I promised you that the second half of the story would be better than the first, so hopefully you can read this blog entry without wincing.
When we left off, things were finally starting to turn in our favor. By Thursday we had the electrical problems mostly worked out, water was extending to all of the campground, most of the trailers were parked, and our seminars were purring along. But we weren’t in the clear by any measure. One of the legs of my 30-amp power cord had melted (due to corrosion and heavy use in Tucson) which caused it to fuse to the surge protector device and melt part of it as well. This meant we could not connect to the power at all. Adam went out to Camping World and bought a new pair of plug ends, so I could fix the cords while working registration in the Event Trailer. The borrowed Caravel that Brett G and Lisa were using had a plumbing problem that caused their black tank to fill up with shower water, and they could not get 30-amp power all week (due to their location). Their refrigerator didn’t work either, so they carted their groceries over to a nearby display trailer and used its refrigerator instead.
Meanwhile, Lucy the bathroom trailer was functional but didn’t have any toilet paper, soap, towels, or hand sanitizer. We managed to get some TP in there but I don’t know if the rest of the supplies ever arrived. (I never had time to go look.) Our dump station still wasn’t done, and so gray water was undoubtedly being disposed by “creative” means. The vendors in the Showcase area were still operating on very limited electricity, and the Event Trailer itself (our headquarters and home of several laptops and all our walkie-talkie chargers) had no power at all. Periodically we’d steal the cord from Chris Cooper’s trailer to recharge all our stuff. He was nearby selling iPad cleaners, and was very good natured about sharing the power.
Amidst all this we had many heroes. From Timeless Travel Trailers, Brett Hall was literally tireless. The man never seemed to sleep. He stayed calm throughout every mishap and always had a plan to overcome. He also ran fantastic historical tours of Lakeside Amusement Park on Wednesday and Friday that helped people appreciate the unique setting we were in. From his team, Paul stood out as an incredible worker, always with a good attitude and quick to solve a problem. Frank, Dick, and John were there most of the week too, running the Bobcat and fixing the power—all great guys who put in a lot of hours to get our sites ready. Lori G, who helped us at the last two Alumapaloozas, helped again with parking and running errands, including fetching pizza for all the staff on Tuesday.
Scott V was there every day to help with parking despite the sun and heat, and his wife Denise came in as well to staff the Event Trailer when the rest of us were running around crazy. Mary and Kyle helped us tremendously just by bringing their daughter Kathryn, because Katheryn and Emma stuck together the entire week and mostly kept themselves entertained. The two sleep-overs were really helpful too. Mary pitched in at registration for a couple of days, even through she was a paying participant in the event. Kevin and Laura volunteered their extremely cool hexcopter to shoot aerial video and the photo you see above.
So if it all worked, it was not because of our core team (Rich/Brett/Eleanor/Lisa) but because of the dozen or so people who jumped in and worked overtime to do their very best. And we’re incredibly grateful.
Now, all of this narrative has been solely my perspective. I was in the trenches, and rarely got a chance to stick my head up and find out what was really happening. As it turned out, the event wasn’t half the disaster that I thought it was. Most of our attendees were very understanding of the glitches and appreciative of the program we’d put together for them. We had tours of Lakeside and Timeless, many seminars, vendors, contests (Aluminum Chef, Backup Derby), dozens of door prizes, some great entertainment, Happy Hours, Open Grill on three nights, Swap Meet, Blogger’s Roundtable, and Luke Bernander’s one-of-a-kind “BarStream” (a.k.a. the “rat trailer”) was hosting evening parties until midnight with free New Belgium beer and popcorn). I gradually began to notice that people were actually having a lot of fun. It was just us workers who thought everything was a disaster.
To some extent, this happens at every first-time event. We set a high standard for ourselves and our events. Our goals are to keep everyone preoccupied with fun things, and have lots of surprises (in this case: free beer, popcorn, Hi-Chew candy), and have everything work smoothly. Well, nothing ever goes perfectly smoothly the first time, but nonetheless by Friday I was being inundated by people saying that they were really enjoying what we’d put together. And when the park opened on Friday night, and everyone saw all the gorgeous lights and rode the rides, they started saying, “I get it now.” They could see why we went through the trouble to build a campground right on the edge of Lakeside Amusement Park. It started to get magical.
In fact, things were running so smoothly by Friday that we all took a break for the evening and rode the rides too. Eleanor and I started with the Ferris Wheel, then the Cyclone roller coaster (the best ride in the park), the Wild Chipmunk, Merry-Go-Round, and the Spider. I joined Adam, Susan, Brett and Lisa for a race in the little “Sports Cars” that go putt-putt around a track, and then the bumper cars (called “AutoSkooter”). We rode until nearly 11 p.m. and then collapsed into the Airstream, wiped out by five days of sleep deprivation. Emma and Kathryn rode the Spider eight times.
There were some other hassles that occurred as late as Saturday afternoon, but overall we felt like we’d managed to work around all the problems and everyone I talked to said they had felt it was a marvelous week. Most of them said they’d like to come back, despite everything. I don’t know if that will happen yet. We are going to look for a number of important improvements before we commit to a repeat, including things like a grass surface and our own entry gate and tent. A few people even signed up on the spot for Alumafiesta in Tucson (Feb 5-10, 2013), so I guess they were really pleased.
After dinner (which was good and ran smoothly, thank goodness), I spent Saturday evening unwinding with some new and old friends among the bloggers. They have documented Alumafandango far better than I could, with photos and video, so I encourage you to read their version of events.
Normally I would have blogged this event daily, but I think you can appreciate why I was silent all week. There just wasn’t enough time for anything, including photos. I have virtually no pictures of my own. But now that it is over, and we have caught up on sleep, I’m able to reflect on everything and read the comments of those who were there. The horrible week I had is starting to look not quite so bad. We survived. We conquered. We learned a lot. And we’re still married. Overall, it was a success.
Now for a little vacation. We’re heading out today for points west. Dinosaur National Monument is at the top of our list. After that, we’ll meander down through Utah.