Rumors and evolution
For the past few weeks I’ve been working with Brett (and now Alice, the latest member of our team) to work out details for our new event, Alumaflamingo. It’s the fourth major event in our program, to be held next February.
I talked about this a little before. We were asked by the Director of the former Florida State Rally (FSR) to come up with something new, because the FSR was finally disbanding after four decades. We stepped into the breach, and now we’re committed. It’s a little nerve-wracking because it’s a lot of work and we have no assurance at this point that we won’t lose our shirts financially. But if we hadn’t stepped up, there would be no major Airstream-oriented rally to replace FSR in 2014. So it seems to be worth some extra effort and risk.
When you step in to replace something that’s been going on for decades and has lots of loyal customers, it’s inevitable that the rumor mill will start up, and there’s a tendency that many of the rumors will be unflattering. We expected a certain amount of this, and it’s OK. We understand that people might feel threatened by change.
For example, people who had gotten comfortable with the super-cheap rally fee of FSR ($220 per couple) may be upset that Alumaflamingo will cost $335. But if we ran the same event as FSR, we’d be facing the same slide in attendance that it suffered over the past several years. As they say, doing the same thing but expecting a different result is an exercise in futility.
So we are trying to upgrade the event to meet modern expectations, which means adding in more activities, better food, better informational seminars, more vendors, better entertainment, etc. People who went to FSR primarily because it was cheap will probably be unhappy with any price increase, and choose to go elsewhere. But on the other hand, people who stayed away because they didn’t think it offered enough fun & education will hopefully give Alumaflamingo a try. Our past three years of experience at Alumapalooza seems to support this.
In the past few weeks I’ve heard some pretty wild rumors. One guy was saying he wouldn’t go because we wouldn’t have liability insurance. When asked why he believed this, he said he’d been told by “people.” For the record, the Fairgrounds requires us to have a significant liability insurance policy, so that rumor was nonsense.
Another common rumor has been that our event will not be “an Airstream event” or somehow will be polluted because our policy is to allow non-Airstreams to attend. That one really kills me. We allow non-owners to attend because we figure anyone wants to come to an Airstream-centric event must be considering buying an Airstream. These people are future members of our community, so we think it’s a good idea to let them know they are very welcome.
At Alumapalooza, we usually get about 4-5 “white boxes” attending, out of about 200 trailers. In Sarasota we expect about the same. So 98% of the rigs on the field are Airstreams, there’s an Airstream dealer selling trailers, Airstream Inc. is present and providing service, we’ve got at least a dozen Airstream-specific seminars, and the event is sponsored by Airstream Life magazine. Yeah, I’d say that qualifies as an Airstream event.
Another common rumor is that casual visitors to the event will have to pay to get in. I don’t know why people think that. I guess I’ll have to update our FAQ pages to specifically address this issue. Of course friends can visit at no charge. There’s no gate at any of our events. We only charge admission to people who want to camp, join the activities, eat the meals, or attend the programs & entertainment. Dropping in and taking a look, or visiting with friends, or shopping for an Airstream with the sponsoring dealer is always free.
(By the way, we always have a dealer sponsor showing trailers. George M Sutton RV will be displaying trailers indoors at Alumafandango, Lazydays RV will be displaying at Alumafiesta, and Bates RV is expected at Alumaflamingo. )
Perhaps the most painful rumor we hear is that the demise of FSR (and decline in attendance for certain other club rallies) means that the WBCCI is doomed. We don’t believe this. We think the WBCCI will continue as a viable club even if some major events are organized by third parties. The club represents the history of Airstream, many of the most enthusiastic and supportive owners, and it remains an important means for Airstreamers to meet in person, travel together, and share experiences.
Sure, Alumaflamingo is not an official WBCCI event. But why does that matter? The club is more than welcome. In fact, at Alumaflamingo we are giving the Region 3 officers meeting space so that they can conduct some of their official activities on site. They can even publish their own event schedule for members or officers, if they like. They get all the benefits of the FSR, without all the work. Makes sense to me.
This means that we regard WBCCI as a partner and are looking forward to working with our friends in the club for many years to come. By launching Alumaflamingo, we’re hoping to be part of the road forward. It may not be a comfortable road for us until the dust settles, but it’s exciting to contribute to positive change.