124 units and 9 Camp Passes (246people) enjoyed the Florida Sunshine at Family Campers & RVers 2015 Retiree Rally, March 24 – 30 at the North Florida Fairgrounds in Tallahassee. The theme was “Up and Away” with hot air balloons as the logo. Rally Chairmen, Bob and Nancy Linder led the opening ceremonies Tuesday evening which began with the posting of colors, invocation, U.S. and Canadian Anthems, and ribbon cutting. In addition to welcomes by Linders and National Retiree Directors, Dick and Pam Likins, Fairgrounds Manager , Mark Harvey welcomed FCRV and was presented with a certificate of appreciation. FCRV President, Dave and Debbie Ludwig, Vice President of Operations, George and Debbie Walters and 2014 International Retiree King and Queen, Dick and Kathy Buresh ,TX were introduced. Past International Retiree Kings and Queens in attendance were recognized – Tommy and Alice Garner, GA, Leon and LaNelle Ishmael, SC, Ronald and Jo Hersom, IA, Robert and Nancy Linder, MI, John and Delores Derrick, SC, and Peter and Jane Brown, FL who were celebrating their 63rd anniversary. Candidates for 2015 King and Queens were introduced by John Derrick. They are Emil and Mindy Pauwels, NC, Paul and Eleanor Duggan, MA, and Guy and Jeannie Dean, SC. Attending, but not competing were Dwight and Barb Bonifield, OH.
A special evening of outstanding entertainment was provided by Mellissa Giattino and Ron DeSteffano known as Two To Tap. The Broadway and theater veterans did a fast moving variety of song and dance numbers from Vaudeville, Broadway, and Hollywood. The audience loved their interaction, especially Alice Garner who was serenaded by Ron and Bob Linder who danced with Mellissa. The audience sang along with several numbers and gave the couple a well deserved standing ovation.
Earlier on Tuesday there were seminars on Anti-aging Prodantin, Ham Radio, Full Timers and RV Volunteer s with Habitat For Humanity. Meetings for First Timers, the Singles group and Kings and Queens were held and crafters made parachute cord key chains The Frog Race game and Massachusetts Hospitality rounded out the afternoon.
Wednesday had plenty to do in addition to the daily activities of stretching and walking and Bible study. There was choir practice, variety show rehearsal, red hot pepper bead craft, apron decorating craft, Adventure Caravans Trip Tip seminar, and hospitalities by both North and South Carolina. Games of card bingo, 3/13, and chicken foot were played.
Once again the evening entertainment was excellent. Steve Jeffris did a wide variety of songs in fine voice and could make his guitar sound like bass, rhythm, and lead guitar all together. People sang along with the classic country and gospel songs and some even danced to “Rock Around the Clock.” The Indiana native interspersed humor and personal stories and ventured into the audience singing to individuals. He recruited Dick Buresh to help him with “Back in the Saddle Again” by supplying horse noises. Jeffris did a salute to veterans, playing the theme song for each branch of the military and having each group stand and be recognized. He concluded his show with “I’ll Fly Away” to a standing ovation.
Thursday was a day for state / provincial group photos in the morning, Skip Bo, Washer and Bean Bag Toss. Reigning King and Queen, Dick and Kathy Buresh hosted a ‘Thank You’ hospitality assisted by Texas members.
There was plenty of time to visit the vendors on hand – Mount Mariah C.O.G.I.U Church (food and ice cream) Wayne’s RV Service (parts and service), Adventure Caravans (guided RV to Alaska, Mexico, etc.), and Karen’s Embroidery & Badges (FCRV clothing, badges, embroidery). An afternoon rain didn’t dissuade anyone from the first catered dinner by Sonny’s Barbeque .
The annual memorial service was held on stage led by Chaplain LaNelle Ishmael who urged everyone to remember the good times shared with the 163 members who died during the past year. Leon Ishmael lit a rememberance candle and Linda Hennie and Carolyn Braley read the names.The choir led by George Walters and accompanied by Shirley Smith sang ‘When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder” and “Let There be Peace on Earth.” George Walters concluded the ceremony by playing “Taps.”
The mood was transformed from solemn to happy by the FCRV Talent Show led off by MC, George Walters singing “Listen To the Music.” Wilma Schroedl told some jokes, Gloria and Phil Steinberg did a comedy routine, and, John Derrick pleased the audience with “Five Foot Two” and “If You Knew Susie.” Chuck Weiner did a tricky monologue about a small town and First Timer, Jim Frazer sang “In The Garden.” A surprise performer, Miss FCRV 2014, Rebecca Coniglio of Florida did a ballet dedicated to her grandfather to the song “Just Fishin.” Guy Dean soldiered through his yodeling song and “Stand Beside Me” despite microphone problems then was joined by his wife Jeanne in a duet on “ Waltz off the Angels” and “My Best Friend.” Barb Dunker sang “Ill Soar Like an Eagle” then was joined by her mother, Neva Roy in a touching duet of “How Great Thou Art.” Kathy and Dick Buresh sang “I Believe” and Asley Taylor did an amazing rendition of “Old Man River” which he dedicated to Jack Smye. Earlier, George Walters filled in as an act was prepping, with “For The Good Times” and the audience sang along. All of the performers came back on stage for an inspiring finale with Wilma Schroedl signing “ God Bless America.”
There was lots of excitement on Friday with the morning Pet Parade, Ladder Golf and the Red Hat Luncheon.Yvette Freeman of Alabama was selected as Red Hat ‘Queen Mum.’ Rain cancelled afternoon Bocce ball. Indoors, the Ice Cream Social was held where ballots for 2015 International King and Queen were collected and the pegs and Jokers Championship was played. The general Retiree Meeting was held and 2016 coordinators, Ron and Reba Ray of Georgia invited everyone to Houma, Louisiana, March 15 -21. A possible New Orleans tour is in the works.
Before the evening program Adventure Caravans held a drawing for a $3,500 Mega Rally or Balloon Fest. The winner was Larry Kahle of Arkansas.
Another excellent evening of entertainment was delivered by Sarah Ghetto who was in fine voice and perfect pitch. Using her keyboard in various modes she sang a wide variety of music from Motown to soft pop, country, and gospel. Her dad, Mike Ghetto played guitar on a few songs and sang a few numbers including a duet on “Islands in the Stream” where Sarah sang like Dolly Parton. She also played songs on the Native American wood flute and the violin. For novelty Sarah asked for a volunteer whose first name was John or Johnny. John Williams of Michigan responded and joined her on stage as she sang “Johnny Angel” to him. Sarah, who has been blind since birth, records all of her sound tracks herself using her keyboard and other instruments she plays. A particularly beautiful song, Tanya Tucker’s “Sparrow In the Wind” was dedicated to all the couples who have been married over 50 years. Sarah revealed to the audience that she was planning to open a dinner theater in Zephyr Hills, Florida sometime in the future where she could perform and bring in other acts. At the end of her show she received a standing ovation.
Saturday morning’s activity was the popular craft / flea market and the afternoon was taken up with the ‘fun and furious’ bean bag baseball competition. Eleven 9 member teams played 11 games to end up as the final two teams who won 3 games each. The Solitaires were the winners with 21 and the Georgia Peaches were 2nd overall with 19.
Anticipation filled the audience and the 3 couples vying for 2015 International FCRV Retiree King and Queen at the evening crowning ceremony. Dick and Kathy Buresh gave their farewell remarks noting that they traveled over 10,000 miles in their motorhome visiting 18 FCRV campouts and rallies in 8 states in Canada. They thanked everyone for their support during the year, especially Texas Chapter 89 and the Fulltimers Chapter. John Derrick opened the
results envelope and announced that the 2nd Runner-ups are Guy and Jeannie Dean of North Carolina, the 3rd Runner-ups are Paul and Eleanor Duggan of Massachusetts and the 2016 International FCRV Retiree King and Queen are Emil and Mindy Pauwels of North Carolina. After the crowning, congratulations, and photos the 2016 court and the past Kings and Queens led the group over to the building next door for the King and Queen’s Ball and Reception. Some great dance music was provided by the versatile Lee Ann Noel Band and finger foods, punch , coffee and decorations were provided by the YARS Chapter.
Sunday morning began with a Non-denominational Church Service by Retiree Chaplain, Harold Braley and the FCRV Choir. At noon a thank you luncheon was held for the workers and Chairmen, Bob and Nancy Linder gave certificates of appreciation to the various committee chairmen. Linders also received a certificate from National Retiree Director, Dick Likens. Co-chairmen for this year’s rally were Ron and Reba Ray.
On Sunday evening prior to the International Parade, Ashley and Gloria Taylor reported that 121 lap robes were donated by FCRV members to the North Florida Veterans Stand Down organization. 58 more held up at U.S. Customs will be arriving soon. On hand to accept was Claude Shipley who gave Ashley a Stand Down coin. Gloria Taylor welcomed Pastor Bob from the Lighthouse Children’s Home who was grateful for the $1,214 plus donation plus food from the Food Bank .Moneys were also included from church, book exchange, Red Hats and basket sales. Penny Ramlow drew the winner of a free registration for next year’s rally. They were Jerry and Dot Zimmerman of Connecticut. In fun, Bob Linder gave his wife, Nancy a ‘Best G.P.S.’ award.
Bill and Margaret Alderman presented the games awards and thanked everyone , especially the volunteer scorers and organizers who participated. Game results are in a separate article. Rita Letellier presented the Pet Parade awards (including beads from LA). Results are in a separate article. Jim Turner awarded golf prizes at the golf course. Results separate. Of course things got lively with the parade of states, provinces and specialty chapters. The 2015 Retiree Rally came to a quiet close with the retiring of the flags, a prayer for safe travels, and the singing of “God Be With You ‘Til We Meet Again.”
2015 Retiree Rally Pictures
2015 Retiree Rally – by Barb Turner