Alumapalooza, day 4

It’s interesting to watch people settling into Alumapalooza each year.  When I have a few minutes I go walk the rows of trailers to see what people are doing.  By the second day I see lots of spontaneous gatherings around grills and under awnings, families playing with their children, and couples just relaxing together.  By the third day, the general mood becomes very festive, and it’s not long before attendees are grabbing anyone in an orange staff shirt to tell us that Alumapalooza is a wonderful event and that they are so impressed with the job we’re doing.

That started to happen yesterday, and it felt great for all of us to get that feedback.  It was another absolutely gorgeous day, the kind that midwesterners don’t usually get in June, with low humidity, sunshine, and temperatures in the 70s most of the day.  Everyone was talking about what great sleeping weather we got overnight too: about 55 degrees for the low.  I saw a lot of trailers with windows open all night.  So we all popped up feeling pretty good, except Brett who seems to have acquired a cold and was awake some of the night.  He’s running on reserve energy, still keeping up with the workload despite circumstances.

We are fortunate to have another helper now, Brett’s sister Lori, who flew in from Denver and has been busy helping with everything, especially the registration booth.  Being from a family of natural salespeople, she took on the task of selling our leftover t-shirts and my two books, and in her capable hands they are both disappearing at a rapid pace.

Yesterday started with yoga again (popular as always), and a big SkyMed presentation in the other tent with yogurt and fruit for all, plus coffee provided by the NOVA unit of WBCCI.  We also started the sign-up sheet for the upcoming Rivet Masters competition.  All of those things got a lot of people moving early, and by 9 a.m. things were hustling around the main tent for Airstream’s Product Feedback sessions.  Those two sessions were an opportunity for people to stand up and be heard on any issue or suggestion for improving new Airstreams.  One thing you can be sure of, Airstreamers always have an idea of what could be made better. I’m amazed that they were able to conclude two separate sessions (one for men, one for women) in just two hours.  Airstream’s head of product development Bruce Bannister and their new VP of Sales Justin Humphries led those sessions, with a few other Airstream managers standing by to listen.

At one point during the day I got a chance to break away to visit with Larry Huttle, who has been in senior management for Airstream for over thirty years. He’ll be retiring later this year, and that will be a huge loss for the company.  Larry and I talked about Airstream past and present, and made plans to meet up in Arizona this summer, where he will be living post-retirement.

We have experimented with offering a bicycle ride this year, which was led by Bert Gustafson yesterday morning.  Perhaps it was the spectacular weather, but attendance was much higher than I expected.  Bert led a group of about 40 cyclists, and is considering offering another “off-schedule” ride at some point this week too.

Other popular talks yesterday included Tim Maxwell and Dave Schumann talking about Airstream interior maintenance, Kristiana Spaulding talking about interior designs, and John Long talking about the “Streamline Moderne” design and how it was influenced by Airstream and Bowlus. He and his wife Helena arrived yesterday in their gorgeous 1935 Bowlus trailer.

But the big event for us was Eleanor trying out her new portable Airstream kitchen.  Colin Hyde was supposed to be here for a talk about vintage restoration but couldn’t make it, so we slipped Eleanor into the schedule and she demonstrated how to make Bananas Foster.  That’s a great one to watch, especially when the rum is set on fire.  We brought two gallons of ice cream and handed out samples to everyone in the audience.

I think we handed out another thirty door prizes or so during Happy Hour, including a beautiful silver necklace made by Kristiana Spaulding.  The other really big door prizes are coming tonight and Saturday.

After that the Shelby County Sheriff showed up to do a K-9 demonstration, which I missed solely because it was my time to go decompress and have dinner in the trailer.  (By the way, Alex says that in carny parlance the manager’s trailer is referred to as the “pie wagon.”)

Around 8:45 Adam and I took the Miata into town to get ice cream at the local pizza place.  The cones there are massive — one is suitable for two people in my opinion — but great.  It was another perfect evening for a little top-down cruising, so we went a few miles out of town just for fun, then back to the ‘palooza site and cruised the grassy field a little.

My day didn’t wrap up as early as I had hoped.  At 10 p.m. I was scheduled to call into The VAP podcast to report on Alumapalooza, which took until nearly 10:30.  I think we got to bed around 11:30, which has made it tough to start early today but as I said, Alumapalooza waits for no one.  It’s 8:30 a.m. as I complete this, and time to get moving again so I don’t miss Marty Shenkman’s talk at 9.

Alumapalooza, day 3

I’ve settled into the Alumapalooza routine:  Up by 6 a.m., get on the computer and do some work, then outside to tote a load of gray water to the dump station before it gets hot, write the blog, eat a quick breakfast, and then working day really starts …

Yesterday the Airstream crew finished electrifying the “China” section of the field, and we began putting trailers in there.  We’ve got the place divided into sections: Baja is the main field, China is west of the manufacturing building, Cairo is between the paint/lam building and the Terra Port, and Wild West is the last two western rows of Baja (for generator users).  Lake Bambi has dried up to a small wet spot, and the North & South China Seas are pretty much just damp now too. So we have unfettered access to every part of the field now, and that has helped. Yesterday the parkers helped about 30 trailers and we are now officially at 130 trailers on the field. Another 65 are expected today.

The weather has been spectacular.  Yesterday was nearly 100% sunshine, temperatures only peaking around 80, with a pleasant breeze all day.  Couldn’t ask for better.  The morning Yoga session was overloaded with 51 people, which was amazing, even though we knew it would be popular.  If we do it again next year we’ll have to find an even bigger tent!

All of the seminars went very well.  We’ve got a new backlit screen for huge slide presentations and a pro sound system, plus video cameras for the detailed on-stage demos.  I did my “Airstreaming for Newbies” seminar and got about 70-80 people in the audience, which seemed pretty typical for yesterday’s seminars.  (I also sold all the Newbies books I brought with me, 30 copies in total.)

In the late morning Airstream used a forklift to haul in a fantastic gift they made: a complete portable Airstream galley for on-stage cooking demonstrations.  It is fully self-contained, just like an Airstream, with 5-gallon fresh and gray-water tanks, a car battery for power, 20-lb propane tank, stove/oven, double-basin sink, water filter, and a Corian top.  Eleanor will use it today to make Bananas Foster on stage (she’s replacing Colin Hyde’s seminar, since he can’t make it due to business obligations), and Eleanor will use the galley again on Saturday to make a complete gourmet meal.  Brett has rigged up a little video camera from above to show what she’s doing on the big screen.

The people who come continue to impress me.  My favorites from yesterday:  Sheryl from Kansas, and Rhonda from Oregon.  Both traveling separately and solo, both had trailer tire blowouts on the road, and both just dealt with it and came anyway.  Sheryl learned how to change a wheel right by the side of the road, with two little girls waiting in her car, and arrived here at APZ in good spirits, a few hours later than planned.

All kinds of fun things keep happening.  After Happy Hour and door prizes (about 30 given out last night), Alex used his fire-breathing skill to light the Open Grill, and then the JC Fire Dept came by and demonstrated how to chop up a car.  Later, Adam, Charon, Michael and slaDE found the stage empty and organized a drumming circle.  Not everything we planned is on the official program, and not everything that happens is even something we planned!  It’s more fun that way.

OK, I’m late to get out there and start hustling things … I can hear people testing the sound system in the tent and setting up coffee already.  Alumapalooza waits for no one …!



Alumapalooza, day 2

We’re rocking right along here, and so far everything has turned out just about as well as could be expected — or better!

The weather forecast was right on target, with nothing but sunshine all day, a good steady breeze, and high temps around 90.  Alex has a bunch of old meteorological equipment in his trailer and is reporting the “official Alumapalooza weather” twice daily on the walkie-talkies, complete with relative humidity, barometric pressure, and heat index.  Yesterday it felt like 100 degrees with the humidity, and we all sweated mightily while parking trailers, setting up gear, pounding stakes, and walking across the field repeatedly.  But it was a great day overall.

We are set up directly behind the main tent, along with Brett & Lisa, for quick access to the primary venue. Charon & Alex, sKY and slaDE, and Alice & Tim are our neighbors.  (Alex & Charon’s trailer is the one with the sign saying “DANGER CARNIES.”)

Lou & Larry are further off with some of their friends from the NOVA Unit.  We all parked first, at about 8:15 yesterday morning, and now the Airstreams have filled in around us, nearly 100 of them at this point.  That’s about half of what we expect by the end of the day Thursday.

Parking trailers was the major task of the day, and I have to say that our parking crew did an amazing job. They worked in the hot sun continuously from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m., took a break for dinner, and came back to park a few more trailers just before sunset.  Lesser folks would have faded out or burned out, but Lou & Larry (in particular) were indefatigable.

The same can be said for Alice & Tim, who quietly worked the electrical and water lines all day. They were so subtle I hardly knew they were there, but they managed to test every single electrical box and check every water connection for leaks — and fix quite a few unexpected problems.  We really don’t want even the tiniest drip from the water lines, since that would eventually cause a mudhole.  After our luck in getting the field to dry out, it would be a disaster to add water ourselves.

For those who were worried about the field being mud, you can see from the pictures that conditions are very good.  We had one or two cars get stuck on slippery spots in the morning, and Guy Lotz was there to pull them with his tractor.  Otherwise the parkers kept people out of the known trouble spots.  By late afternoon, even the spots that were slick in the morning had dried out.

Eleanor and Lisa got all 200 people registered yesterday, which took them only about 90 minutes.  Not long after they were done, we started Happy Hour and gave away about 20 door prizes (hats, shirts, poster, books, “Palooza Bucks” for use in the Airstream store, DVDs, yogaFlight gift certificates, etc.).  Bob Wheeler showed up and read a limerick he wrote about Brett & Lisa (which I may reproduce here later if I am given permission).

I was approached by several blog readers who told me that they enjoy “stalking” me, reading this blog while having coffee at work, etc., so thanks to all of you for reminding me that people really do read this.  I was also happy that people are interested in the books I brought (the Newbies Guide and the Byam books), and everyone has asked for an autographed copy, so that’s fun.

At 6 p.m. our first seminar started (John Irwin giving his “great ideas” tips), and I would have liked to have watched but by then all of us on the staff were feeling a desperate need to cool off in the shower, myself included.  Around sunset I ventured out again to get a sense of things and found everyone chilling out around their trailers, some grilling dinner, some just talking with friends, others wandering and taking pictures.  The scene looks good, and we are primed for an awesome day today.  We’re only expecting about 30 trailers to arrive today, so hopefully all of the staff will have a chance to enjoy the event too.