FMCA’s 90th Family Reunion and Motorhome Showcase left attendees with a mental photo album filled with good times and great friends in scenic Central Oregon.
By Robbin Gould, Editor
The signs were everywhere. On the premises of local businesses. At entrances to the Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center. Outside doors to seminar rooms, activity areas, and exhibit buildings. Near tram stops. And posted on FMCA.com for virtual access. All clear signals that an FMCA Family Reunion was on the horizon.
The signs and signals came together August 13-16, 2014, for FMCA’s 90th Family Reunion and Motorhome Showcase in Redmond, Oregon. The event featured the theme “High Desert Sunrise,” a nod to Redmond’s location in the heart of Oregon, an area known for snowcapped mountain ranges, fertile farmland, and high desert plateaus.
The coach count for FMCA’s 90th Family Reunion was officially tallied at 1,876. This number included 1,474 family coaches and 402 commercial coaches. The 2014 Reunion marked FMCA’s fifth international event to be held on the premises; previous conventions took place there in 2001, 2004, 2007, and 2010.
Why a return visit? The 132-acre Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center adapted to FMCA’s needs at every turn. The facility’s circular layout fanned motorhome parking around buildings that accommodated seminars, meetings, entertainment, exhibits, and other activity areas. A tranquil lake, providing refuge to duck families, was the spot for opening ceremonies, morning coffee hour, entertainment, and an ice cream social. Landscaped lawns and paved paths provided easy access to well-kept buildings, some named after nearby mountains: North Sister, Middle Sister, and South Sister. In total, seven snowcapped peaks are said to be visible from the Expo Center grounds.
Other signs of a Family Reunion in progress included the sight of attendees milling around the FMCA Information Center. The building was the hub for sign-ups to take part in area tours, craft classes, coach weighing, and more. Attendees learned about the Redmond area from chamber of commerce representatives and also picked up material featuring Madison, Wisconsin, site of FMCA’s 92nd Family Reunion next summer. They utilized the “internet kiosk,” which included a computer help desk manned by Bits & Bytes chapter members.
Some were surprised by the sight of rain that fell intermittently during the first days. But activities proceeded as scheduled, with no weather-related cancellations. “So much for this being a dry part of the state,” FMCA executive director Jerry Yeatts quipped during the event. “But everybody seems to be taking the rain in stride.” A couple of unexpected “treats” were the cooler, comfortable temperatures, and even more colorful sunrises and sunsets.
What To Do First?
Once attendees were parked and settled in, they had a few decisions to make. Early-arriving members had the opportunity to attend “movie night” on Monday, which featured a screening of Redwood Highway, starring Oscar nominee Shirley Knight and Tom Skerritt, and filmed in Oregon. Tuesday evening featured card bingo, coordinated by the Singles International chapter.
It was reported that nearly 25 percent of attendees were participating in their first FMCA Family Reunion. Their “newbie” status was signified by a brown ribbon attached to their event badges, which encouraged veteran attendees to extend a hand of welcome, share a special hello, and perhaps provide tips about must-do activities.
The “Orientation For First-Time Attendees,” an upbeat presentation by Jerry Yeatts, pointed many neophytes in the right direction by providing them helpful advice on how to make the most of their Redmond experience.
Learning seems paramount for motorhomers, especially topics that concern coach components and systems, plus ways to enhance enjoyment of the lifestyle. Redmond attendees could choose from among 147 scheduled seminar sessions—nearly 200 hours’ worth, not including area caucuses and gatherings. Signs of learning were evident in the 11 rooms that were set up for presentations regarding myriad topics, e. g., towing; motorhome tires, chassis, and generators; microwave-convection cooking; coach cleaning tips; genealogy, geocaching, or photography; escorted RV caravans; and traveling with pets.
According to FMCA staff reports, some of the most popular seminars in Redmond were the computer and smartphone sessions offered by Jim and Chris Guld of Geeks on Tour. The 2014 Redmond Family Reunion marked the 10th year Jim and Chris have been presenting seminars at FMCA events.
Exhibits, Exhibits, Exhibits
“High Desert Sunrise” attendees had the opportunity to tour Type A, B, and C motorhomes; custom coach conversions; and motorhome chassis on display in the outdoor exhibit area. Vehicle doors officially opened when the “Motorhome Preview” commenced on a damp Wednesday evening. For the remaining three days, both outdoor and indoor exhibits opened to curious crowds.
Folks seemed to take a shine to the retro Winnebago Brave motorhome, sporting an exterior design reminiscent of its 1960s-1970s appearance. Those who enjoy marveling at the most opulent units were not disappointed, either; among these was a custom conversion by Marathon Coach Corporation that came with a $2.1 million price tag. Of course, the popularity of smaller, fuel-friendly motorhomes was in evidence as well, judging by the numerous Roadtrek models and others displayed, most based on the fuel-efficient Sprinter chassis.
Two buildings — the Bank of the Cascades Event Center and the High Desert Activity Center — housed rows upon rows of exhibits proffering numerous products and services for RVers and their homes on wheels. The “FMCA Connections” area encompassed the heart of association information, services provided by FMCA partners, and FMCA logo merchandise for sale.
The Frustrated Maestros, composed of members from FMCA’s various Frustrated Maestros chapters, reprised their musical role much as they’ve done since the first Frustrated Maestros chapter was established in 1981. As always, group members were recognizable in the classic Frustrated Maestros “uniform” of red shirts with white pants, shorts, or skirts. They performed prior to opening ceremonies on Wednesday evening. They returned bright and early Thursday, Friday, and Saturday mornings to entertain the coffee hour crowds, and musicians also played during Friday’s ice cream social. From the U.S. and Canadian national anthems to musical salutes to each branch of the military, and familiar numbers in between, the Maestros covered the musical gamut.
During at least one performance, a tuba sat on stage, topped with a red cap — no doubt a tribute to Bob Gobrecht, founder of the original Frustrated Maestros chapter, who played the tuba.
Thursday evening’s entertainment program featured a Family Reunion first: three acts occurring simultaneously at three venues. The Young Bucs journeyed back to the bomber-jacket, poodle-skirt days with their doo-wop vocal styling. Their first number had barely begun when people jumped up to dance. On a second stage, singer Johnny Goodrum, a familiar figure to many RVers, performed classic rock hits from the 1970s and ’80s. And on a third stage, 25-year-old vocalist-keyboardist Brady Goss delivered a terrific musical evening with an array of mostly contemporary hits and some original material, which was enjoyed by a capacity crowd.
Friday evening’s entertainment program invited audience members to reminisce and recall popular rock and folk tunes from the 1960s, compliments of William Florian, a former lead singer for The New Christy Minstrels. His playlist included some of the numbers he performed with that band, plus a host of others from the era.
On Saturday evening, a concert featuring Johnny Cash, Garth Brooks, and myriad other country singers … or at least their voices … was presented at Juniper Arena by comedian/impressionist Johnny Counterfit. Along with his realistic renditions of many singers, Johnny included impressions of other well-known figures, including comedians Rodney Dangerfield and Paul Lynde, along with a passel of U.S. presidents.
The up-and-coming sport of pickleball was demonstrated by members of the local Bend Pickleball Club. A.J. Fraties, club president, estimated that between 120 and 150 people gathered for a demonstration of the sport, which is a hybrid of tennis, Ping-Pong, and badminton. “We’re sure wherever people were on the fairgrounds, they heard the hooting, hollering, and laughter. It was a gas!” he said. Charlie Adcock and Jon Walker, FMCA national president and national vice president, respectively, engaged in a friendly “p-ball” competition with club members prior to the Governing Board meeting on Wednesday morning.
Coffee hour attracted early birds on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday mornings, and not just those partaking of the treats. Volunteers arrived before sunup to set up the doughnuts, coffee, and hot chocolate; by 7:00 a.m., they were ready to serve smiles and greetings along with the food and drink. Copies of the local Bend Bulletin newspaper and the event’s official newsletter, “High Desert Sunrise News,” were distributed as well. While stopping by for a freshly made doughnut, attendees were observed running into old buddies, chatting with newfound friends, listening to the music of the Frustrated Maestros, or merely grabbing a quick cup of joe before tackling the day.
The Gold Digger Game boasted a scavenger-hunt flavor. Players searched the convention site for 12 signs attached to gold shovels secured in concrete; participants then answered a multiple-choice question attached to each one. Their completed game cards were entered in a drawing for a 13-day Baja whale-watching caravan in 2015, provided by the FMCA Tour Connection powered by Fantasy RV Tours (a $2,675 value), as well as admission to FMCA’s March 2015 Family Reunion in Pomona, California. Neil Stickney from Sweet, Idaho, won this fabulous prize.
Fantasy RV Tours conducted another prize drawing prior to the start of Wednesday’s evening entertainment program. Gary and Rita Davidson from Casa Grande, Arizona, were on hand to accept their reservation for a 37-day Baja caravan for two (a $4,595 value).
The sun shone down on the popular ice cream social early on Friday afternoon. Attendees moved through the line with astonishing speed, no doubt thanks to the experienced serving skills of Full Timers chapter members, some of whom wore party hats for the occasion.
Some call it cornhole; others say Baggo. Regardless of the name, FMCA’s Bean Bag Toss welcomed players of all skill levels. The friendly competition was coordinated by members of the Singles International chapter. Players were seen slinging bean bags onto slanted game boards to earn points — the most points awarded if the missiles fell through the hole in the board.
Al Vormittag, national vice president, International Area, refereed the Golf Cart Skills Course on Saturday afternoon. During this challenge, male-female tandems took turns steering a golf cart along the course Al had designed in an attempt to clock the fastest time. The route incorporated twists and turns, a backup maneuver, and a couple of stops where each team had to hop out and switch drivers.
The ladies’ social drew several hundred attendees of various generations, also on Saturday afternoon. Some participants were festive in their red, pink, or purple hats; all enjoyed light refreshments and a vocal performance by FMCA member Susan Hollingshead. Lucky winners went home with door prizes.
Spirit Of ’45
As mentioned in previous issues of Family Motor Coaching, FMCA supports the “Spirit of ’45 Day” campaign, a movement across America that was congressionally endorsed in 2010. The campaign recognizes the end of World War II on August 14, 1945, and is dedicated to honoring the “ordinary heroes” of that time. Spirit of ’45 Day, celebrated on the second Sunday each August, recognizes the achievements of the men and women of the wartime era and hopes to inspire future generations.
Oregon Spirit of ’45 Day representative Barbara Jensen spoke about the effort, including scheduled 2015 events, prior to Saturday’s evening entertainment program. She was joined by a bugler; a four-member color guard; and Dr. Yvonne Fasold, president of the Rosie the Riveter Association, an organization that honors the working women of the World War II era. A video of the official National Spirit of ’45 anthem — “Oceans Away,” sung by Elton John — was also unveiled.
Volunteers are the lifeblood of many events, and that rings true of FMCA Family Reunions. More than 600 FMCA members assisted in Redmond. Many first-time attendees were spotted lending a hand in various areas, which included parking, radio crew, safety, security, trams, utilities, coffee hour, computer help desk, early security, FMCA Store, Frustrated Maestros, fun & games, handicapped and activity golf carts, ice cream social, information, ladies’ social, parking, security, seminars, trams, volunteer coordinator, welcome volunteers . . . whew! Such a sizable event would not materialize without their good-natured efforts. Thank you!
“Once again, our members who volunteered stepped up to the plate and helped out where needed,” said Andy Balogh, national vice president, Western Area, host area for the Redmond Family Reunion. “Many not only volunteered for one position, but took on two or more with a smile. We were all proud of what they accomplished to make our convention run smoothly.”
Signs Of Future Fun
Folks who plan ahead will want to place next year’s Family Reunions on their calendar. FMCA’s 91st Family Reunion and Motorhome Showcase is slated for March 26-29, 2015, at Fairplex in Pomona, California. The association then heads east to celebrate the 92nd Family Reunion at Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wisconsin, July 29-August 1, 2015.