This might have been the best Alumapalooza ever.
Going into it, I was thinking maybe it would be a little quiet because we had a smaller crowd this year (about 120 trailers on the field). But we’d done a ton of work putting together a bigger and better event program than ever before, and that paid off. We added off-site tours, more vendors, more new Airstreams on display, a kettle corn stand, and new seminars to the old favorites, and Mother Nature cooperated by bringing us nearly flawless weather all week. I realized we had a winner when people started coming to me on the second day and saying, “We’re having a great time! Thanks for putting this on.” Usually it takes a couple of days before the compliments flow.
It was also less stressful than other events we’ve done, because we had an awesome crew of people. There has been some change every year, but most of them have been working Alumapalooza for years and they really know their jobs. This year we added two new volunteers (Loren & Mike, on parking) and our jazz diva Laura was summarily promoted to “Trash Wench”. (Her job was to collect the trash in the mornings. Before anyone objects, let me say that she picked her own title.)
There was a nice breeze every day, so we flew the Airstream Life flag for the first time in several years. It was nice to see lots of other flags flapping in the wind all week as well. Felt festive.
The events of the week were so complex that I can’t really do justice to them here. You can download the schedule from the Alumapalooza 5 website if you are interested. Basically we stayed busy from about 8:00 a.m. to 9 or 10 p.m. every day. Big hits included Open Mic night, the Aluminum Gong Show, Happy Hour, Josh Rogan, Eric Henning’s magic, and most of the seminars.
Early in the week, someone spotted a killdeer nest just about ten feet from the vendor tent. This was staked off immediately and dubbed the “Jackson Center Temporary Killdeer Preserve.” Momma Killdeer sat on four eggs all week, and on Saturday they hatched—which got a big round of applause when we announced it at Happy Hour. That was the first birth we’ve ever had at an event.
The photo above shows only about 1/3 of the field. Since the field was dry, we could spread out and give everyone as much privacy as they wanted. Most clustered close to the main tent.
Airstream always offers some cheap deals on parts during Alumapalooza, but this year they went nuts and filled a service bay with scratched and used items that were mostly taken off other trailers or returned under warranty. The bargains were incredible. We scored a convection microwave, barely used, for $100 (retail about $500), which Eleanor will use to develop a convection microwave cooking seminar for future events, and an 18-foot curbside awning for $150 (retail about $900). Why so cheap? The awning has one tiny hole in it, made by someone with a 5/16″ drill bit. We’ll patch that easily.
I also got a water heater cover for the Caravel for $5, and a bunch of other $5 items. Brett landed a nice pure-sine inverter, unbelievably cheap. (Wish I’d seen that first!) Super Terry filled his trailer with parts and still couldn’t fit everything he bought. The bargains alone would be worth the price of a trip to Jackson Center.
Since I now had an 18-foot tube in my possession that I couldn’t fit in the car, I needed to get it installed right away. Fortunately, Jim Webb, the president of Zip-Dee Awnings, and Greg Blue (a Z-D rep) were on site. They were busy all week with service calls, so they didn’t get to my installation until about 8 p.m. on Friday. The sun set while they were working, so they ended up finishing the job by flashlight with a crowd of onlookers. A few people couldn’t believe that the president of the company would be doing this … but that’s the kind of company Zip-Dee is, and the kind of guys Jim & Greg are. They finally wrapped up at about 10:30 pm, just in time for Jim to drive five hours back to Chicago.
(By the way, guys — I love the new curbside awning.)
It was a long week, but also the time flew by. It ended the way they always do, with lots of people smiling and wishing they didn’t have to go home, a big dinner, a concert, and a slightly sleep-deprived staff. On Sunday morning we watched all the trailers depart, cleaned up the field, and put away our stuff.
That afternoon E&E and I wandered down to the local one-screen cinema, The Elder Theater, to see Maleficent. Airstream Life had made a donation to help the theater switch to digital projection, and this was my first chance to see the plaque the theater had mounted on a seat in thanks. If you go, look for the Airstream Life seat in the center section, about 2/3 down, one seat in from the left aisle. I was pleased to sit there and enjoy the digital picture, knowing that this old gem of a theater was still able to operate thanks to the financial donations of dozens of people.
That night the Terra Port filled up with people who were waiting for service appointments in the following week, so we just stayed parked in the field alone that night. Why move? It was peaceful, and we still had power and water. So while Eleanor and Emma had one last visit with people in the Terra Port, I was able to chill out with a “guy movie” and a Klondike bar all by myself in the green grass, while the sun set beautifully in the west one more time.
And now we are in our usual decompression spot, the driveway of our friends Lou & Larry, near Cleveland. We’ve got one day here, and then we’ll be trundling east on the final legs to Vermont, to start the next adventures. Coming up: motorcycling through Quebec and New Brunswick.