Motorhomers made merry at FMCA’s 93rd Family Reunion and Motorhome Showcase.
By Robbin Gould, Editor
Photos By Guy Kasselmann, Art Director
Members convened at the Georgia National Fairgrounds & Agricenter, in the heart of the Peach State, where they hailed the season, St. Patrick’s Day, and the association’s 93rd Family Reunion and Motorhome Showcase. The March 17-20 event was aptly nicknamed “Find Your Pot Of Gold.”
The official coach count was tallied at 2,601. This number included 2,186 family coaches and 415 commercial coaches.
Even before the vernal equinox arrived in Perry at 12:30 a.m. on Sunday, March 20, signs of the new season were everywhere. Trees and bushes had burst into bloom, the grass glowed emerald green, and pleasant temperatures prevailed. These sights enhanced the already picturesque Georgia National Fairgrounds, with its shimmering lakes, winding paths, billowing flags, and Clock Tower landmark.
The “Find Your Pot Of Gold” event was the ninth FMCA Family Reunion to be held at the 1,100-acre fairgrounds since the association first gathered there in 1996. Entrance marquees seemed to recognize this milestone, proclaiming, “Welcome Home FMCA.”
“Two things especially stood out for me at this Perry Reunion,” Charlie Adcock, FMCA national president, said. “One was the weather, which was absolutely gorgeous. It only rained at night. Second, the Perry facility is one of the nicest in the country. I love going there because of the facilities and the support we get from the fairgrounds management. They’re always so willing to provide whatever we need.”
Where to start? First-time attendees, especially, may have asked that question upon their arrival. According to FMCA records, approximately 30 percent of Perry registrants were attending their first Family Reunion.
Not surprisingly, a large contingent assembled at the “Orientation For First-Time Attendees,” conducted by FMCA president Charlie Adcock. He provided a lighthearted overview of the goings-on, highlighted FMCA benefits, discussed scheduled activities, and reminded folks, “It’s all about having fun!”
Puttin’ On The Green
Spring wasn’t the only reason Perry attendees saw green. The Family Reunion began on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day. Many folks became caught up in the spirit, regardless of whether they could claim Irish descent. Attendees sported green shirts, green shoes, green socks, green beads, green earrings. Shamrocks, leprechaun hats, and other festive props proliferated.
A golf-cart-decorating contest produced more St. Paddy’s Day embellishments. Bradd Neidhamer from Bradd and Hall, the contest sponsor, served as emcee and judge — with a little help from the audience. Contestants paraded their vehicles like competing purebreds in a Westminster Dog Show. First-place honors went to Doug and Denise Berry; second place to Bill and Sandy Tansey; and third place to Jeff Gattis. Youngsters Breighton and Emmerson Reed received honorable mentions for their entries.
Hands-On Driving Course
Several days prior to the start of the Family Reunion, 42 men and women arrived at the fairgrounds for a motorhome training program powered by the FMCA Academy. The Hands-On Driving Course was coordinated by Walter Cannon, executive director of the RV Safety and Education Foundation, with assistance from other RVSEF driving experts. Enrollees included new motorhome owners, copilots seeking personalized training, and even experienced owners looking to improve their skills.
The two-part curriculum included classroom training and behind-the-wheel instruction. Each student took to the road in his or her own motorhome for one-on-one driving lessons from an RVSEF instructor; no “backseat drivers” were permitted to tag along! Students performed an exterior motorhome inspection; maneuvered into a campsite; worked on depth perception and stopping the vehicle; and learned the “hip” or pivot point for turning, among other techniques. Afterward, each participant received a certificate of completion.
Gaye Young, FMCA national secretary and FMCA Education Committee chair, noted that inexperienced students greatly increased their confidence, while more experienced motorhomers learned new tips to heighten their knowledge. “All agreed that this class was worth the investment, as well as the apprehension and anxiety, to achieve the satisfaction of completion,” she said.
“It was so very clear that not only was it a huge success, but also that we are traveling in the right direction of providing classes to help our members enhance their motorhome lifestyle,” Gaye added.
Seminars, Meetings, And Special Events
Attendees discovered a wealth of knowledge in the technical and nontechnical seminars, which encompassed more than 100 topics. They included basics of motorhome operation, maintenance, component knowledge, towing, and engines. Other sessions delved into computer apps, smartphones, microwave-convection cooking, pet-friendly destinations, caravanning domestically and abroad, coach cleaning, and genealogy. Attendees interested in crafts could make a fabric lanyard, learn needle tatting, or create a wire bracelet.
The On-Road Quilters, a group of FMCAers who love to discuss and share their needlework projects, gathered for a show-and-tell session that was open to all. Members brought 23 quilts, one crocheted blanket, and three infant hats to Perry for the “Quilts For Kids” project. After being displayed for everyone to admire, they were given to the local Crossroads Quilt Guild for donation to agencies that assist children.
Police officers from the Safe Traffic Operation Program in nearby Byron, Georgia, provided a hands-on exercise to illustrate how distracted driving can affect one’s abilities behind the wheel. They set up a road course that attendees maneuvered through on a golf cart while wearing goggles that simulated the effects of impaired or distracted driving.
Handlers and service dogs from the Byron Police Department’s Interstate Criminal Enforcement K-9 Unit explained the skills these teams employ in their day-to-day duties: searching for potentially dangerous criminals, sniffing out marijuana, narcotics, and more; and apprehending fleeing suspects. The K-9 officers in attendance — German shepherds and Belgian Malinois breeds — demonstrated their abilities at finding concealed substances.
Coffee hour began early, though not exactly bright, on three mornings. Because of the change to Daylight Saving Time the previous weekend, chilly darkness greeted the first arrivals. No doubt the fresh Krispy Kreme doughnuts and coffee, tea, and hot chocolate tasted particularly good. The event was a great gathering spot for running into old friends and making new acquaintances.
Coffee hour attendees were entertained by the hardworking musicians and vocalists from FMCA’s Frustrated Maestros chapters, led by Charles Marston. Recognizable in their red-and-white attire, the Maestros performed a mix of instrumental and vocal pieces that included solos, duets, and performances by the entire ensemble. Broadway favorites, pop tunes, old-time country melodies, devotional songs, a military salute . . . you name it; they played it.
On Saturday afternoon, March 19, the sun shone brightly as lines formed for the Ice Cream Social. If crowd size is any indication, FMCAers are an ice-cream-loving bunch. The Frustrated Maestros added to the festivities with another performance.
Where’s Sheldon? Those who enjoy hide-and-seek games kept an eye out for likenesses of Sheldon the turtle, FMCA’s mascot, which were furtively placed inside and outside activity areas.
Other folks played the “Find Your Freedom Trivia Challenge,” sponsored by the FMCA Tour Connection, powered by Fantasy RV Tours. Attendees searched for 13 game signs, representing the 13 original states, and answered an American Revolution-themed trivia question on each. Completed game cards were entered in a drawing that was held prior to evening entertainment on the last day. John and Elizabeth Kusuk, the lucky winners, received complimentary admission to FMCA’s 94th Family Reunion in West Springfield, Massachusetts, in August 2016, and a six-day RV vacation for two to Mesa, Arizona. Nel Filliger, Fantasy RV Tours founder, was on hand to congratulate the couple.
A second prize drawing, also sponsored by Fantasy RV Tours, involved no game playing — just luck. Nel awarded a 27-day New England RV caravan for two to David and Brook Low on another evening.
Other friendly competitions took place in the Entegra Game Zone, including card bingo and a bean bag toss tournament.
Approximately 350 attendees gathered at the Ladies’ Social to enjoy refreshments, friendship, and drawings for door prizes from FMCA exhibitors and local merchants. Ellie Loudermilk, president of the Perry Area Historical Society, narrated a fashion show wherein models wore attire from various periods of local history. “I must say that over the years, Perry has had some very interesting women,” commented Ladies’ Social coordinator Betty Duncan, wife of Southeast Area national vice president Jim Duncan. She expressed thanks for the volunteers who helped decorate tables, collect admission tickets, and pass out door prizes, as well as to all who attended.
Three evenings of comedy and music took place on the “big stage” in Reaves Arena. The first night, comedian Lee Marvin Adams offered up humorous observations, many based on his own experiences and his “somewhat informed points of view.” The former newspaper columnist produced chuckles while painting pictures with words.
The next evening, country music lovers were treated to “Country Unplugged,” an acoustic session starring Mark Chesnutt, Lorrie Morgan, and Joe Diffie. The singers bantered among themselves and accompanied each other on guitar while taking turns singing musical numbers. FMCA president Charlie Adcock and his wife, Gloria, popped up for a slow dance during one number.
More couples danced in the aisles during the final night of entertainment, which featured Pamela G. and Jackie B., “the sweethearts of Mountain View, Arkansas.” They augmented their vocals with Pamela on mountain dulcimer, guitar, and spoons and Jackie on piano.
During the daytime hours, an acoustic music jam united singers and musicians who play guitars, banjos, fiddles, and other instruments. Country, bluegrass, and country gospel music were highlighted in this informal session coordinated by Al Hesselbart, an RV historian with an additional interest in sharing old-time music. Jammers played rhythm as singers took turns at the mic.
FMCAers who enjoy seeing what’s new in motorhomes and RV accessories were amply rewarded in Perry. Outdoors, 275 display units from motorhome manufacturers and dealers were open for inspection, along with chassis and additional demo units. The exhibit coaches represented Type A, B, and C motorhome categories, as well as custom bus conversions. The assembly included diverse models and sizes while appearing to reflect the trend toward smaller units. These displays opened for the highly anticipated “Motorhome Preview” on the afternoon of Thursday, March 17.
The following morning, two buildings housing indoor displays opened to throngs of attendees, joining the reopened outdoor exhibits. Onlookers jostled for a look at one new exhibitor’s offering: the tandem-seat roadster from Elio Motors Corporation, which the company claims can achieve 84 mpg.
In addition to displaying their companies’ products in the indoor exhibit area, the Professional RV Vendors chapter hosted a food drive for Perry Volunteer Outreach, a local nonprofit charity. Lloyd Smith, PRVVC president, reported that 810 pounds of nonperishable items, plus $98 in cash, were collected.
In another charitable effort organized by FMCA, attendees dropped off used eyeglasses for donation to the Lions’ Foundation Eye Program. Twenty-five pairs were received.
Area sight-seeing tours attracted some folks’ interest. These included excursions to legendary music sites in Macon, Georgia; a shop dedicated to quilting, sewing, serging, and embroidering; a sustainable vegetable farm; 10,000-year-old Ocmulgee National Monument; and historic Macon homes.
That Volunteer Spirit
FMCA Family Reunions and area rallies rely on volunteers to assist in various capacities — Information Center, security, parking, seminars, trams, etc. Volunteers are vital to the success of these events, as evidenced by the 700 or so people who helped out in Perry. Many of them hailed from the Southeast Area, the host area for the event.
Jim Duncan, national vice president, Southeast Area, commented, “I have always said, ‘Volunteers are not paid because they are worthless, but because they are priceless.’ We want to also thank the staff from Cincinnati for their help in making things go so smoothly.
“I heard nothing but good remarks about this rally,” he added. “Thanks to everyone who came and participated.”
March To Massachusetts
Planning is in high gear for FMCA’s 94th Family Reunion and Motorhome Showcase, “Celebrate Your Freedom,” in West Springfield, Massachusetts, August 3-6, 2016. An article in this issue (page 50) introduces readers to the host city and the event venue: the Eastern States Exposition, Home of the BIG E. More information is available at FMCA.com and elsewhere in this issue. Registrations currently are being accepted online, by mail, and by phone. Be sure to sign up early, because space is limited at this venue.