By Dennis and Cheryl Denoi, F341048
As much of the United States was being blanketed with snow from a historically large and fast-moving storm that transformed countless communities into winter wonderlands, small convoys of motorhomes were heading for the warm and sunny Coachella Valley in Southern California. Their destination: FMCA’s Western Area Rally, which was held January 8-12, 2014, at the Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival grounds in Indio, California.
When the 300-plus first-time attendees approached the end of their journey and entered the impressive Arabian-style fairgrounds gates, they may have thought they made a wrong turn or somehow traveled back in time. The giant Arabian genie and majestic lantern, plus the impressive desert landscape and the rows of stately date palm trees surrounding several buildings and structures, create scenes reminiscent of The Arabian Nights and Aladdin.
However, once the friendly greeters and road guards came back into view, the motorhomers quickly realized that they had arrived safely and would soon be taking in all of the sights, sounds, food, and activities of this year’s event.
We had many of the same thoughts when we first laid eyes on the fairgrounds. However, as “salty” second-timers to this rally and newbie members of the Apollo Amigos chapter, this year we knew what to expect. In fact, we enjoyed attending last year’s rally so much we decided to join the ranks of the many invaluable rally volunteers. Therefore, we arrived several days early and enjoyed the special camaraderie that is shared among chapter members who volunteer their time and services to help reduce the rally’s overall cost and ensure its success.
It was amazing to observe the quiet fairgrounds come alive with member motorhomes of all sizes entering the facility; the “Big Top” vendor tent rising into the desert sky; and the convoys of new and used coaches being staged. Food stands were readied as the workers cleaned, erected, and fired up the massive grills, which quickly filled the air with the aroma of mesquite and well-cooked meats, poultry, and the all-so-popular roasted corn on the cob.
Several tractor-trailer-size AC generators were strategically staged around the parking areas as work crews laid out 30-amp power cords with the precision of combat engineers establishing a military rear area encampment. One by one, the parking areas came alive with electricity just in time to accommodate the 1,000-plus RVs of every size and description that would take up residence here for a few days.
As the rally’s kickoff date crept closer, the size and frequency of the caravans grew larger, turning the Will Call/On-Site Registration and Welcome Bag tents into beehives of activity. The dedicated volunteers answered questions, solved problems, and ensured that attendees were checked in, set up, and free to explore the rally.
All rally activities were coordinated and supervised under the watchful and helpful eyes of Rick Ricordati, national vice president, Western Area; co-rally masters Dick Gibbs and Lon Cross; and numerous rally captains who are responsible for every scheduled activity throughout the entire event, from setup to teardown.
Leave it to the Western Motor Home Association leaders to turn this Arabian Mecca into “Dogpatch USA,” the theme of this year’s rally. Everywhere you went throughout the fairgrounds, you would see the construction of floats complete with ramshackle shacks, stills, and outhouses. Comfortable walking shoes and shorts were replaced with bib overalls, flannel shirts, and worn-out boots. On the day of the parade, you could not turn a corner without running into Daisy Mae, Li’l Abner, and the rest of their hillbilly clan.
The rally was packed with seminars, craft classes, vendors, and entertainment, not to mention RV repair services of every type. The Ice Cream Social was a big hit, and the warm desert breezes guaranteed the lines were full.
A favorite activity at every Western Area Rally is the Ladies Tea and Fashion Show, and this year, close to 500 tickets were sold. Attendees enjoyed tea, cookies, door prizes, entertainment, and, of course, a fashion show.
Speaking of fashion shows, new for this year’s rally was the Pet Style Show. Think of it as a dog show that is open to any traveling pets, to include cats, dogs, birds, rabbits, and more. There were no losers, and this event is destined to become an annual activity and rally favorite.
Evening entertainment included bingo; a performance by New Odyssey, a trio who plays 30 instruments; and comedian Carl Hurley, who brought clean and entertaining humor, styled after Andy Griffith and Garrison Keillor. The final night’s entertainment was “Boomerama Blast,” featuring the Miller, Miller, Martin, & Ki band. The group entertained the crowd with vocals, rich harmonies, and groovy songs from the 1950s through the 70s.
If you have never attended an FMCA Family Reunion or area rally, we encourage you to consider joining the fun. The next Western Area Rally is scheduled for January 7-11, 2015, in Indio. So make a wish, follow your dreams, and let your inner kid loose. Who knows; you may like it so much that you’ll become one of the dedicated volunteers who make it all happen.