Plenty of fun “” and a few surprises “” greeted Family Motor Coach Association members who gathered in central New Mexico for the “Albuquerque Fiesta” convention March 22-25, 2010.
By Doug Uhlenbrock, Associate Editor
May 2010The snowcapped Sandia Mountains provided a beautiful backdrop for thousands of motorhomers who funneled into Albuquerque, New Mexico, for FMCA’s 83rd International Convention, March 22 through 25, 2010. Attendees from throughout North America traveled to this Southwestern city to experience the wonder and excitement of this high desert region while sampling the food, culture, and scenery that have made it such a popular travel destination.
Back In The Land Of Enchantment. The “Albuquerque Fiesta” convention marked the fourth time FMCA has visited New Mexico and its second stop in Albuquerque, having called it “home” in March 2004 as well. The city, one of the oldest in America, is centrally located in the state, making it an ideal hub for visitors who wish to explore the surrounding cities of Santa Fe, Roswell, and Las Cruces, or visit the many cultural, geographic, and historic sites scattered throughout the area.
Two major interstate highways “” I-25 and I-40 “” intersect in Albuquerque, providing easy access to motorhomers coming from all directions. That is, unless you happened to be traveling on a section of highway that was closed due to a first-day-of-spring snowstorm that blanketed the Southwest on Saturday, March 20. The delay proved to be a minor inconvenience for most, as the roads reopened a few hours later and attendees were able to make their way to Albuquerque to be parked before evening. Sunday and Monday proved to be much better days for those arriving “” as well as for the volunteer parkers helping guide the motorhomes into their designated spots “” with dry and pleasant conditions.
The majority of convention activities took place at EXPO New Mexico, while most of the motorhomes were parked at the world-renowned Balloon Fiesta Park. Traveling between the locations was a breeze thanks to the regularly scheduled buses that shuttled attendees from one venue to the other, and the ample parking available for those who chose to commute by towed vehicle.
Counting The Coaches. The official motorhome count for the “Albuquerque Fiesta” convention was 1,870, which included 1,717 family coaches and 153 commercial coaches. Although the turnout was lower than expected “” in part because of the winter that never seemed to end, as well as the economy still struggling to regain footing following the downturn of the past two years “” attendees still enjoyed the fun, educational and shopping opportunities, and fellowship that are staples of FMCA international conventions.
Let The Fiesta Begin! Attendees had plenty of time on Saturday and Sunday to settle into their campsite, visit with old friends, and make new acquaintances before the convention got under way. The first official function was “Games Night” on Sunday at the Balloon Fiesta Park Entertainment Tent. Hundreds of convention-goers spent the starry evening playing card bingo and socializing.
A beautiful, crisp morning greeted attendees on Monday as they flocked to EXPO New Mexico for the official opening of convention activities. At 9:30 a.m., members converged on the Creative Arts Center for the Chapter Fair, where they could find out more about the groups that give FMCA its unique family atmosphere. Representatives from approximately 50 chapters set up table displays where they showcased their chapter’s activities and spoke with members about the fun and fellowship that can be found through chapter participation. Many of the chapters in attendance revolve around a geographic location, while others have a specific interest, such as amateur radio, computers, full-timing, Habitat for Humanity, and more. Also included were groups affiliated with the Angel Bus organization and military veterans hoping to attract members to new FMCA chapters that are in the formation process. Each of the FMCA areas also was represented at a table as well. Participating chapters reported that the event was a great success, with many groups signing up new members on the spot.
At the same time the Chapter Fair was taking place, 77 golfers hit the links at the Sandia Golf Club for FMCA’s Albuquerque Golf Classic. While the 8:00 a.m. shotgun start was delayed due to frost on the course, the temperatures soon climbed into the mid-60s, presenting competitors with perfect conditions to challenge the scenic par-72 layout. The scramble-format tournament was won by the foursome of Dan Foshee, Larry Hanlon, John Liegl, and Les White, who carded a 7-under-par 65 to win by a stroke over the group of Don Saur, Kay Saur, Brian Herndon, and Sharon Herndon (66). Third place was awarded to the foursome of Jim Goetzinger, Pat Goetzinger, Ken Peebles, and Diane Peebles (67) following a tie-breaker. Closest-to-the-pin prizes were awarded to Margaret Swingle (women) and Don Saur (men).
Tournament organizer Bill Marti was happy with the turnout. “It indicates to me that a golf outing for convention participants is a desired activity, and I hope the host areas and Convention Committee will consider this a regular event at future international conventions,” he said.
Back at EXPO New Mexico, convention-goers familiarized themselves with the grounds; enjoyed mariachi music by Los Reyes de Albuquerque as well as the guitar-playing expertise of John P. Martinez at the Daytime Entertainment Stage; and grabbed a bite to eat while awaiting the “Motorhome Preview” at 1:00 p.m. When the gates opened, attendees flowed into the coach display area to tour the latest models brought by the motorhome manufacturers and to find out details about what could be their next home on wheels.
As an added bonus at this convention, several companies were randomly selected to exhibit motorhomes in the “Coach of the Day” area adjacent to the Daytime Entertainment Stage on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. This front-and-center exhibit area was busy throughout the event. On Monday evening, members gathered at the Balloon Fiesta Entertainment Tent for a showing of Disney-Pixar’s animated hit Up during “Movie Night.” Since you can’t catch a flick without refreshments, popcorn, candy, and soft drinks were available so movie-goers could enjoy the full theatrical experience.
Full Steam Ahead. The convention kicked into high gear on Tuesday with Coffee Hour held under the entertainment tents at both Balloon Fiesta Park and EXPO New Mexico, repeating on Wednesday and Thursday mornings and sponsored by Roadmaster Inc, C2952. Although it was chilly at 7:00 a.m. each day, the steaming coffee, hot chocolate, and Krispy Kreme doughnuts brought warmth to the hands and faces of those who stopped by for their rise-and-shine nourishment.
Adding to the festive atmosphere at Balloon Fiesta Park each morning were FMCA’s own Frustrated Maestros, who energized the crowd with a selection of lively tunes.
Although a number of seminars were presented Monday, the full slate of educational opportunities began on Tuesday and ran throughout the convention. In all, more than 140 seminars were presented, including 38 new classes and seven proprietary seminars. Gary Bunzer, the “RV Doctor,” packed the rooms for his technical seminars that covered topics such as appliance maintenance, troubleshooting the plumbing system, photovoltaics, and optimizing the RV battery system. Another seminar that was so popular a fourth session was added was the Kiln-Fused Glass Jewelry craft class, where participants could create their own stained-glass jewelry, fire it in a 1,500-degree kiln, and wear it the same day.
Also open for business beginning Tuesday morning was the full complement of exhibit areas, giving folks the opportunity to see “” and buy “” the newest RV-related products to make life on the road more enjoyable, along with those can’t-live-without items every motorhomer carries on board.
When folks weren’t learning or shopping, they could stop by the Daytime Entertainment Stage for some laughs provided by Ken Karter and the Funny Dummy Show; a tribute to the “King” of rock “˜n’ roll by Elvis Chavez; and classical guitar music from Ronaldo Baca, accompanied by his flamenco dancers. Other acts that kept the atmosphere lively during the daytime hours were jazz guitarist Waynes Wesley Johnson; Inka Gold; America Indian flute player Adrian Wall; the New Mexican Marimba Band; American Indian singer Shelley Morningsong and the Fontenelle Family Dance Group; and the Trumpet Geezers, who also provided entertainment for the Red Hat Social on Thursday, courtesy of Kiley Mold Company, C7252, and FMCA.
Capping off the day, Tuesday evening brought a fast-paced, crowd-pleasing performance by the Pink Flamingo Express at the Sandia Casino & Resort Ballroom. The show included cameo appearances by several members of the audience, including FMCA national president Charlie Schrenkel, and Rocky Mountain Area vice president Allen Rein. On Wednesday night, Grammy-winning recording artist B.J. Thomas filled the ballroom with a selection of his hits from yesteryear along with some of his newer songs. Rounding out the slate of evening entertainment on Thursday was a Western performance by the Flying J Wranglers at the Balloon Fiesta Entertainment Tent, along with an abbreviated balloon glow, thanks to 15-mph winds. Gerry and Kathy Dunn, Vern Bultema, and David Lohman had front-row seats for the Wranglers in Tempachair heated director chairs, which they won in a prize drawing during the convention.
A Convention First. Although the calendar said spring was in the air, Mother Nature apparently had a different plan for the folks in Albuquerque on Wednesday, providing one more blast of winter weather. The day started cold and overcast, and by mid-morning a few flurries were floating to the ground. Then the skies opened up and a steady snow began to fall, marking the first time a measurable snowfall had occurred during an FMCA international convention.
The conditions forced the Beanbag Toss game, scheduled for 9:00 a.m. outside near the Daytime Entertainment Stage, to be moved to a more comfortable playing area inside the Creative Arts Center. The outside temperatures also prompted organizers to relocate the Ice Cream Social, sponsored by Miller Insurance Agency, C3045, to Tingley Coliseum where attendees could enjoy their frozen treats without freezing themselves.
As afternoon wore on, the sun came out and the temperature rose into the high 40s, melting away any accumulated snow on the grassy areas. If you hadn’t seen it yourself, you never would have believed that just a few hours earlier, the “Albuquerque Fiesta” was a winter wonderland.
By Thursday, spring returned to the area with plenty of sunshine and temperatures back into the 60s, giving attendees ample opportunity to visit the coach display area one more time, to play in the Beanbag Baseball tournament, and to enjoy the daytime entertainment. Even Centennial Charlie, the 34-inch American black bear stuffed animal that serves as the ambassador for Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s 100-year celebration of RVing, was out shaking paws and getting his picture taken with fellow RV enthusiasts.
Leaving Something Behind. FMCA traditionally has made it a point to give something back to the host community that it visits for its conventions, and the “Albuquerque Fiesta” was no different. Members of the On-Road Quilters group work year-round to make quilts, blankets, and other items that they donate to local groups that serve children in some way. On Thursday in the Information Center these creations were on display for all to see before they were passed along to Project Linus, a nationwide charitable organization that provides quilts for kids in hospitals and other charities that offer services to children. In Albuquerque, the On-Road Quilters donated 42 quilts, seven crocheted blankets, and four handmade teddy bears to the organization.
Arlene Kaminski of the FMCA Chapter: Habitat for Humanity® made a quilt from used (but cleaned) Habitat for Humanity T-shirts donated by chapter members. The quilt was raffled off during the convention to support the building work the chapter does. Habitat for Humanity has been a designated FMCA charity for many years, with the money received going to help fund the varied projects the chapter is involved with each year.
And the Professional R.V. Vendors chapter (PRVVC) encouraged attendees to drop off non-perishable food items (or monetary donations) at one of its indoor exhibit booths to be donated to the local food bank.
In addition, convention attendees were encouraged to bring used eyeglasses to the Information Center for donation to the Lions’ Foundation Eye Program. In Albuquerque, 54 pairs of eyeglasses were donated.
Get Ready To Rock. Start preparing now to attend FMCA’s “Redmond Rocks! Feel The Excitement” convention, which will take place Wednesday through Saturday, August 11-14, 2010, at the Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center in Redmond, Oregon. Situated in Central Oregon in the shadows of the Cascade Mountains, the area offers breathtaking scenery, plenty of outdoor activities, and a terrific natural setting for motorhomers to gather and enjoy good times together. Be sure to bring the kids along to participate in the Youth Program and the other family-friendly activities that will be presented during the convention. See the registration form on page 64 A&B of this month’s magazine for more information; or call (800) 543-3622 or visit www.fmca.com to sign up now.