COLUMBIA — Nearly 86 Airstream trailer owners camped out at the Boone County Fairgrounds as part of the Wally Byam Caravan Club International's Region 8 rally. The gathering started Wednesday and ended Sunday. Region 8 has Wally Byam members from Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas.
Wally Byam founded the Airstream company and designed the first trailers.
Activities featured an open house Saturday for the public and other rally attendees. The trailers were parked side by side in rows, so owners could go from house to house to compare notes and connect socially.
"If you didn't have any in the beginning, you'll develop some social skills," Airstream owner Rachel Hughey said.
Some units looked modern while others had been restored to their original decor. The oldest model at the rally was from 1948. Many had flamingos, which like the iconic Airstream itself, are an integral part of Americana kitsch.
But it would be a mistake to think of the units, or "silver twinkies," as Hughey likes to call them, as relics of the past. Hughey said most RV parks today are practically required to have Wi-Fi access and "the VAP," or Vintage Airstream Podcast, a popular podcast that owners can tune in to about vintage trailers.
Hughey said that a new Airstream today can cost around $100,000 and that even in these times, Airstream Inc. does well financially, building on request. She said the company also makes UPS trucks and other vehicles if RV demand wavers. Hughey visited the company's headquarters in Jackson Center, Ohio, and said that more than 60 percent of all Airstreams ever made are still on the road.
"They are very versatile, and that's how Airstreamer people have to be," she said. "If it doesn't work, try something else."
Some Airstream owners still work, but most couples are retired and have the freedom to travel. Most importantly, however, the passion for Airstream ownership must be shared. Hughey told a story about a man she met in Tennessee whose wife wasn't into his RV devotion.
"She said, 'You have to choose between me and the Airstream.' And she's gone!"