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44th Van Nationals in Lakeland, FL Hosted by Sunshine Vanners

We decided to make the 1100 mile trek to Lakeland Florida for the 44th Nationals in July. We left the week before and decided to make it a family trip to Disney. Our daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter met us down there. To sound punish, it was magical. It was so great seeing her face at all of the various parks throughout the Disney resorts. She met all of the characters and princesses and was even made up on out final night there as a Disney princess.

We left the Disney resorts and spent a couple days in a state park to just basically chill out for a couple days in nature. Not like you can chill much in Florida sun in July. Pretty much that is all we could do as we were in the middle of nowhere. Also unplugged so to speak from technology. Barely any cell signal so no checking out the internet or calling out. In a way it was refreshing.

Monday the 4th we made the trek to the Van Nationals. Upon arrival we were directed to where we could park on vendors row and fortunately found a nice spot under a big tree so we were shaded the whole time. We set up our CRO/Sta-Bil/303 tent and actually opened up to represent on Wednesday which was the official opening day of the Nationals. There was a lot of interest in the 303 product as well as the CRO website.

On Tuesday we took a trip to see the Museum of Vanning and Hall of Fame, Inc. in Hudson, Fl. Joe and Bonnie Madonia are the curators of the museum and have spent many years making it what it is today. It used to be housed in a small section of their modest home but recently they were able to acquire a neighboring lot and build a nice size building that they have placed all of their memorabilia, van diecast and other toys and full size vans as well. Banners, jackets, etc. adorn some of the walls. It is still a work in process as more items are donated and unpacked.

It would figure that our time there would be during a heat wave in Florida. You know it is hot when people that are from Florida are saying it is hot. The heat was in the mid to upper 90’s all week at the Nationals with heat indexes from 110-115. Even at night it would only cool down to the low 80’s.

Wednesday was the official opening of the Van Nationals and they had the Mayor of Lakeland and the COO of Sun and Fun in attendance to help cut the ribbon to allow the attendees in who were waiting for the official opening. Attendees had traveled from all over the US from all corners. Many attendees from Canada as well. There were several attendees from England, Belgium and Sweden. The attendance, not including host club, was around 304. I believe due to the heat and the distance traveled, this may have been a factor for some. Not sure why as Sunshine Vanners did a great job to entertain all who attended. There was a meet and greet for the Van Nats Board with hot dogs for all to eat. They had a Carnival night at the same time where you bought tickets to play games and win tickets to be put in for a Chinese raffle. All proceeds went to the local charity called HEARTH (Homeless Education Advocated Restoring the Hope). This group helps over 3500 homeless school children and teens in Polk County. There were bands on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights that kept the participants rocking.

They held the van show on Friday under the trees which everyone appreciated the shade. Again the quality of the vans in attendance was unbelievable. There were approximately    vans in the show.  The Best of Show went to Greg Cooper  with his Dodge A100 Surfink. The Flying Eagle Award which the $100 award is sponsored by Gold Eagle went to Richard VonBroken with his 1976 Ford Van called Captains Quarters. I picked Cody Polston with his 1968 Chevy to win the CRO Sponsors Award along with a nice bucket of 303 and Sta-Bil products.  This was a beautifully restored van.

All to soon it was ready to pack up and head home. We began the trip early Sunday morning so we could beat all the traffic around all of the usual high traffic areas. We decided to stop for the day at South of the Border in South Carolina. The ultimate tourist trap. It has a nice campground to stay in overnight. We left the next morning early and made it home midafternoon. It was a long 2 weeks. But well worth it on so many levels. Sunshine Vanners did a fantastic or should I say Vantastic job on the 44th Van Nationals. Next year they are in Mansfield, OH and we will be there again.

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