FMCA’s 82nd International Convention received high marks from convention-goers who assembled for the event at Bowling Green State University.
By Robbin Gould, Editor
In mid-July, FMCA members enrolled in college. They spent hours in class, relaxed in the student union, participated in extracurricular events on campus, and gathered at parties and other social hours.
This special session was termed the “Bowling Green Bash,” FMCA’s 82nd International Convention, which took place July 20-23 on the campus of Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio, a small city 23 miles south of Toledo. Approximately 19,000 students attend classes on BGSU’s main campus. And, of course, the school’s population swelled during FMCA’s stay, with the occupants of 2,426 family motor coaches on hand for the festivities. Add another 299 commercial coaches to that number, and the official coach count for the “Bowling Green Bash” came to 2,725.
Registration and orientation
According to BGSU statistics, the school is the academic home to students from 49 states. Ironically, FMCA convention registration records indicate that motorhomers from 49 states (plus four Canadian provinces) attended the “Bowling Green Bash.”
The land is pancake-flat in this stretch of Ohio, no doubt a positive feature for those attendees who walked or rode their bicycles from activity to activity. Family member motorhomes were parked both on campus and at the nearby Wood County Fairgrounds, approximately two miles away. Convention trams “” mostly university shuttles “” transported attendees from family parking areas to activity areas around campus, as did golf carts piloted by volunteer drivers.
FMCA utilized several of the largest university buildings as main activity areas. These included sprawling Olscamp Hall, named for a former university president, which housed the FMCA Information Center. The lobby became a bustling place for attendees to get directions and ask questions of FMCA staff and of local convention and visitors bureau representatives; learn about future FMCA convention locations from representatives of those cities; sign up for tours and craft seminars; pick up or drop off mail; and visit several other tables.
FMCA’s Internet Café was headquartered upstairs in a state-of-the-art computer lab; a peek inside revealed the room in heavy use by convention attendees. For additional computing, FMCAers took a cue from BGSU students in Olscamp Hall and the student union, where many folks settled into the seemingly endless array of couches and chairs with their own laptops.
Four theater-type classrooms in Olscamp Hall accommodated seminars during the “Bowling Green Bash.” These auditoriums were equipped with professional sound systems and, of course, desks, providing an atmosphere conducive for learning. Ten additional seminar rooms were set up in the expansive Bowen-Thompson Student Union, an airy, sun-drenched facility that is the heart of the campus. In total, 124 unique seminar topics were presented during the “Bowling Green Bash” in 157 sessions. Attendees elected to learn about everything from tires, towing, and transmissions to genealogy, geocaching, and “green” RVing.
The ballroom of the Bowen-Thompson Student Union accommodated hundreds for FMCA’s annual Governing Board meeting on Monday, July 20. During the meeting, an election of national officers for the 2009-2011 term was held. The newly elected officers were sworn in during the annual membership meeting on Thursday morning: Charlie Schrenkel, F140050, national president; Judy Czarsty, F79148, national senior vice president; Joanne Durbin, L76454, national secretary; Wil Young, F207019, national treasurer.
In addition to taking in countless seminars, FMCA members also gained a valuable education firsthand as they strolled through the hundreds of RV exhibits. On Monday afternoon, attendees began their exhibit explorations outdoors when the coach display area opened for a special “Motorhome Preview.” Nineteen manufacturers and three dealers exhibited models spanning the spectrum: Type A, Type B, and Type C motorhomes in many sizes, styles, and price ranges, as well as private coach conversions and motorhome chassis.
Both the indoor and outdoor exhibit areas welcomed attendees on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of the convention. Supplier and component displays were housed adjacent to the motorhome exhibits in the Charles Perry Field House. Attendees strolled down aisles of exhibits in the Track Room and Turf Room, inspecting the wares displayed by 241 companies.
In addition to the exhibits, some folks pursued further education off-site via one of the optional sight-seeing tours specially scheduled for convention-goers. These included trips to Toledo, the “Glass Capital of the World”; Put-In-Bay, on Lake Erie’s South Bass Island; and a very popular tour of the local area.
Bean bags were flying on Sunday afternoon during the Baggo tournament, which was held in the Student Recreation Center and coordinated by Al and Roberta Vormittag, F231342. This bean bag toss game “” also known as corn hole in some parts of the United States “” involves throwing bean bags at a slanted board to rack up points. If the bag falls through the cut-out near the top of the board, that means more points! Eighty participants pitted their skills against one another. Congratulations to first-place winners Carolyn Ach, F309881, and Jim Smith, F369691.
That evening the tournament arena was transformed into a dance floor as FMCAers gathered in the Rec Center for square, round, and line dancing. Novices and experienced dancers alike did some fancy steppin’ thanks to the instruction provided by veteran caller Jack Ingle, who was sponsored by PoliSeek RV Insurance, C95.
On Monday evening, convention-goers had the opportunity to shake, rattle, and roll as Jack Ingle returned to the Rec Center to play popular hits of yesteryear during the FMCA Social and Dance.
Convention attendees could get the kinks out bright and early on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Wayne and Dahelia Hunt, F235156, drew upon their backgrounds in health, exercise, and resistance training to lead participants in early-morning workout sessions on these days.
Fraternities and sororities
Motorhomers certainly are a social group, and the “Bowling Green Bash” afforded them many occasions to fraternize. For example, on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings, crowds made their way to the Daytime Entertainment area to partake in morning Coffee Hour, presented courtesy of Roadmaster Inc., C2952. In addition to being the source of fresh doughnuts, steaming coffee, and hot chocolate, this FMCA convention tradition is a prime early-morning gathering spot. Members meet up with old friends, and make brand-new ones.
In Bowling Green, as at past conventions, the early-morning atmosphere was enlivened with daily performances by FMCA’s Frustrated Maestros. Clad in their traditional red-and-white outfits, these musicians and vocalists “” composed of members from FMCA’s 10 Frustrated Maestros chapters “” entertained the crowd with a variety of old standards, newer tunes, humorous pieces, and more. Music director Lynn Gilmore, F223975, led the performances.
The Frustrated Maestros returned to the Daytime Entertainment Stage on Wednesday afternoon when convention-goers converged for the Ice Cream Social. This crowd-pleaser was presented courtesy of Miller Insurance Agency, C3045.
On Thursday afternoon, ladies attired in purple and red gathered in the student union ballroom for the Red Hat Tea, sponsored by Kiley Mold Company, C7252. This lighthearted event is FMCA’s own version of the Red Hat Society, a fun-loving women’s group dedicated to enjoying life and friendships after 50 (and before). Participants gathered for light refreshments and socializing, and also enjoyed the music and comedy of the Hoffenheimer Sisters (actually, local artists Debby Shaffer and Carol Bailey).
The performing arts
In addition to the Hoffenheimer Sisters, who also performed Thursday morning, many other musical acts entertained convention attendees during the daytime and evening hours. Additional acts appearing at the often-packed Daytime Entertainment Stage included the BGSU Brass Ensemble, a quintet offering a range of selections from classical to pop; the Swamp Kings, a four-piece band from Toledo; soloist Dan Opperman with his version of show tunes, country ballads, pop, and rock songs; the three-piece JoeBob Duda band, delivering sounds from the 1950s onward; and the Subtones, with their wide-ranging musical styles.
Singers/songwriters Ron and Kay Rivoli, known as the Rivoli Revue, performed their “Amerimobilly” brand of music, celebrating the people, places, and sights encountered on the road. They appeared courtesy of Adventure Caravans, C6954.
Flakey the Magic Clown (Henry Gartner, F197563) entertained folks with his magic tricks, balloon creations, and white bunny sidekick. He also hobnobbed with the children enrolled in the FMCA Youth Activities Program, appearing courtesy of Blue Ox, C2903.
On Tuesday evening a crowd gathered outdoors in the Doyt Perry Stadium to enjoy a mesmerizing performance by 42Five, a five-man a cappella group who used only their voices to re-create the sound of an entire instrumental band. From barbershop and blues to rock and classic melodies, they provided a fun evening intermixed with large doses of humor. When the power was cut off temporarily, the group never missed a beat “” they jumped off the stage into the crowd and continued their act.
Country star Lorrie Morgan was scheduled to appear Wednesday evening at Doyt Perry Stadium. Unfortunately, however, rain began to fall during the day, and the threat of lightning in the area, and potentially more rain, resulted in the cancellation of her performance.
As a precaution, Thursday evening’s performance by Phil Dirt and the Dozers was moved indoors to Anderson Arena. Joking that they sing the music “you loved as a kid and your parents hated,” this group provided plenty of nostalgia in their rock-and-roll oldies review, much to the audience’s delight.
The fine arts
The seminar slate mentioned earlier included a number of smaller hands-on craft sessions. Participants could select from an array of sessions to create such items as decoupage plates, beaded eyeglass holders, kiln-fused jewelry, memory albums, and paintings.
An eye-catching collection of quilts featuring teddy bears, flowers, toy trains, and Raggedy Ann and Andy characters attracted onlookers in the Information Center Thursday. The quilts and other items on display were handcrafted by members of FMCA’s On-Road Quilters. The group meets at each FMCA international convention, and members bring completed items with them for distribution in the local community. According to coordinator Sharon Eversmann, F240000, in Bowling Green the On Road Quilters contributed 84 quilts, nine fleece/crocheted/knitted blankets, 16 hats, two pairs of crocheted slippers, and a doll and tote bag. These items were donated to the local Black Swamp Quilt Guild to be used as part of their ongoing charity projects.
FMCA members showed their generous spirit in other ways, too. During the convention, used eyeglasses were collected for donation to the Lions’ Foundation Eyeglass Program, and the association’s PRVVC chapter accepted nonperishable food items for the Bowling Green Food Pantry. Following the conclusion of the “Bowling Green Bash,” members of the FMCA Chapter: Habitat for Humanity® planned to take part in a house build in Wauseon, Ohio. It’s no wonder that “family” is the first word in FMCA’s name.
On the other side of the coin, convention attendees felt the warmth and hospitality of the Bowling Green community. On Sunday, July 19, they were welcomed with a special “Summer Bash” held in Bowling Green’s historic downtown area. This family-oriented event included food and entertainment for FMCA members before the official start of the convention on Monday.
Connie Pool, L140306, immediate past national president, oversaw the convention proceedings, and noted: “All in all, I would say it was one successful convention with some mighty happy members. The Bowling Green convention site was a new location for FMCA, and many members commented on how nice the grounds were and what great facilities we had. We did receive a large number of glowing reports, especially from “˜first-timers,’ about what a great and positive experience the convention was for them. They were amazed at how well-organized the event was and the overabundance of things for them to do. Most (said) they would definitely plan to attend another convention, because this one was so much fun.”
Although they will not take place on a college campus, the festivities will begin anew at FMCA’s 83rd International Convention, March 22-25, 2010, at EXPO New Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and at FMCA’s 84th International Convention, August 11-14, 2010, at the Deschutes County Fair and Expo Center in Redmond, Oregon. It’s not too early to mark your calendars for these jam-packed events.