Family Motorcoach Association holds 100th anniversary convention in Minot

FMCA returns to Minot for 100th anniversary event

Ashton Gerard/MDN Different RV’s started arriving and setting up Saturday at the North Dakota State Fairgrounds for the Family Motor Coach Association’s 100th Convention being held in Minot.

An estimated 2,000 recreational vehicles will bring about 3,500 travelers to the North Dakota State Fairgrounds for the Family Motor Coach Association Convention that begins Wednesday. The event is expected to draw about 6,000 people over four days.

This is the FMCA’s third convention in Minot but it will be a special one as the association marks its 100th anniversary. “Minot Magic – 100 Times the Fun” is the theme of the event.

A highlight will be the appearance of Chesley Sullenberger, the retired airline captain who in 2009 landed US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River off Manhattan after both engines were disabled by a bird strike. All 155 people aboard survived.

“He’s excellent,” FMCA Executive Director Chris Smith said. “He’s a really good speaker. Obviously, he has a very good story to tell.”

He said Sullenberger will appeal to many FMCA members, who often are older and have military backgrounds.

Ashton Gerard/MDN Family Motor Coach Association members chat inside the North Dakota State Fair Center Saturday during registration.

“They like a good American hero, and he is one,” he said.

The big convention draw for most FMCA members, though, will be the educational offerings, Smith said.

“We have hundreds of seminars,” he said. “We have so many seminars, for first timers their head spins because they can’t attend everything.”

FMCA seminar topics include information & technology, microwave and convection cooking, personal finance and health, Medicare and health insurance, RV living, travel, RV maintenance and operation, natural and organic mold, mildew and odor removal and a variety of hobby sessions, including genealogy, crocheting and knitting, writing and quilting.

In addition to more than 100 seminars, there will be motorhomes to view, social gatherings, tram service on the fairgrounds and product exhibits. Exhibitions will be open Wednesday from 1 to 5 p.m. and Thursday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visit Minot will have a booth at the event from Tuesday through Saturday.

There also will be craft opportunities and games, such as beanbag toss, water balloons and bingo.

Some of the evening activities include a movie night featuring the film “Sully” on Wednesday, which recounts Sullenberger’s story. Following opening ceremonies Thursday evening, Sullenberger will address the audience. He will talk about important lessons learned during his life in the military and as a commercial pilot that made it possible to take immediate and heroic action on Jan. 15, 2009.

On Friday evening, The Spinners will perform pop and R&B hits of the 1970s. On Saturday, Soulshine, a Minot band, will provide oldies, soul, country, blues, rock and pop music.

Entertainment during the week includes area country singer Lexi Wyman, Wayne Baumann portraying Western showman William Cody, singers and musicians from FMCA’s Frustrated Maestros chapters, Minot comedian-magician Blake Krabseth, Peggy Miller’s Willie & Company ventriloquism act, the local Tin Star variety band, Michael and Jennifer McLain & The Banjocats performing bluegrass, Minot-area band Missing Lynx and Karaoke With a Keck, with Lamar Keck.

Other activities include an ice cream social, ladies luncheon, Whisker Games beard contest and Magic Mile Run/Walk. The FMCA Supersized Book Club will introduce attendees to humorist John Bayer, author of “15 Months of Winter: My Year in North Dakota.”

The FMCA On-Road Quilters group will be meet Thursday and is hoping to get 100 quilts from members to display during the event. The quilts will be donated to Minot Prairie Quilt Guild for distribution to causes in the community.

On-Road Quilters was organized in 1998 at the summer convention in Ogden, Utah. The following March, it made its first donation in its Quilts For Kids project. Ten children’s quilts that were distributed by the Crossroads Quilt Guild in Perry, Ga. Ever since then, the quilters have left behind quilts in every convention location, according to Sharon Eversmann, who had initiated the group.

“Sometimes they have been given to specific organizations, but mostly they are included in the ongoing charity projects of the local quilt guilds. They know the need in their areas,” said Eversmann in an email. “We love sharing because we believe a quilt can make a difference in a child’s life – and an adult’s, too. We have distributed quilts to hospitals, homes for disabled children, pregnancy centers and homeless shelters. Quilts have been given to police and firemen to distribute during times of crises.”

In addition to the meetings and seminars during the convention, some FMCA members will be taking part in a pre-convention, three-day RV basics class that offers hands-on driving experience and provides information on various aspects of ownership. The course attracts both first-time RVers as well as veteran RV owners who come for a refresher.

On Tuesday, the Downtown Business & Professional Association is inviting FMCA guests to a special event from 3:45 to 8 p.m. Visit Minot is providing free buses to take FMCA attendees downtown, where entertainment will include Dakota Cruisers, music by Josh Herman and Melissa Spelchen, food vendors and wine and beer provided by Atypical & Souris River Brewing.

Smith said some FMCA members will arrive early or stay longer to explore Minot and the area. Many members are retirees, and a number of them live in their motorhomes as a primary residence. There are families in the group who travel with children, so the FMCA conventions often include some children’s activities, he said. In some cases, families live full-time in motorhomes, traveling as they homeschool. More unusual are the RVers such as one mother who has continued traveling in their RV home with her children despite her husband’s death.

Smith said the association started as a group for motorhome owners but in 2017 opened membership to owners of towables such as fifth-wheels and travel trailers. About 90% of members are motorhome owners. Smith said there will be homes at the convention ranging from the towables to motorhomes valued at more than $1 million, including some of the latest models in exhibit displays.

Vendors also will be displaying items from engines and generators to LED lighting options. Visitors also can learn about the latest WiFi capabilities, satellite systems, antennas and TV options.

Members of the public are welcome to attend. Those who want to view only the RV displays and the supplier and component exhibits can attend for $10 per day or $25 for a family of three or more; children 12 and under are admitted free with an accompanying adult. Individuals with an active military ID also are admitted free.

Saturday has been declared “Minot Day,” and all local residents will be admitted free to the RV Expo portion of the event.

Those who would like to take in the exhibits and also attend seminars and entertainment may purchase a Daily Passport, which is available for $50 per person.

Free public parking will be available inside Gate E on the southwest corner of the fairgrounds and across the street from Gate E, off Burdick Expressway.

RV owners are invited to take part in all of the activities and also to bring their RVs and stay with the group on the fairgrounds. The gate registration price is $245 and also grants RV owners who are new to FMCA a one-year FMCA membership. An additional fee is charged for electricity.

Ramblin’ Nodak is the North Dakota Chapter of FMCA. It meets monthly from May through September and conducts joint rallies with the nearby Canadian Northern Lights Chapter.