By DeWayne Johnston, Camping Today Editor

     ‘ Wagons West’ was the theme for the Family Campers & RVers 55th annual Campvention July 6-10 at Camplex in Gillette, Wyoming and more wagons than usual showed up. There were 477 units on the ground and with camp and day passes a total of 1029 people attended. Colorado had 371 units and there were 276 first timers. Hosts were the states of the Far West Region – AZ, CA, CO, HI, NM, UT, and WY. Sunday was an early day, however church was held in the morning and the Gospel Trail Singers entertained in the evening. FCRV’s Executive board met Sunday afternoon.
Opening ceremonies began promptly at 8 a.m. Monday with posting of the colors by the Campbell County Sherriff’s Department and the National Canadian and U.S. Anthems by Kenna Rose, former Miss Wyoming. Welcomes were given by MC, Jim Moravec, Campvention Chairman, Loana Schroeder, Barbara Stugart, Camplex Events Manager, Louise Carter-King, Mayor of Gillette and Dave Ludwig, FCRV President. Introduced were past FCRV Presidents in attendance – Juanita Woolworth (Don), Jim and Barb Turner, Ray and Jewell Shields, and Denny Campbell. Shari Weber presented a certificate to Barbara Stugart making Camplex an honorary FCRV member. The ribbon was cut by Miss FCRV Rebecca Coniglio and FCRV Retiree King and Queen Emil and Millie Pauwells.
Later Monday morning Family Fun Day got underway with giant inflatables – slides, soccer,

football, and basketball, bean bag toss, volley ball, a photo booth, and magician. The teens served a hot dog and hamburger lunch to lots of people who enjoyed the open air picnic tables. The grill was supplied by Dave Gorson’s Express Lube. Some money from the games was donated in memory of Bob Price to the St Charles Lutheran High School Association Charity.
Monday evening’s program was enjoyed by a packed house as Tamra Hayden, a Broadway veteran and Colorado native took the audience on what she described as a roller coaster ride of several types of music. She sang numbers from Broadway shows, blues, pop, country some with orchestra background, others just with guitar. The audience joined in on sing-alongs like “Country Roads” and “Rocky Mountain High.” They also felt the emotion on songs like “I Dreamed a Dream.” She was in powerful voice and brought meaning to each song which earned her a well deserved standing ovation. The evening was capped with a hospitality by Missouri.
There was plenty to do each day for all age groups including 26 seminars on everything from fitness to first aid. Youth had a seminar on computer safety, photo keepsake project, bouncing castle, pizza party and movie, K9 drug detection demo, ‘drive-in’ movie, line dance class, stranger danger seminar, top secret parade practice & costumes, and FCRV parade. Teens had movie night, computer safety seminar, Home Depot craft project, roping demo, stick horse barrel racing, water park slide and swimming, line dancing, pet first aid, softball, volleyball, teens vs adults softball, plus all the teen queen & king pageant activities. Teens served refreshments at the Friday evening program and wrapped up their week with a pizza party sponsored by Colorado. Adults had a center for relaxing and cards, daily biking and hiking, Bible study, a.m. coffee and donuts, crafts, jam sessions, chapter project sales, wildlife silent auction, red hat and cowboy hat lunches, door prizes, golf scramble, horse shoes, washer toss, and ladder golf , the commercial area and much more. YARS, Full Timers, First Timers and Ambassador Club had meetings. 23 vendors were on hand including Kitchen Craft, Water Flow, Autumn Ventures, Road Mate DVR, Memory Lane Clocks, Beanie Haven Clothing, Watkins Products, RV101 Products, Oh Wow Fudge etc., Organo Gold Coffee, Marie’s Specialty Fashions, Karen’s Embroidery & Badges, Hutch’s Hobby Wood, Originals by Becky, Scenty Candles, Styria Bakery, Silly Life T-shirts, It Works Wellness, Norwex Cleaning Products, Soda-Licious, Ace Windshield Repair, Black Hills PRO Wash, and Sunrise Bedding. Each family received $10 in vendor bucks to spend. There were also food and ice cream vendors.
Tours were a popular activity with the coal mine and power plant being sold out. Other well attended trips were Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse museum and the Durham Bison Ranch with chuck wagon lunch. Less in demand were Devil’s Tower and Deadwood.
Tuesday morning’s first big event was the 29 entry pet parade with perfect weather. At noon the ladies Red Hat lunch was held. Mayor Louise Carter-King talked about growing up in Gillette and a Tourist Bureau Representative talked about Wyoming firsts and its 125th anniversary. Entertainment was a synchronized swimming skit, shark and all, by the Colorado Golden Nuggets Chapter. Michigan hosted an afternoon hospitality. The evening program began with FCRV awards. Teen Director, Jane Alft presented the Hank Nathan Good Will Award to the Michigan State Teen Association for their fund raising efforts for a homeless shelter, a food pantry, and a women’s shelter. President, Dave Ludwig and VP of Operations Shari Weber presented the Humanitarian Award to Wanda Parkhouse, CO. A certificate for ‘Above and Beyond’ service went to Marv and Mary Houhska, SD, and Plaques for Outstanding Service were presented to Mary Lehnerd, PA and Richard and Vera Randall, NY. The Randalls were unable to attend, but witnessed the presentation via internet.
Prior to the entertainment MC, Jim Moravec announced that John Mueler, NE won the Dutch Oven Desert contest. He also recognized J.R Fullmer , Terry Teetor, and the Colorado Gypsies Chapter for the creative stage decoration with silhouettes of cowboys and pioneers in a Western setting. Las Vegas entertainer, Charles King and his 5 piece band did a two part show with part one featuring impressions of Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin, and Nat King Cole. He noted that Dean Martin’s drinking was an act and his glass on stage contained apple juice. Part two was his Elvis show. In a white, beaded jump suit reminiscent of Elvis in his later years, he did a variety of songs and signature moves. He dedicated “Amazing Grace” to Loana Schraeder and “My Way” to Jim Moravec then ended his show with “American Trilogy” dedicated to veterans. Iowa offered hospitality.
Wednesday featured sports completion, site decoration judging, and the Ambassador Club ((membership recruiting) Luncheon, and Conservation, C.A.M.P. (hiking, etc.), Newsletter, Scrapbook and Photobook, Camping Is posters, and Wildlife awards. FCRV Teen Queen and King Candidates were busy all day with the Queen’s Tea, judges interviews, afternoon talent competition, and evening pageant. Crowned as Miss FCRV 2015 was Megan 600Douglas, 19, of Ontario, Canada, also named Miss Congeniality. First Runner-up was Beth O’Neal, 17, of Illinois and Second Runner-up was Lauren Pallas, 19, of Michigan, Miss Talent was Melanie Valderrabano, 16, of Nebraska. Trading his cowboy hat for a crown was  FCRV Teen King 2015, Ryan Thompson, 19, of Colorado. He was also named Mr. Skill. First Runner-up was Peter Kurburski, 14, of Michigan, also named Mr. Personality. Third Runner-up was Anthony Tennyson, 18, of Kansas.
Prior to the Pageant, the FCRV Band put on a 40 minute concert.Sounding better the ever. The 16 member group of all ages led the audience in singing along with the FCRV song. Band leader, Craig Weber and trumpet player, George Walters did a duet on “Streets of Loredo.
Thursday was a day for chapter project sales, teen softball, and the cowboy lunch. The guys heard from Frank Bihn that Gillette surface mines supply 40 % of the nation’s coal. It has less BTUs but burns cleaner and is often mixed with coal from other places. The Golden Nuggets Chapter, CO served the meal and provided lots of door prizes.
In the afternoon,the FCRV annual meeting was held. Comptroller, Vodean Benham reported a balance of $2,349 above expenses as of May 30. President, Dave Ludwig announced that the cost of doing business has been increasing and revenues are shrinking. The Trustees approved a dues increase of $5 starting In January 2016. U.S. dues will be $35. Canadian dues will be adjusted later, depending on the exchange rate. The successful Cadet program offering a ‘try it before you buy it’ membership for 6 months is still in effect. Past President, Jack Smye installed Comptroller, Vodean Benham , Vice President of Planning and Development, Scott Serbousek, and Vice president of Operations, Shari Weber for a two year term. President Ludwig read a letter from Commercial Director, Marti Price thanking the organization for its support following the recent death of her husband and past FCRV Vice President, Bob Price. Debbie Ludwig, 2016 Campvention Chairman invited everyone to “Get Your Kicks on Rt. 66” July 24 – 29 in Shawnee, Oklahoma. There are 361 fifty amp full hookup sites, another 108 with water and 50 amp and 236 with 30 amp. Pre-register by 12/31/15 for a free registration drawing. Watch Camping Today and the website for information. Campvention 2017 is in Lima, Ohio July 10-17 chaired by Linda and Dave Hennie. 2015 Campvention Chairman thanked her Co-chairmen, Bill and JoAnn Eckman, Host Team Leaders and 55 Committee Chairmen. Each will get a certificate of appreciation.
A number of awards were presented. 11 year old Luke Kurburski of Harbor Springs Michigan received the Youth of the Year award. Chapter of the Year went to the Tri County Travellers of Ontario, Canada. Sue fromholzer, FCRV Office Manager who is retiring next year was given a Devoted Service plaque. A President’s Award went to Ron and Barbara Wright of New York for stepping up at the last minute to head the 2014 Campvention after the death of the chairman. The Membership Growth Award went to Missouri and State Directors, Dallas and Barbara Dodson. A new young adult chapter in Indiana, the Campfire Agitators, was chartered.
Following the general meeting, the required Scholarship, Inc. meeting was held. FCRV will award 12 scholarships in 2015 totaling $14,500 from interest earned on the Scholarship Fund. (See separate article).
Before Thursday evening’s entertainment, Adult Sports awards were presented by Karen Snodgrass ((see separate article) and the winners of the site decorating contest were announced by Geneseo, IL Campground owners, Craig and Shari Weber. Best of show was Mike and Mar Croxton and grandchildren, Gateway Chapter, MO. (See separate article). Many of the 48 entries were on display in the auditorium on Thursday.
Comedy and music filled Spirit Hall with joy and laughter when Tupelo and Janey Wing Kenyon known as ‘Laughing Bird’ took the stage. They played several instruments on their original songs and joked in between. In a hilarious rendition of “She’s Got You”, Janey kept pulling items mentioned in the song and others out of her specially designed gown, each one growing in size from serving spoons to fishing poles and golf clubs. Their show can be described by the old saying, “A good time was had by all.” Ontario hosted hospitality.
Friday was a perfect morning for the FCRV on grounds parade – slightly cloudy and not too warm. There were 24 units and the Parade Stealer was #17, Christmas in Gillette by Aurora, Colorado. The President’s award went to #12, North Dakota (separate article).
Friday evening began with door prizes, sasparilla and popcorn as Colorado hospitality became part of the ‘dance hall’ setting with tables around an open floor. James and Priscilla Paul of Mandan, ND won the $500 Adventure Caravans prize. Donations were presented by the teens from the family fun day lunch – $300 to Climb Wyoming, a training program for unemployed mothers and $300 to the FCRV Scholarship Fund. The food bank collection went to the Council of Community Service (no amount given) and $659.75 from aluminum tabs was given to two Denver Ronald McDonald houses. The parade awards were presented (separate article). Some of the 2015 teen court entertained. Melanie Valderrabano sang and danced ‘Jet Set’, Beth O’Neal played ‘Amazing Grace’ on the violin, Peter Kurburski, Anthony Tennyson and Beth O’Neal did the ’Chicken Dance’, Megan Douglas did a monologue, ‘The Crickets Have Arthritis’, and Ryan Thompson sang ‘I Can Take it From Here’. A new tradition was established as this year’s chairman, Loana Schroeder passed the torch to next year’s Chairman in Oklahoma, Debbie Ludwig. The flags were retired and President Dave Ludwig declared the 2015 Campvention closed. MC, Jim Moravec thanked everyone for coming and wished them safe travels before he introduced Colorado Storm who got the ‘hoe-down’ and line dancing started.
The Campvention Committee was very pleased with the attendance which was higher than the last few years. They were also happy with the excellent cooperation from the Camplex facility. First Timers at the follow-up meeting Friday had a few suggestions but were pleased with the variety of tours and seminars and were impressed with the volunteers who did the various jobs including parking. Some said there was so much to do they couldn’t fit it all in, which means Campvention was a success.