A close-knit community was created in the heart of Oregon during FMCA’s 84th International Convention.
By Robbin Gould, Editor
As the old saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Neither is a Family Motor Coach Association convention. One might argue, however, that a small city springs up within mere days of the first FMCA members’ arrival at a convention venue. Such a phenomenon occurred this past August when motorhomers converged in Central Oregon at the Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center in Redmond for FMCA’s 84th International Convention. The event was dubbed “Redmond Rocks! Feel The Excitement!” And attendees appeared to do just that.
The actual days of the event spanned Wednesday, August 11, through Saturday, August 14, and drew a total of 2,282 coaches “” 2,008 family coaches and 274 commercial coaches.
More Facts And Figures
FMCA members are no strangers to the Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center, as the “Redmond Rocks!” convention marked the fourth association convention to be held at this venue. Previous FMCA gatherings took place there in 2001, 2004, and 2007.
The facility encompasses 132 acres and hosts the county fair and rodeo each summer, not to mention hundreds of other events, including conferences, equestrian competitions, and more. The facility is designed on a circular plot, which put most buildings housing convention activities in relatively close proximity. Landscaped areas feature grassy tracts, ponds, a waterfall, and even a windmill. Beyond the fairgrounds, attendees could view a panorama of snowcapped mountain peaks, including Mount Bachelor; North, Middle, and South Sister; Brokentop; and Mount Jefferson; plus Smith Rock farther away. Combined with picture-postcard skies, the grounds made for a perfect sojourn.
Despite the months “” actually, years “” of planning that go into an FMCA convention, one ingredient that can’t be controlled is Mother Nature. In Oregon, she cooperated! Attendees enjoyed pleasant weather at a time when other parts of the country were enduring a summer heat wave. Rain was nonexistent, and although daytime temperatures sometimes crept into the high 80s, low humidity and gentle breezes made the heat tolerable for most folks.
Feel The Friendship!
Although FMCA conventions typically include ample opportunities for fellowship and fun, a strong sense of camaraderie seemed to flow through the “Redmond Rocks!” crowd. “The feeling in the air, and the atmosphere among the members at this convention, was one of friendliness; enjoying the good times and sharing the experience of being together and renewing old friendships, making new ones, and just having a plain old good time in the shadow of some of the most beautiful mountain scenery in the Northwest,” commented Charlie Schrenkel, FMCA national president.
Perhaps harking back to early FMCA conventions, when sack races and tug-of-war competitions were part of the festivities, the Redmond gathering incorporated some good old-fashioned fun, plus twists on more current games. Card bingo, beanbag baseball, a dunking booth, a wet T-shirt (throwing) contest, an ice cream social, morning coffee hour, a Red Hat Social, miniature golf, and karaoke were among the scheduled activities.
Special theme days also galvanized the group. Friday was designated “Free Hugs Day,” and convention-goers were encouraged to be seen with a “free hugs” sign “” either one they created themselves, or a sign provided by FMCA. Some folks wore these signs on their clothing, while others dressed in T-shirts bearing similar messages. Members of FMCA’s Surprise Patrol were on the prowl to spot attendees who were enjoying themselves. They awarded some of these fun-seekers with “Bonus Bucks,” which were good for purchases at the indoor exhibit booths and concession areas.
But folks didn’t necessarily need a sign to spread the “Free Hugs” message. They collected hugs from old and newfound friends. Even first-time attendees, with brown “first convention” ribbons attached to their badges, wasted no time joining in the camaraderie.
The Surprise Patrol was on duty on Saturday as well, looking for folks having fun on “FMCA Day.” This time attendees were encouraged to show their association pride by stepping out in apparel bearing the FMCA logo. A proliferation of fashionable FMCA jackets, shirts, hats, and more were seen on members around the convention grounds.
Even “Centennial Charlie” was on hand to hobnob with conventioneers. The large, stuffed American black bear is touring the country as the mascot of the RV industry’s yearlong “RV Centennial Celebration.”
Maybe it was a hopeful sign of an improving economy, or perhaps it was the perennial interest FMCA members have in new motorhome models and RV products. Whatever the reasons, attendees turned out in large numbers to explore the indoor and outdoor displays.
Late Thursday afternoon and continuing into the evening, the outdoor exhibits opened for an exclusive “Parade Of Lights” motorhome preview. Gorgeous emerald-blue skies and gradually fading temperatures made for comfortable strolling through the two outdoor exhibit areas. Convention attendees toured a wide-ranging assemblage of Type A, B, and C motorhomes, in addition to custom bus conversions, and viewed motorhome chassis, too. A number of 2011 models joined the 2010 units on display.
As an added bonus throughout the convention, several RV manufacturers and dealers were randomly selected to exhibit motorhomes in a special “Coach of the Day” area, located adjacent to the Daytime Entertainment Stage. Featured models changed daily.
On Friday morning, the indoor exhibits opened for an exclusive preview. The aisles became jam-packed as conventioneers arrived to inspect RV components and accessories, as well as products for the coach and home, and to learn about resorts, travel locations, and more. Some vendors reportedly sold out of their product inventory that first day, necessitating hasty arrangements for more to be delivered for the duration of the show.
Attendees were invited to stretch their mental horizons as far as they desired. A total of 136 seminars were conducted during this convention, including five sessions added on-site when the initial seminar sessions filled to capacity. Altogether, 119 topics were covered, spanning a breadth of technical and nontechnical subjects. Attendees gathered for the always-popular towing roundtable and supplemental braking discussions, along with such presentations as satellite TV; engine and chassis maintenance; generator maintenance; RV weight and tire safety; and a new “ask the experts” forum in which audience members could receive answers to specific technical inquiries. Other seminars addressed full-time RVing; Internet tips; geocaching; microwave-convection oven cooking; and RVing to Alaska, Atlantic Canada, Mexico “” even a South African RV safari. Fitness sessions took place each morning, and various health-related topics were presented in traditional seminars throughout the week.
During FMCA Area Gatherings on Friday afternoon, FMCA members met officers from their particular geographic area, as well as those from the International Area. They also were invited to learn about the state of the association during the annual membership meeting on Saturday morning. Various other business meetings took place as well, including Wednesday’s Governing Board meeting, not to mention countless chapter meetings and socials.
What’s an FMCA convention without entertainment? Bright and early each day, folks converged at Coffee Hour, where doughnuts and morning beverages were served by cheerful volunteers. Meantime, music performed by members of FMCA’s Frustrated Maestros chapters emanated from the nearby Daytime Entertainment Stage.
The Daytime Entertainment Stage also hosted a number of Oregon-based entertainers, versed in varied musical genres, during the morning and afternoon hours. In addition, Mr. Magic (also known as Roger Smith) and the popular FMCA musical duo Bernie & Red delivered some delightfully comedic moments during their performances.
FMCAers who had arrived on the grounds early had the opportunity to go to the movies Monday night and view The Long, Long Trailer, the 1954 classic romantic comedy starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Todd Fisher, son of movie star Debbie Reynolds, delivered a brief introduction and revealed some behind-the-scenes facts about the film. He also brought along an actual costume Lucille Ball wore in the movie. This piece of memorabilia is preserved as part of the Debbie Reynolds Hollywood Movie Museum collection.
On Tuesday evening, a standing-room-only crowd was mesmerized by the humor and nostalgic stories set forth by Debbie Reynolds herself. Remarking that “Laughter is a great ingredient of life,” the actress poked fun at herself and her trio of marriages and shared some tales from her family’s long-ago trip in a Condor motorhome. She provided commentary as the audience viewed a string of musical clips from her movies. Debbie also showed a “blooper” movie reel from vintage films, which had the audience in stitches. (For more about Debbie Reynolds, see the article that begins on page 76.)
On Thursday night FMCAers were wowed by The Texas Tenors, a vocal trio that rose to fame during the 2009 season of the hit television show “America’s Got Talent.” These classically trained vocalists effortlessly performed a blend of gospel, country, classical, and Broadway melodies, providing what some convention-goers proclaimed was the convention’s best night of entertainment.
Music lovers were invited to be “Parrotheads” on Friday evening “” a term that describes fans of musician Jimmy Buffett “” when the Live Bait band reprised Jimmy Buffett tunes, as well as beach and party music made famous by the likes of Bob Marley and others.
On Saturday evening, gears switched to the music of the Motor City, performed by Forever Motown. Members of this group took audience members on a nostalgic journey celebrating rhythm and blues tunes made popular by Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, and other musical greats.
Beyond The Convention Circle
Those interested in exploring the local area could select from a variety of sight-seeing tours arranged for convention-goers. These included treks to Shaniko Ghost Town and John Day Fossil Beds National Monument; the Cascade Lakes Highway; the town of Sisters, known as a quilter’s mecca; Tumalo Farms, to sample wines and artisan cheeses; Deschutes Brewery and the Old Mill District; and public art displays in Bend.
Transportation also was provided to Redmond High School for “Central Oregon’s Tribute To Heroes,” which featured one of the largest traveling replicas of the Washington, D.C.-based Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Representatives were on hand to help FMCAers locate the names of relatives and friends on the wall. The traveling display was sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars – Deschutes Post #4108.
During Debbie Reynolds’ presentation on Tuesday evening, she commented, “I think it’s wonderful to have a network of friendship like you all have.” Indeed, many FMCA members treasure the friendships and “family” of friends they’ve made within the organization “” but the community concept doesn’t stop there. In Redmond, as at past conventions, attendees showed their generosity and their commitment to leaving a place better than they found it.
Used eyeglasses were collected during the convention for donation to the Lions’ Foundation Eye Program. The collection netted 118 pairs of eyeglasses for this effort.
A food collection was spearheaded by the PRVVC (Professional RV Vendors Chapter). The chapter encouraged attendees to bring nonperishable food items to the PRVVC booth in the indoor exhibit area for donation to the Redmond food pantry.
The On-Road Quilters “” a group of FMCA members who enjoy quilting “” donated 40 handmade quilts and blankets and three stuffed teddy bears to the East of the Cascades Quilt Guild, which provides quilts to local charities that offer services for area children with serious illnesses or who are otherwise in need.
Members of the FMCA Chapter: Habitat for Humanity®, which supports Habitat for Humanity International and its North America affiliates in building affordable housing for families, assisted in the construction of a home in Bend, Oregon, following the convention.
On Friday afternoon, while convention-goers milled around at the Ice Cream Social nearby, a number of FMCA national officers made a splash in the Dunk Tank. Other willing participants included competitive skiers Evelyn Dong and Kristina Strandberg, and Jerry Yeatts, FMCA’s director of conventions and commercial services. For a small donation, convention attendees could throw balls at a target in an attempt to dump the “dunkees” into the tank. This comical event raised $500 for the Oregon Nordic Ski Foundation, a nonprofit organization committed to advancing and supporting amateur athletes who represent the United States in the Olympics and other major international races.
FMCA members took advantage of the various recycling containers that dotted the fairgrounds. These are maintained by volunteers from the Humane Society of Redmond, which assists neglected, unwanted, and sick animals in the community. During the convention attendees deposited 4,216 refundable bottles and cans, with a recyclable value of $210.80.
Something In The Air?
Was this convention different from others? FMCA president Charlie Schrenkel noted that he and other Executive Board members made an effort to chat with numerous FMCA members during the convention. “All told us that there was something in the air, something about this convention that they couldn’t put their finger on that made it one of the best that they had been to in a long time,” he said. “I believe that “˜something’ was us, sharing a unique experience with each other in a beautiful place “” and having fun!”
The next opportunities for convention fun occur in 2011. Event organizers are already planning FMCA’s 85th International Convention March 14-17, in Perry, Georgia, and the association’s 86th International Convention August 10-13, 2011, in Madison, Wisconsin.