By Connie Pool, F140306
This past January I boarded an airplane in Corpus Christi, Texas, and left the balmy 78-degree temperatures for Bowling Green, Ohio, where I met Jerry Yeatts, director of FMCA’s Convention Department. We were conducting the final planning visit for the international convention this summer.
It was in the dead of winter in Ohio, with eight inches of fresh snow on the ground and many patches of black ice on the road. Daytime temperatures did not get above 20 degrees for the next three days. I was instantly reminded why we own motorhomes. Without a doubt, one of the greatest benefits of coach ownership is the ability to put in the awnings and head for someplace where the weather is nicer.
Just two weeks prior to my Bowling Green visit, we were in Indio, California, for the 21st annual Western Area Rally at the Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival grounds. The weather was great, and more than 1,500 FMCA member families were in attendance, many of whom had come to the Southwest for the winter. Western Area vice president Bobby Donald and his wife, Gloria, along with their dedicated volunteers, outdid themselves to put the rally together. This year’s theme was “Wonders of Ancient Egypt,” and as usual, the chapters went all out to design floats and costumes to participate in the opening day parade. The number of parade participants grows larger each year, and very strong competition exists for the top prizes in the different categories. The imagination and creativity shown this year were unbelievable.
It was also a lot of fun for those of us who sat along the parade route and cheered the procession. Almost every entry in the parade gave onlookers a shower of candy, and a few even provided treats for the many dogs that watched with their owners. The festivities continued even into the evening entertainment, as one chapter president stayed in his costume (an Egyptian Caesar) to receive the trophy for his chapter.
One of the great things about attending this rally is the strong chapter identity and bonding that takes place. Many of the chapters arrive as a group and park together. Each afternoon as you walk through the parking lots, you will find chapter members gathering around one of the coaches for snacks and beverages or potluck dinners. We have found the welcome mat is always out, and many folks graciously extend us invitations to join the gatherings.
A Chapter Fair was held, with many Western Area chapters telling folks about the fun and activities their members enjoy. Many of the displays this year had digital picture frames full of photos depicting chapter activities and places the club had visited.
Those of you who travel to the Southeast for the winter have an excellent opportunity to gather with FMCA members and share in the fun and fellowship. Each year the Southeast Area Rally is held at the Hernando County Airport in Brooksville, Florida, during the first week of February. This year more than 1,400 member families participated. Southeast Area volunteers, headed by area vice president Charlie Schrenkel and his wife, Jean, provided a well-rounded program with many things to do and see. The only thing Charlie couldn’t control this year was the weather. Boy, was it cold the first two days. My husband, Corbett, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to kid Charlie about how we left high-70s temperatures in Texas to come to freezing weather in Florida. Fortunately for all, the weather cleared beautifully the last two days.
I would be remiss if I didn’t say something about the first night’s entertainment by a group of young people (in their late 20s) called “Four 2 Five.” It was cold in that tent, but they were terrific. They held their audience with a really refreshing evening of humor and harmony and a lot of audience participation. This same group was scheduled to entertain last year, but just before they were to begin, there was a fire outside the tent and entertainment had to be cancelled. I am sure their act will have many repeat appearances in Brooksville. It is a must-see show.
This year’s rally theme was “Treasure Hunt at S.E.A.,” and clues were provided to help locate the “treasure”: a $1,000 fuel card donated by Bella Terra Luxury RV Resort, C11238. In this case, the pirate who hid the chest either gave too good of a set of clues or Brenda Cassada, F239200, is really good at solving puzzles. She was able to find the treasure on the first day.
Fortunately, she didn’t reveal her success immediately, so many continued the hunt until that evening when it was announced.
As we entered the indoor vendors’ tent the first morning of the rally, we saw a large crowd at one of the booths. When we got closer, we recognized that particular exhibitor had also been at the Western Area Rally in Indio just four weeks previously.
De Wafelbakkers, C11631, out of North Little Rock, Arkansas, was again giving every attendee a bag of 24 fully baked, frozen pancakes and a bag of 24 fully baked, frozen waffles. The owner of De Wafelbakkers, Doug Williford, also happens to be an FMCA member, F353124. Doug doesn’t sell his product at the rallies or conventions, but he uses this promotion to let us know the pancakes and waffles are available at any Walmart Supercenter. He always has more than enough products for all attendees, and any leftovers are donated to local charities. What a gift during these difficult economic times.
By the way, De Wafelbakkers will be handing out pancakes and waffles at FMCA’s 81st International Convention this month in Perry.
The parade on Thursday again revealed the talents and imagination of our members. There were eight-foot-high parrots; Blackbeard pirates; Captain Hooks; and many other unsavory characters walking and riding the parade route. The decorations included a number of alligators.
No doubt the local stores saw an increase in the sale of large bags of individually wrapped candy. This time the crowd had to brave some fairly cold weather, but the candy was provided in huge quantities, and dogs got their rewards as well.
It is people who make these area rallies “” and FMCA conventions “” something you don’t want to miss. Each one we attend, we are greeted by so many old friends, and yet at each one we get to meet so many new people. There is an unlimited opportunity to share ideals and experiences with fellow members, which is invaluable as we travel down the road. We look forward to seeing many of you at the Georgia National Fairgrounds & Agricenter in Perry in a couple of weeks at FMCA’s 81st International Convention. Until then, may all your travels be safe and trouble-free.
Notice of Annual Membership Meeting
Family Motor Coach Association’s Annual Membership Meeting will be held during FMCA’s 82nd International Convention at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio, on July 23, 2009.