Aug 06, 2023
2,500 Airstreamers Pack Rock Springs, Wyoming For 66th Annual International Airstream Rally
The Sweetwater Events Complex outside Rock Springs was a sea of silver this week, packed to the gills with hundreds of polished aluminum Airstream house trailers. About 2,500 Airstreamers, as they are
The Sweetwater Events Complex outside Rock Springs was a sea of silver this week, packed to the gills with hundreds of polished aluminum Airstream house trailers.
About 2,500 Airstreamers, as they are called, attended an annual rally that included a trade show with the company's latest offerings, dozens of club meetings, do-it-yourself seminars and charitable activities.
Some just came for the party. There was lots of live music, dancing and drinking. But it was more like church than an RV rally to many of the travelers who assembled here from 47 states and five Canadian provinces. It's a complex organization governed by a bureaucracy of volunteers to celebrate the accomplishments of a man who has been dead for more than 60 years.
It's Their Code
Company founder Wally Byam was an innovator and traveler who towed Airstreams and led caravans all over the world. Byam died in 1962, but he instilled a code of conduct that Airstreamers revere.
Part of that code is, "To open a whole new world of new experiences ... a new dimension in enjoyment where travel adventure and good fellowship are your constant companions."
In the vintage section of the rally were dozens of old Airstreams. The oldest among them was a 1946 model. To qualify as vintage a trailer must be 25 years old or older.
Rich Espinosa of Bulverde Texas is an Airstreamer whose love for the brand borders on obsession. In 2019 he stripped his turquoise 1976 Argosy naked and rebuilt it. He stabilized the undercarriage, replaced the belly pan and powder coated the interior panels.
His wife Diane decorated the interior with all of the pastel colors and wallpaper reminiscent of the 70’s.
Espinosa documented the restoration in a hardbound book full of close to 100 images. The Argosy is an Airstream knockoff that is painted rather than polished. It also has a steel front cap.
He said hail is the bane of the Airstreamer's existence. There was a trailer in the vintage section at this rally nicknamed "Dottie" because of her hail scars.
Newer models are made from a lighter gauge aluminum and are more susceptible to hail damage, he said. This rally even included a do-it-yourself seminar on how to fix small dents in polished aluminum.
"Some of these new ones are torn up from hail," he said. "But the old ones hang tough."
Flooring and cabinets in Airstreams, especially restorations, are made from hardwood and the fixtures are the same quality as most homes.
This is the third Airstream Club International Rally the Espinosas have attended. They spend at least one weekend per month in the summer traveling in their Argosy.
They've had a nice time in Wyoming but said that "this damn weather here is a little weird."
Luckily they've yet to experience a Wyoming hailstorm.
You Can't Have Just One
Becky Gray, from Hillsboro Texas owns two Airstreams as did most of the vintage owners interviewed by Cowboy State Daily. Her other trailer is parked in an exclusive Airstream community in Texas. The subdivision has some regular homes too but everyone who lives there is required to own an Airstream and encouraged to park it on the property.
When Gray and her fiancé bought the property it saved them $270 per month in trailer storage fees.
Gray spent a lot of time traveling in an Airstream owned by her parents before she bought one. But it took her a while to appreciate the iconic qualities of the brand. When her parents bought a lot in the same subdivision she now lives in, she wasn't impressed.
"My parents bought into it when it was brand new and I thought it was the stupidest thing in the entire world," she said.
She said every Airstream club member receives a directory. When traveling and in need of a place to park, they can contact other club members and arrange a stay, normally with full hookups, she said.
"It's nice when you are passing through an area and you can call somebody and stay with them," she said.
No, We're Not Snobs
Gray said contrary to popular opinion, Airstreamers aren't snobs.
"Some people say we are snobbish," she said. "I don't think so. I've found that these people are just as down-to-earth as anyone else."
After the rally, Gray plans to head to Fishing Bridge in Yellowstone National Park to spend several days.
Gray's next-door neighbors at the rally, Arthur and Pamela Martin from Florence, Kentucky pulled off an impromptu concert in the park the previous evening. Arthur plays guitar. Some friends showed up with other instruments, including an upright bass and a crowd of about 100 quickly gathered.
Bluegrass music is playing in the Martin's trailer when they took time out to speak with Cowboy State Daily. When asked about the trailer, a 1992 model, Pamela said, "oh, we own two."
"We raised our kids in an Airstream and we keep our 1968 model parked in a campground in Indiana," she said. "We've made some of our best friends at Airstream rallies. We love the camaraderie and fellowship."
John Schnettler from northeast Ohio also owns a pair of Airstreams. He had never camped in a house trailer before buying an Airstream in 2018.
He found his 1965 17-footer about three miles from his home. The owner's granddaughter was using it for a playhouse and it was in tough shape, he said. He rebuilt the cabinets, table, plumbing and undercarriage himself.
He found his second Airstream in California and is in the process of restoring it. It's a 1994 25-footer.
"Airstreams and this lifestyle just kind of found me," he said. "This one was a disaster when I found it but it's been a good project and it kept me busy during Covid."
The Schnettler’s plan to go to Devils Tower and then Teddy Roosevelt National Park, where they'll check North Dakota off as the last of their 50 states to visit.
The iconic silver bullets of the American highway are what pulls this community together for the Airstream Club International rally held somewhere in the U.S for one week every summer.
This is not the first time this rally was held in Wyoming. In 1965, 2,592 Airstreams gathered near the University of Wyoming campus in Laramie. A special tribute was held at that rally for company founder Wally Byam, who died in 1962.
Kristy Yonyon, Airstream Club International marketing and communications manager said it's important for the club to visit the right sized city. Last year they were in Salem, Oregon where they were somewhat anonymous.
Rock Springs and the Sweetwater Events Complex staff, on the other hand, put the dog out for this rally.
"Rock Springs is almost the perfect size community," she said. "It's big enough to offer a lot in terms of restaurants, breweries and shops but small enough that we make a big impact. Everyone here has been excited for us to be here. In Salem they were glad to have us, but we were just a little cog in their wheel. Here we feel like the big fish."
Over the course of the week-long rally, the club gathered over 8,000 diapers and will make a cash donation to the United Way of Southwest Wyoming, Yonyon said.
John Thompson can be reached at: [email protected]
Leo Wolfson2 min read
Mark Heinz3 min readIt's Their CodeHail NoYou Can't Have Just OneNo, We're Not SnobsSummer Nomads