What’s the latest scoop on the world’s largest Airstream club? Outside Interests caught up with current Wally Byam Caravan Club International (WBCCI) president Richard Girard, and asked him what’s new.
Updating member outreach and improved technology has been an important focus this year for the club, including a more active internet presence. “Recently we implemented an online event calendar which lists every club rally and caravan,” said Girard. “Finding a club event has never been easier.”
“We added several new social media sites for member and prospective members to find out more about the club and the things that we do,” he added.
You may notice a slight but important change to the club logo—the club is now going by the name Wally Byam Airstream Club (updated from “Caravan Club”).
Team Girard has also stayed busy planning the club’s 60th International Rally coming to Escanaba, Michigan this summer, where more than 600 Airstreams are expected.
No new caravans are planned, but “every year at the International we hold training sessions for prospective caravan leaders,” said Girard. “This has been a very popular event, so I expect some new caravans to be on the horizon. Putting a new caravan in place requires a lot of prep work, and it doesn’t happen overnight.”
One of the most popular recurring caravans (which is now sold out) is the Louisiana “Cajun Country” caravan, which promises Airstreaming through cypress swamps and crawfish farms, boating on Lake Martin, Tobasco tasting at the factory on Avery Island, dancing the Cajun two-step at world famous Fred’s Lounge, and dodging alligators along the way.
Girard’s personal favorite event is the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta National Event Rally. Begun 11 years ago, the balloon fest hosts 150 Airstreams parked among hundreds of colorful hot air balloons. “It is simply the greatest show above the earth!” said Girard.
An effort to engage younger members is ongoing. “A few months ago, I met with several leaders of other RV clubs and this question was a topic of discussion,” said Girard. “Many other clubs are currently in a membership decline and are looking at ways to attract younger members.” The Wally Byam Airstream Club has been experiencing growth, and reaching out to the younger owner through social media and a new welcome package in each new Airstream may be helping. “We’re also developing shorter caravans as well as rallies that are designed around a working family, said Girard. “Encouraging units to invite prospective members to ‘try it before you buy it’—attend a rally and decide on membership afterward—has also been very successful.”
In a few months, first VP Jim Cocke will be installed as WBCCI President and Girard will remain active on the club Board—but he plans to “spend more time with a golf club or a fly rod in my hands,” he joked. “It has been a rewarding year as President of the greatest RV club on the planet. There is a considerable amount of work involved, but the rewards are definitely worth the time and effort.”
He plans to camp at his favorite places that “all have something in common. They’re all out west in the mountains, and as the sun starts to set, the only sound you hear is a trout breaking the surface of the water.”
Find out more about joining the Wally Byam Airstream Club (and why) at the club website.