WBCCI Airstream International Convention Rally
Madison, Wisconsin
Tuesday, June 9 - Left home a day later than planned, waiting on parts to repair a cracked engine mount that never came in.  With assurance from Arne that we could safely make the trip anyway, we left this morning early and drove to Paducah, Kentucky and the Kentucky Dam State Resort Campground.  There were only a few other campers there.  It was quiet and peaceful. We drove over to Grand River and had dinner at Patti’s, then retired for the evening.  About 360 miles driven.

Wednesday, June 10 - Made it to Madison - 510 miles.  What a road!  I-39 up through northern Illinois is the pits.  Rough and lots of construction.  We met with friends Joan and Jerry Larson for dinner at an Olive Garden, joined by Jim and Janie Hadaway and Jim and Dixie Franklin.  Jerry is the president of WBCCI this year, and the other two men are past presidents.  We learned that Jim and Dixie Franklin are also president of their Gideon camp and Auxiliary, so that gave us something to talk about.  We spent the night at Babcock Park about 6 miles away from the rally site.

Thursday, June 11 - This was the first day for parking at the rally site for key people.  My first video clip was of Jerry and Joan coming in along with 7 or 8 others.  About 100 trailers and motorhomes arrived during the day - all people in key positions readying the rally grounds for parking some 1000 units eventually.  First comers parked overnight in a temporary area called the Badgers Den or Bull Pen, waiting for the “city to be built.”  The parking lots have to be marked off with proper spacing for the incoming trailers.  Water lines have to be run.  Generators and electric lines have to be installed.  Signs must be painted and placed around to keep everything orderly.  But, all that has to take place in the coming days.  The only constructive thing accomplished today was the moving of two semi trailers to a convenient place.  These trailers have been stored here for a year, having been moved from Bozeman, Montana after the last International rally in 2008.  Another semi truck and trailer arrived from Jackson Center, Ohio where it had rested for the year.  So, all crews sat around renewing acquaintances and socializing before the work starts tomorrow.

Friday, June 12 - At 9:00am sharp, the doors of the trailers were opened, and the work started.  The electric crews wore red hats.  The engineers had gold hats (they surveyed and marked off the parking lots).  The carpenters, the sanitation folks, the water crews, all had their special colored hats.  And they were all waiting at the back of the cargo trailers for the unloading of equipment.  By 1:00pm the parking area had been surveyed and marked, and the parkers began moving people to their permanent locations.  And, it wasn’t long before we had full electric power. (It hasn’t been too many years back when there was no electric available for this rally.)   I tried to get video sampling of all these activities.  It was pretty amazing how it all began to come together - and all done by members of the club volunteering their time.  The weather is cool - in the 50s at night and 70s during the day.   

Saturday, June 13 - Not sure what happened with the Water Committee, but they weren’t able to start laying out water lines as planned.  So, we drove over to the capital - a beautiful building on a square in the center of Madison. On Saturday mornings from 8:00am to 12:00am they have a farmer’s market.  The square is lined with vendors selling all sorts of vegetables, flowers, baked goods, dairy products(lots of cheese), and meats.  Crowds of people moved around the square counterclockwise filling their bags with stuff.  After a rainy night the streets were wet, but skies were clear, and it did not appear that the rain had discouraged any of the shoppers.  Prices did not appear to be any bargain, but I guess the appeal was the freshness of things.  Afterwards, we found a mall to stroll around in. 

After moving to our permanent parking spot, we had trouble getting TV.  The Dish Network satellites are apparently to low on the horizon for our dish to find, and local channels had all converted to digital broadcasts.  So, to avoid sitting without TV for the month, we bought a converter at the Sears store in the mall.  Installing it was a bit frustrating, but finally got it working.  It doesn’t seem to matter whether our antenna is up or down or in what direction it is pointing, the signal is strong enough to give a good picture. 

Sunday, June 14 - After a very nice worship service under the trees at lakeside, we ventured west about 40 miles to the House on the Rock - an extremely unusual place.  Mr. Alex Jordan began construction of this house in the 1940s.  With an ongoing verbal feud with neighbor Frank Lloyd Wright (master architect), Jordan decided to outdo anything Wright could do.  What originally was to be a vacation home took on a character of its own that today ranks as the number one tourist attraction in Wisconsion.  Built out over a rocky cliff, the passageways are labyrinthian meandering around for 2 ½ miles.  The oddest room is the infinity room which extends outward into space some 218 feet, 186 feet above the valley floor.  Walking inside the room appears to extend into infinity. 

It took nearly 3 hours to walk the maze of corridors viewing not just the magnificent scenery, but thousands of collections of all sorts.  At every turn there was some form of automated music from simple nickelodians to entire orchestras.  One of the structures contains the world’s largest carousel - 80 feet in diameter, 35 feet high, with over 20,000 lights. 

The corridors were dimly lit, giving an eerie feeling as we wandered through.  Needless to say we had sore feet by the time we’d done it all. 

There was still time for brunch at an old mill in the small town of Masomanie on the way back to Madison. 

Still no water on site.  There will be some major complaining if they don’t get that problem fixed tomorrow.

Monday, June 15 - The water crew was hard at work this morning running a trunk line around the perimeter of our parking area.  They tunneled under roads by going through drainage pipes, gluing together 20 foot sections of 2" PVC pipe for about a mile.  I assume that tomorrow we get water.   My contribution - video of the tunneling and gluing process for the club archives. 

I also caught the first practice of the WBCCI band.  We ate lunch at the local Applebees where they had free Wi-Fi to upload the first part of this and get our email.
Also visited the WoodCraft store across from Applebees.

Tuesday, June 16 - We now have water.  The Water Crew completed their work this morning, bringing the water lines down to the rigs.  We're parked on hard top with twice a week pumpouts of gray and black water.  That puts us in position to stay indefinitely - or at least until the end of the rally when all this wire and pipe have to be picked up and stored until next year. 

This morning the cook crew started a daily pancake breakfast for all the early workers.  The breakfast was held in the "tent" - the name given to one of the barns with space sufficient to do this.  There are now 340 Airstreams on site, all with assignments geared toward organizing the rally.

Wally Byam Control - our CB communications center - went "hot" at noon today.  Now, we'll have regular announcements to keep us informed. 

We faced the analog to digital conversion today with the purchase of a converter.  I never anticipated having to do that for the motorhome, but without a converter we had no picture.  After trying two brands, we found one by Zenith that works well.  The picture clarity is amazing - no comparison to previous broadcasts picked up by the outside antenna.

Wednesday, June 17 - Today we did a tour of the capitol building in Madison - a thing of real beauty.  The building took 11 years to complete, from 1906 to 1917.  The marble floors and walls came from six foreign countries and eight states.  The 43 varieties of stone, and the way it is fit together in intricate designs for the floor is amazing.  We visited the legislative chambes, both senate and assembly - also the State Supreme Court and a couple of hearing rooms.  The murals and artwork on the walls are impressive too.  The dome of the capitol building is the only granite dome in the U.S. and is largest by volume in the world.  It's hard to imagine how this was all planned and constructed before the age of computers, and even harder to imagine it being duplicated today.

The picture is me standing beside the Liberty bell.  Each state capitol has a liberty bell.
It's usually a challenge finding it, but this one is prominently displayed in the rotunda of the Madison Capitol Building.  These replicas of the original Liberty Bell in Philadelphia were cast in 1950 and distributed to each state.

There were about 50 young 4th and 5th graders on the tour too, and the questions they asked showed a high degree of intelligence.  Every time the guilde paused for questions, hands shot up all over the room. 

Don and Inabelle Sides came over for a few Joker games this evening.  We ended up with a tie - the girls 2 wins, the boys 2 wins.

Thursday, June 18 -  Things are coming together nicely for the rally.  Opening day is still several days away.   This morning I got video clips of the Sign Shop, the Rally Promotions Booth, Fran Perucci delivering Pre-Rally Newsletters, Jerry Larson in his temporary office, and band practice.  

We had dinner at a local restaurant with Don and Inabelle Sides, then Don and I were soundly defeated at Joker by the girls.

Thundershowers came in at bed time - loud and heavy - and they lasted for several hours.  Thankful we're parked on pavement.

Friday, June 19 -  The showers had abated by time to rise.  Today was laundry day.   Not much else to report for now.

Saturday, June 20 -  Several more trailers and motorhomes came into the rally site today.  Took some video footage of the parking procedure.  

We drove downtown again to the capitol for another browse through the Saturday morning Farmers Market.  After four nights of rain, the sky this morning was a gorgeous blue, and the capitol buildine stood out beautifully as swarms of people walked counterclockwise around the square shopping at the back to back booths.  Vegetables of all sorts were being offered for sale, along with baked goods, meats, cheese and other dairy products, and baskets and baskets of flowers. 

Had a meeting with the man who is lining up an airplane to fly over the rally site for pictures.  May go up next Saturday.

Sunday, June 21 -  After church services this morning we drove down to the old Swiss town of New Glarus.  Our first stop was at a restored historical Swiss village.  The picture is of an old log cabin that was recently discovered.  Over the years, a modern house had been built around it.  Then, when the property was sold, the new owners elected to tear down the house and found the old cabin.  The logs were numbered as the cabin was dismantled.  It was rebuilt here in the restored village.  It was a simple one room with a loft, illustrating the primitive conditions that the original settlers had to live under. 

Our tour guide was well versed in the history of the community.  New Glarus was established by Swiss immigrants in 1845 - men, women, and children who came from a village in Switzerland called Glarus to find a better life.   Many of the more modern buildings in town are designed to look like Swiss or Bavarian houses - an interesting place.

Our sermon this morning was delivered by friend Don Sides - introduced as Rev. Dr. Don Sides. 

Monday, June 22 -  On this day Caravan Leaders met for their annual meeting.  Many subjects were discussed including how to handle difficult people, finances, publicity, maintenance, unit caravans, insurance, handbook updates, etc.  The meeting lasted about four hours. 

We were invited by the Larsons to attend the Past Presidents Banquet at the Monona Terrace downtown - a formal occasion.  It was another opportunity to video an activity for the archives.  There were about 100 people in attendance.  Monona Terrace is a huge convention and exhibition center.  After dinner we were treated to a tour of this unusual and beautiful building designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. 

Wright's original design was done in 1938, but the building was not actually built until 1998 for various reasons - World War II and some antagonism between the city fathers and the architect, among the reasons.  By the time construction began, Wright was deceased, and his successors had modernized the plans.   The building is on the shore of Lake Monona and actually extends on pilings out over the lake some 90 feet.  During construction during the winter of 1997 erection cranes moved out on the ice to bore holes and sink the pilings.  Our dinner was in this part of the building with an incredibly wide view of the beautiful lake. 

Tuesday, June 23 - Summer is here with a vengeance.  Temperature is in the 90s, and it feels like 100s.  The air-conditioners in all the rigs are putting a heavy load on the generators that feed Silver City.  Wally Byam Control is getting numerous complaints about blown circuit breakers and other electrical problems.  Even with the air conditioner running it is hot in the motorhome.  So, many folks have just moved to the Exhibition Hall.  That's where I am as I write this. 

Airstreams are streaming in today as caravans begin to arrive.  I'm sure those that are helping with the parking are suffering with the heat.  Vendors are beginning to open shop in Hall B although nothing too exciting yet.

Wednesday, June 24 -  Thanks for air-conditioning....  The heat continues.  Our thermometer read just over 100 degrees in the shade of the motorhome this afternoon.  No telling what the temp was on the sunny side. 

Thursday, June 25 - The heat has abated a little.  Airstreams are streaming in now.  This is the first day of general parking.  There are probably about 600 on the grounds at present.  Still room for many more.  Committees are all functioning well...  Amazing to see volunteers in action.  The Electric Committee is having it rough.  The hot weather has all a/c's running full blast, so about all you hear on Wally Byam Control are complaints about breakers tripping.  Some of the generators have had to be replaced. 

General registration starts tomorrow.  Ann is scheduled to sit at the end of the line passing out Madison tote bags. 

Vendors are slowly filling their exhibition room.  The club store opened yesterday.  There was an IBT seminar yesterday.  So, the rally will soon be in full swing.

Friday, June 26 - Today was the first day of registration for the rally.  The line to register was long and slow.  Ann sat at the end of the Registration tables passing out tote bags for 4 hours, while I got some video shots.  She passed out some 150 bags as the line was continuous for that time. 

It was also the day of the IBT  (International Board of Trustees) meeting.  I stayed in the meeting long enough to take some video then visited the vendors and signed up for the hobby show, the flea market, and the Joker tournament to come later.

The Caravan Leaders Recognition Dinner was held in one of the large meeting rooms in the Exhibition Hall.  There were over 100 peope in attendance.  The caravan program remains a growing part of WBCCI as total membership continues to decline. 

Saturday, June 27 -  This is the day the Vintage Airstream Caravan entered the rally site and paraded around the grounds.  This is always a special event with many old Airstream trailers that have been cleaned up and polished to a mirror finish.  Some of the trailers date back to the 1940s.  Flags were flying as the 60 plus old trailers paraded through the rally site.  The lower picture is one of me taking pictures of the parade.

Over 200 people attended the Unit Presidents Dinner in the evening.  These folks were made to feel very special with individual recognition and a gift of Wisconsin made goodies.  We were there to record it with video.  The dinner was good, and a professional entertainer kept the crowd laughing with his comedy routine.  His talent was the ability to produce special sounds with his throat - galloping horses, gun and cannon fire, steam engine and other train sounds, duck sounds, barking dogs, slamming doors, jet airplanes, and more.

Sunday, June 28 -  After the overcast day of yesterday, the sun came out bright and clear today.  Sunrise occurs before 6:00am.  Over 750 Airstreamers attended the third interdenominational church service this morning.  It was nice to hear the traditional hymns, and the sermon was good.

As I write this, my video camera is in an airplane flying over the rally site.  Weight limitations prevented my going up with it, so photographer Bob Manak is taking some video with my camera along with the stills he chartered the plane for.  An aerial photo of the rally has become traditional for this rally.  As it turned out, it was so windy the footage that Bob took is too jumpy to be very useful.  When we get home, I'll try to edit some of it into useful form.  We'll see.

Tonight we moved to the Coliseum for opening ceremonies.  The flag ceremony is always impressive with each unit of the club marching with and posting their flag.  I'm guessing that there are about 75 units.  The band sounded like they'd been together for years rather than just two weeks.  After all the fanfare President Jerry Larson declared the 52nd International Rally officially open.

Monday, June 29 - Larry Huttle, the head of the Airstream Company came to Madison today to speak to our people.  He explained how the recession had affected the RV industry with many of the major companies now out of business or in bankruptcy.   But, always the optimist, he described the good position that Airstream is in due to the very good, no debt financial position of parent company, Thor Industries.  Even so, Airstream has had to lay off about half of their operating staff and closed the plant for several weeks at a time to curtail production during the slow market.  Maybe it's a good omen for the industry that already four new Airstreams have been sold here at the rally. 

Today was the first day that the Caravan Media room was open.  Several of my videos of caravans were shown.  It's a nice place to relax.  Linda Keutzer is in charge, but several of us go in to spell her when we can. 

The judging of the unit and region bulleting boards took place today.  The Georgia Unit won first place in the Geographic category, and Ben and Charlene Wilbanks proudly received the blue ribbon.

There is a mountain of stuffed animals that have been collected for needy families in the Madison area with children, as well as blankets and sweaters that our people have collected.  Also, several thousand pounds of aluminum pull tabs have been collected for sale, the proceeds of which will be given to Ronald McDonald foundation for children. 

This afternoon was the scheduled Joker Tournament with about 72 folks participating.  I was eliminated after the first game, but Ann played three games before losing.  When you don't get the cards, there's no way to win.  To win the blue ribbon required winning five games.  Don't know who wound up as winners.

Entertainment tonight was entitled "Yahara River Chorus" - a group of 37 female singers from Madison performing in the style of a barbershop quartet.  They sang for an hour non-stop, and it was very good.  Following the chorus, our WBCCI dance band played ballroom music for those who wanted to dance.

Tuesday, June 30 - This morning there was a meeting of club delegates.  With most  clad in their WBCCI uniforms and blue berets, the delegates cast their ballots on issues brought before them.  Big issue:  Whether an affiliate member of a unit could be used as an alternate delegate at decision making meetings.  I left after an hour with the debate still going on.

All 30 vendors are here and doing business.  That's always a looked forward to experience.  The Blue Ox people were performing maintenance on tow bars.  They charged $25 this year, but did a thorough job of cleaning, lubrication, and replacement of bearings and bushings.   The Fantastic Fan folks came and replaced worn parts in our exhaust fan - for free.  And, there were others doing useful things.

The WBCCI Band was our entertainment for the evening, and they were excellent.  They began practice only 18 days ago, but they played as if they'd been together for years.  I guess some of them have, but there are always new ones, and this year they had a new director, Barbara Lambercht, who has just been elected to the Texas Hall of Fame for band directors.  Their finale was a tribute to the armed forces.  The WBCCI choir of over 100 members also participated in two numbers.  The picture shows the special backdrop picturing features of the city of Madison.

Wednesday, July 1 -  It's hard to believe that the year is already half over, but here we are.  This was Canada Day at the rally and began with a breakfast in the "Tent." 
Flags, streamers, and red and white hats prevailed as the crowd gathered for coffee and doughnuts.  Everyone was encouraged to wear red all day.

The Georgia Unit met for lunch today at the Pancake Cafe a few miles from the rally site.  There were quite a few of us attending - good fellowship.  President Ben Wilbanks bragged a bit about the first place ribbon for the bulletin board and welcomed guests.   Then it was a good meal and good fellowship.

There was a well attended get-together of the Tampa Bay Unit at the trailer of President Ron Franbach and JJ at 4:30pm.   Though the weather was cool and threatening, the rain held off, and we met some old friends - Bob and Pat Laycock, Dale and Sarah Edwards, Don and Betty Kenney, and others.  Bob went to Hillsborough High School a year or two after I did.  Sarah drove a school bus in Brandon while we were there and knows a lot of our old Little League friends.

It was Canada Night for the evening entertainment .  Three guitar players from Winnipeg sang and joked around for an hour.    Their music was good, but I thought their song selection was more suited to a saloon.  Others seemed to like it, though it was no where near the quality of Canada nights of past rallies. 

Thursday, July 2 - This was the day of the Hobby Show.  I entered an array of about a dozen bowls and my chess set, but there was only one other wood turner there, so we didn't get judged.  The rule:  There must be three entrants in each category to qualify for judging.  Didn't seem fair, but we have enough ribbons anyway.  Lots of folks stopped to look and admire. 

We attended a Committee Chairmen's Luncheon at noon with 179 committees represented along with all the club officers.  Each chairman was recognized and given a memento of local products - summer sausage, pretzels, mustard, candy, all neatly packaged in a napkin holder marked with the WBCCI seal.  It was well orchestrated and didn't take as long as anticipated - lunch and the recognitions, all in about an hour and half. 

Normally, tonight would be the night of the teen queen pageant, but it had to be cancelled due to lack of contestants.  So, what we had during the entertainment hour was a display of inner club talent.    There were cloggers, singers, a cellist, a group of flutists, a dulcimer,an accordian, and several played a keyboard - all pretty good.

The Larsons Arrive
Video From Roof
Capitol in Madison
The House on the Rock
H/R Rock Garden
World's Largest Carousel
The Old Feed Mill
Opening Ceremony
The WBCCI Band
Officers On Stage
Singers with the Larsons
Friday, July 3 - The pet show was the highlight of this day.  It's amazing the pets that some of these Airstreamers bring along with them.  One couple is traveling with twelve dachshunds.  The show was held in the "Tent," - really Barn #3 - where a ramp and platform had been erected for the animals to march up and across in front of the judges.  The cats were first, then the dogs.  They were judged for appearance, for obedience, for costume, and then for any tricks they could perform.  The contest was
notable only for the absence of any of these qualities, but, the antics of the animals was entertaining.  The dog that won the sympathy of the crowd was Cinnemon, a boxer.  He had been rescued from a shelter after several years of abuse as a bait dog for fighting pit bulls. 

This evening was the time for the annual installation of new officers with all the pomp and ceremony of a royal court.  Dressed in tuxedoes and formal gowns, the officers and their wives paraded down the center aisle between the flags to take their seats on the stage amid marching music from the band.  After pledging to do good and a fairwell address by the outgoing president, they all marched out to the reception area to stand by their respective flags to greet guests in a receiving line.  This was followed by an inaugural ball and refreshments.  It was bedlam - too many people in too small a space. 

Saturday, July 4 - Today was flea market day.  All sorts of things were brought out for sale.   We sold bowls, joker boards, and caravan videos and had a good day.  The sale lasted for two hours as throngs of folks came through. 

At noon we met with others from the TampaBay Unit for a picnic of hamburgers and the fixings.  It was threatening rain, so we had our picnic in one of the barns.  The barn was large enough to house four such picnics in the four corners.    After eating preparations were made for the annual parade through the coliseum.  The Tampa Bay group somehow made yellow tee shirts to resemble bees or yellow jackets, using black duck tape for stripes.  They made posters for those parading to carry, emphasizing the word "bee."   The "bee" came from the rally theme of "BEE the best you can BEE."  When Jerry Larson came up with the BTBYCB theme, he didn't realize that it would evolve into the creation of the mascot "BEE," but there it was.

The parade took place in the coliseum at 4:00pm, and prizes were given to the best of several categories.  The judges must have had a hard time deciding among the many very good units.

This evening's entertainment was the best.  They saved the best to last.  It was a pianist, a flutist, and a drummer.  They called themselves the Ivory and Gold, for the piano keys and the golden flute.  Not only was the flute made of gold, but the notes that came out of it were pure gold.  The pianist was the man who introduced each number.  The flutist was his wife who was absolutely great.  And, the drummer energetically kept time for the others.  They played patriotic songs of the 40s and 50s and added a few hymns, some ragtime, and some jazz. 

Following entertainment the flags of the United States and Canada were retired and Jerry gaveled the rally closed.

The final count of trailers and motorhomes at the rally was 901.  The total was a disappointment, but those who came enjoyed a good time.  The economy and the price of fuel, were blamed for the drop in number.  We remember that in the first International Rally we attended in Bozeman, Montana there were over 3000 in attendance.  There will be a church service tomorrow morning, then a mass exodus.

Next year the rally will be held in Gillette, Wyoming led by new President Tom Collier.

Monday, July 6 - With the rally over, we moved to a state park near Madison.  Jerry and Joan Larson invited us to help them celebrate their 50th anniversary, so we're sticking around for a couple of days. 

Using the proceeds of our bowl sales, I bought a new lathe at the local WoodCraft store.  This one will swing a 12" bowl and will handle something 20" long.  It also has a variable speed drive.  So getting that loaded took up our morning. 

Tomorrow we go on a boat ride around Lake Monona. 

As there will probably be no internet service as we drive home, this will be the last posting for this trip.  Thanks for reading......