No one can argue that camping isn't what it used to be. Today's RVs and travel trailers come equipped with the same conveniences found in a small home, and outings often consist of listening to the wild animals howl just outside the window while watching Netflix from the comfort of a cozy couch.
This August, when the Classic Vintage Trailer Rally rolls into town for the second year in a row, residents and visitors to the region will have the chance to catch a glimpse of what mid-century camping was like.
On Aug. 10, vintage trailer buffs from across the country (and Canada) will start arriving and setting up camp at the J Bar J Ranch, where they will hunker down for four days and demonstrate what family vacations used to look like. The public is welcome all four days from 10 am to 5 pm, but Saturday will feature an open house event that will transport attendees back in time.
"Wagon Master" Dal Smilie, the rally's organizer, says approximately 3,000 people were in attendance last year. While he was surprised, especially with the overlapping of the Annual Flashback Cruz, he says it's a different kind of event.
"If you are tired of spending long days going to car shows and kind of want to hang with your friends and still play with old stuff, it's perfect," Smilie says.
There's an undeniable growing interest in vintage trailers and the refurbishing of old trailers, and it doesn't seem to be generation-specific. "It's not only Baby Boomers playing house with their old stuff," says Smilie. "After you've put way too much money into an old trailer, it's still a lot cheaper than a new trailer." This may be the appeal for younger couples and individuals wanting an affordable means of travel.
Rally attendees can expect to see a wide variety of trailers that were made as early as the 30s, and with the most modern being from the 1970s. The well-known Flyte Camp Vintage Trailer Restorations, featured on the Great American Country television show, "Flippin RVs," is expected to attend, as is Canned Ham Heroes, a local retro trailer sales and restoration business.
Vintage models include Airflyte, Airstream, Shasta and Spartan, and Smilie will be there with his 1949 Curtis Wright. On Saturday, onlookers might even get to see some of the campers dressed in retro clothing and using era-specific camp gear.
For many the Vintage Trailer Rally is sure to be a nostalgic experience, and for everyone in attendance it will feel like a community gathering. "People can expect to see people just having a good time...sitting around making margaritas and barbecuing," says Smilie. He says the rally isn't just a spectator sport; campers are likely to invite people walking by to join their BBQ or tour their tiny mobile homes. Questions are encouraged and conversations come naturally.
All of the proceeds from the event go to support J Bar J Youth Services.
Classic Vintage Trailer Rally
J Bar J Youth Services
62895 Hamby Rd., Bend
Aug. 10-14 Open House Aug. 12, 10am-5pm
Attendance is free