By Connie Pool, F140306, National President
Since Memorial Day, my husband, Corbett, and I have been on the road for FMCA conducting one of the many functions of the national president “” looking at potential sites for the association’s international conventions. We are always looking for new areas and venues we believe FMCA members will enjoy visiting.
When we conduct a site planning visit, we follow a detailed checklist to ensure that the facilities will meet all of FMCA’s needs for the convention, including sufficient parking for the estimated attendance, easy access to the facility, a sufficient road network, hotels in close proximity, a major airport nearby, rental car locations, and things to do in the area.
We begin the visit by walking through all the buildings to gather ideas regarding which ones might lend themselves for seminar space, entertainment, indoor exhibits, the information center, and the service center, and, in the case of summer conventions, the Governing Board meeting and youth activities. As we walk between buildings and throughout the grounds, we check for locations where we can place outdoor coach exhibits, the outdoor supplier demo area, coffee hour, daytime entertainment, and so on. We normally retrace our paths several times through the buildings as we narrow down the best location for each of the various events.
We started our current trip by traveling to Loveland, Colorado, where Corbett and I met Jerry Yeatts, convention director, and Allen Rein, Rocky Mountain Area vice president, on May 28. We embarked on a thorough tour and inspection of the facility in question, known as The Ranch, followed by an extended drive through all the available parking areas for FMCA family members. I will admit we were very impressed with the facility and believe it would meet all our requirements for seminar rooms, indoor evening entertainment, a Governing Board meeting, etc.
As sometimes happens, however, the site has one major shortfall, and that is motorhome parking areas. The Ranch doesn’t own sufficient property to meet all our parking requirements, but there are several areas relatively close to the facility that FMCA could possibly rent. It looked very good on the map, but experience has proven that it is best to drive through the various lots to check for ease of access, how level the lots are, the soil base, and whether the land will support the weight of our coaches with repeated travel. At this point, we are not overly optimistic about the future availability of coach parking, but we will continue to pursue the possibilities.
When we inquired about the type of weather we could expect during the time frame the facility would be available, we were assured it would be very pleasant, with light showers normally in the afternoon that would cool the evenings. I believe the rain part, as FMCA does seem to bring rain to any area where we hold a convention.
After Loveland, Corbett and I had six days to drive out to Albany, Oregon, to attend the Northwest Area Rally. As we traveled, we looked for FMCA member campgrounds to stop at for the night. We had the pleasure of spending a night at Country Corners Campground & RV Park in Caldwell, Idaho, C10221. The campground is located just off Interstate 84 at exit 17 and was very neat and spacious. Each spring the owner, Kenny Blagg, plants a large garden of corn, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, and peppers. He and his wife, Linda, work the garden each morning, and around mid- to late July, the garden is bearing fresh vegetables for his overnight guests to pick and enjoy during their stay at the park. We were about eight weeks too early but think a stopover sometime around mid-July to early August would yield some great corn, since they plant eight rows two weeks apart.
During the Northwest Area Rally in Albany, Judy Keppler, the Northwest Area vice president, and her husband, Ron, were very gracious hosts. In fact, everyone at the rally made us feel so welcome, and many stopped by to thank us for coming so far to attend their “West is Best” rally. As it seems to happen at most FMCA events, it rained. Out came the umbrellas, but we continued to have a good time, and the almost-daily thunder and rains passed through with little notice.
The Northwest Area wanted to make sure everyone had plenty to eat by providing two full breakfasts and three dinners during the rally. There were ample seminars, coach displays, and indoor vendors to keep everyone busy. In fact, we were very impressed with the number of attendees who were always out and moving around the fairgrounds and in and out of the displays. With more than 550 coaches in attendance, the fairgrounds could not have accommodated many more.
In my position as president, I normally hear if there is a problem or if a member is not pleased with something. This time I heard nothing but compliments from a wide variety of people in attendance. Members who had just joined FMCA a few months ago could not believe how much fun the rally was, and they are excited about attending their first international convention in Bowling Green, Ohio, in July.
As most of you know, a great area rally starts with leadership at the top, supported by a cast of willing and able volunteers. All were present in Albany, with rally master Andy Balogh and assistant rally master Arvin Spofford, whose comedic routines kept the hungry folks amused while they patiently waited for their table numbers to be called for the rush to the serving lines. To them and the rest of the supporting cast, we thank you for a great time at this well-organized and highly successful rally.
Unfortunately, with so many rallies planned so closely together in the summer months, it is impossible for us to attend all. However, we did have good representation by the members of the Executive Board. I also received excellent reports from some of the members who attended the 18th Great Eastern Area Rally (GEAR) in Richmond, Virginia, hosted by Eastern Area vice president Otho Tew and his wife, Alice.
The “Richmond on the River” reportedly was a great, fun rally with a “competitive edge” put together by co-rally masters Bill and Garnetta Mallory and Wilt and Barbara Greenwood. During the chapter boat races, some well-designed crafts battled the challenging course, all on the roll of a dice. Grill-offs are always welcome, as they provide an excellent opportunity for a little taste-testing. There were some excellent seminars. Some in particular were the very popular and well-attended presentations by local historians about the Civil War in the Richmond area and naval battles in the James River and Hampton Roads area. Also very popular was the recipe exchange organized by Nancy Wolfe, which concluded with the on-site publication of a recipe book. Another great job by an area that pulls together in spite of, you guessed it, the rain.
I am happy to pass on the good news we have been receiving within the past few days while we attended the Northwest Area Rally. It seems there is light at the end of the tunnel “” and it is not a train. At least five coaches were sold during the rally. Matt Howard, vice president of marketing for Country Coach, based in Junction City, Oregon, was given an opportunity prior to evening entertainment to provide us an update about Country Coach. The company is back in production with an initial goal of producing one coach a week, with concentrated attention on quality control. The motorhomes will be marketed factory-direct. I am also sure most of you are aware that Navistar International has concluded the purchase of coach maker Monaco for a reported sum of $47 million, and the new company will be known as Monaco RV LLC.
We also have been encouraged by news reports that there are growing sparks of life and increased activity in other recreation vehicle manufacturing plants in Indiana, Oregon, and other states as some workers are being called back to work. We wish them all success as they continue to work to bring their companies back to full production. Hopefully, we have finally seen the bottom of this recession, and growth in all manufacturing and service industries will begin to rebound.
As I write this column, I am finishing up a convention planning visit at the Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center in Redmond, Oregon, with Jerry Yeatts and Judy Keppler, Northwest Area vice president and host for the convention at this facility next year. We will make a quick run to Madison, Wisconsin, for a look at the state fairgrounds to see whether it is a possible future site for an FMCA summer convention. We will then make our way back over to Albert Lea, Minnesota, for the Midwest Area Rally hosted by Al Talbott and his wife, Dory, before heading home for a short rest prior to leaving for our “Bowling Green Bash” at FMCA’s 82nd International Convention. There is still time to register for the convention, and we hope to see you there.
Until next month, when I write my final article as president of FMCA, I wish you safe and trouble-free travels.