control of the Sunnyview Exposition Center in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. These scallywags established headquarters there and began to set up for the International Area Organization’s (INTO) ninth annual rally, aptly called “Pirates of the Road “” The Search for Graybeard’s Treasure,” which took place June 12 through 15, 2008.
Nature sent torrential rains and howling winds on Thursday, the first night of the event, but none of our land yachts sank, although some came close. For example, my wife and I, also known as the Pirate Queen and Captain Graybeard, waded through 1½ feet of water to get to our motorhome.
The Marlins, our scheduled entertainment for the night, were great sports and delayed starting their act until the rain subsided and people were able to attend. Perhaps, being Marlins, they were accustomed to the high waters.
Fortunately, nearly everyone was parked before the storm hit, and except for a few families, most were parked on hard surfaces. After the storm ended and the waters receded, the rest of the event was blessed by Mother Nature, giving all a chance to participate in the many indoor and outdoor activities.
The rally was a huge success. It was filled with games such as a golf tournament, bocci ball, beanbag baseball, and beanbag toss, all of which were played by more than 100 people. Everyone was a winner, and the spirit and cheering could be felt and heard throughout the grounds.
The Chapter Fair, where many chapters were represented, also included competitions. Two costume contests were held, one each for men and women. Many participants were in the proper dress of the day, and more than 25 people paraded around in their finest pirate attire. The beard contest produced many contestants, some of whom grew their beards strictly for this event. Prizes were awarded to the winning contestants. The chapters that participated reported quite an interest in people looking to join new chapters, and everyone attending shared in Graybeard’s treasure “” gold-foil-covered chocolate coins, decorated with logos of the rally and FMCA.
Each day began with a hot breakfast, and the food literally came flying off the griddle. Chris Cakes is renowned for cooking and then flipping pancakes right onto your plate “” even if you’re 15 feet away! The Frustrated Maestros INTO Interludes chapter tried something different to accompany the meal. They offered their usual music, as well as karaoke-style music, as the audience was asked to sing along as the words were flashed on the wall. Judging from the fine voices, I think there are more of you out there who should think about joining the Frustrated Maestros.
The ladies’ luncheon was well attended, and all were pleased with the food and fun provided. A pirate riddle contest turned out to be quite difficult, and only a few were able to solve most of the riddles. The search for Graybeard’s treasure added to the flavor. Clues were provided, which led searchers all over the place with questions to answer and tasks to complete. More prizes were handed out to those who found the hidden treasure.
The seminars were varied and well attended. After the geocaching sessions, attendees went out to find the hidden caches. The automated external defibrillator (AED)-CPR certification class, taught by representatives from the American Heart Association, was full, as members received their two-year certification in these lifesaving techniques. Educational and travel seminars were presented, as were others relating to chapter officers. Various craft seminars and a recipe-sharing session “” complete with a recipe booklet “” rounded out the activities. Vendor booths and coach displays provided the opportunity for browsing and shopping, and many attendees did just that. All of this was done in the cool confines of the Sunnyview Expo Building, an air-conditioned facility that provided attendees with welcome relief from the summer heat.
Evening entertainment was exceptional once again. Each night, before the performances started, pictures of the day’s activities were projected as attendees relived the fun they had experienced.
On Thursday, the Marlins sang and joked as everyone laughed and reminisced about the music we all knew once upon a time ago. On Friday night, sound effects master Wes Harrison entertained with sounds from back in the old days of radio “” you remember that, don’t you? Using just his mouth and ingenuity, he reminded us of those radio shows we listened to as he re-created the sounds the same way he did then. He even made some of the sounds behind cartoons that we and our kids watched. His performance brought back many memories. Saturday night, Dixieland music filled the hall as we clapped and danced to this truly American form of music performed by The New Reformation Band. On Sunday evening, bingo was played by almost 100 people, and winners were hollering “Bingo!” all night long. The final game netted a $500 prize. Congratulations to all those winners.
INTO thanks the family attendees, the vendors, and all the volunteers for their hard work and participation. I served as rally master, and Sonny Gillespie served as assistant rally master; along with our wives, Donna and Carole, we send a special thanks to those INTO board members and captains who worked so hard planning, preparing, and running the rally.
INTO will not have its annual rally in 2009 since the International Area is hosting FMCA’s 81st International Convention at the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter in Perry, March 16 through 19. Watch for the 10th annual INTO Rally in 2010.
All Jazzed Up At Northeast Area Rally
By Lori Hoad, F188955
“Dixieland Jazz” was the theme for the 16th annual Northeast Area Motorhome Association (NEAR) rally, held August 7 through 10, 2008, at the Champlain Valley Exposition in Essex Junction, Vermont. And despite a good soaking from Mother Nature, the rally turned out to be a huge success.
The rain did not dampen the spirits of rally-goers or disrupt the many planned activities. The Champlain Valley Exposition has room for all activities to be hosted indoors with climate-controlled seminar rooms and a beautiful entertainment hall, so the weather was never a factor. In addition, the availability of electric and water hookups to anyone who wanted them was a bonus.
Despite high fuel prices, we had a wonderful turnout. The final count included 573 family coaches, 48 vendors, and 104 display coaches for sale. The week was extremely busy with many seminars and crafts, which were both educational and fun. Rally organizers also decided to offer a free day pass this year, and quite a few locals showed up to see what RVing is all about.
The festivities kicked off on Tuesday and Wednesday nights with sold-out dinner cruise tours on Lake Champlain. Fortunately, the rain held off long enough for folks to enjoy their evening on the water “” particularly the beautiful sunsets. Throughout the week dangerous thunderstorms broke out all around the area and flooding occurred nearby, but for the most part, we were spared from the worst of it.
Four evenings of entertainment kept everyone tapping their toes to wonderful music. Thursday night opened with a Dixieland Jazz show presented by The New Condon Mob. Friday evening we were entertained by our own Frustrated Maestros “” NE, Yankee Doodle Dandies chapter and their spectacular variety of tunes. Hats off to the Frustrated Maestros for an unforgettable show.
On Saturday night the audience was kept in stitches with the antics and RV parody songs included in The Rivoli Revue, performed by the husband-and-wife team of Ron and Kay Rivoli. The Rivolis also performed a Sunday morning gospel program that was very inspiring. Our evening entertainment finished off on Sunday night with a great performance by Dr. Jazz and the Dixie Hot Shots, Vermont’s premier jazz band.
Along with more than 30 seminars, we offered other events, such as a Dixieland Tea, hosted by the Northeast Area’s “first lady,” Pat Allen. Also, this year rally officials incorporated the Chapter Fair into the ice cream social, which turned out to be a big hit. Feedback from the event indicates that many chapters enrolled several new members. It is hoped that more chapters will take advantage of this great opportunity next year.
The youth program again was a huge success, headed by volunteer Lori Lindfors and her dedicated team of volunteers. The kids were kept busy with projects and fun activities. Kudos to all of the fine volunteers who continue to make our youth program a safe and fun place for our kids.
The annual blood drive event was also a big success. Costumed blood droplets (Charlie Archambault and Lucille Snow) were shuttled around the fairgrounds via a golf cart to solicit donors. This year’s effort yielded a total of 36 units of blood, for a five-year NEAR rally total of nearly 300 units of this valuable gift of life.
Vendors reported that they had a good rally as well. The RV dealers also brought in a huge display of new and preowned coaches. The NEAR rally would not be able to grow each year without the continued support of these dedicated folks. Please remember to support these vendors at all the FMCA rallies you attend. You are the reason they want to return.
The rally would not have turned out so well if it weren’t for the dedication and hard work of our volunteers from 27 chapters, and the volunteer captains who step forward each year. Thanks to all of you for making the rally so enjoyable for everyone.
We look forward to seeing all of you back next year at the Champlain Valley Exposition for NEAR’s “It’s A Family A-Fair” rally, scheduled to take place August 12 through 15, 2009. We also look forward to seeing more Northeast Area and FMCA members and their families and friends join us in Essex Junction.