The trip to the 43rd Van Nationals in Altamont, IL was far from uneventful. In the first 3 hours of our trip we lost the tread on one of the rear tires on our RV. Fortunately, it stayed inflated and we were able to get it off the road to a truck stop. Nobody was on duty and the shop was closed for the weekend but we ran into some good Samaritans at the gas station who helped change it out with our spare. We got back on the road and found a Wal-Mart where we bought a tire to put on the spare so we were all set after that. We continued on and finally stopped for the night in Richmond, IN at a campground. The next day we completed our trek to the Van Nats, arriving midafternoon.
The next day we were able to set up everything but realized early on that we were going to be dealing with a lot of mud and rain most of the week. It soon became clear that was going to be the case and we renamed it Mud Nats, Mudagedan, Mudville, etc. to find some humor in it all. Regardless, all the rain and mud did not deter the attendees. We vanners make a bad situation into a good situation no matter what—we adapt. Rubber boots became the normal foot apparel.
As the gates opened on Wednesday, everyone searched out a piece of real estate that hopefully would remain somewhat dry for the week. The quality of vans that coming from all across the country and Canada were nothing but spectacular. In attendance were past Best of Show winners, Radical vans, tandems, 6-wheelers, 4×4’s, mini’s, etc. They just kept coming. It was great seeing all of the vanners and their families. The event is like a family reunion of sorts because we all consider ourselves family. There were even attendees from the UK who flew over to attend! In the past we have had people from the UK, Finland, Norway, Germany, Australia, and more. It has become an international event.
I attended the National Truck-In board meeting of which I am a member. There was a conversation regarding the award that is presented for a first-time van shown at a National event. This award is called the Flying Eagle award. It is an award with an eagle on the top of it. Along with the award comes a $100 cash prize. They were looking for sponsorship for this award. My first thought was Flying Eagle and Gold Eagle goes well together. I emailed Bruce and he agreed to this for this year and going forward. So from here on in the award will be the Flying Eagle award sponsored by Gold Eagle! Thank you to Bruce Kaufman at Gold Eagle for helping set this up. The board was extremely appreciative. Wednesday night there was a vanners night during which everyone who bought tickets was treated to an excellent catered, BBQ meal.
Thursday was for classification of the vans to make sure they were in the proper category for judging. The categories included: Street, Mild Custom, Full Custom, Radical, First Time shown, etc. We had the booth open and talked to a lot of people about the product as well as Cool Rides Online. I was able to hand out plenty of samples and literature. There were also a lot of other cool things for people to do during the day. They had games for the kids and adults alike, a Kids activity center, and a Hot Wheels race for kids and adults. I participated in this but lost badly— I need to fine tune my vans since the others were running well. In the evening they had a band to entertain the masses as well as a wine tasting. Later in the evening Ivan Benic showed up with his awesome stretched, dual axle front and back Cosmic Cruiser Van—an engineering masterpiece with awesome mural work.
On Friday the van show was set up. Unfortunately due to the rain and grounds condition, they could not have it in the field as they had planned but his did not deter the show organizers or participants. So, they brought up each class one at a time which was done on the Midway right in front of the vendors so I was able to go out and take pictures of the vans as well as place CRO cards and my card in each van. Kudos to Hard Core Vanners and all of their volunteers who helped get this done. Later in the evening, once it got dark, the vans came out for the Bright and Shine: vans line up and turn on all of their lights, neon’s, LEDs, stereos, etc. It’s an awesome sight to behold. All the while the band set up at the end of the Midway and played for 3 hours straight. They were called Captain Geech & the Shrimp Shack Shooters.
On Saturday everyone met offsite and did a parade through the town and the locals came out to see the vans and panels go through town. I believe they had over 140 vans and panels in the parade. Then, during the afternoon, they did a burn-out contest. This was pretty cool seeing these heavy vans do burnouts. Especially a 4×4 van. So cool. The one condition was that they could not use their street tires—they needed to use tires that were not going to be driven on. Most amusing was a 4×4 Ford with big tires on the front and normal sized tires on the back. In the end a Dodge owned by Daemon Freed won. He blew one of the tires in the process.
Saturday evening was the awards presentation. I presented the Cool Rides Online Sponsor’s Choice award to Marvin Wente with his beautifully restored 1975 Dodge B100 van. I also presented him with a bucket full of STA-BIL® Product and 303® Product as well as other samples and literature. The Flying Eagle award was presented to Gary Hershman for his Full Custom Mid Dodge Van. Howard Furtak from the Nats Board presented it to Hershman and said a great piece about Gold Eagle and their sponsorship and support of the Van Nats over the years. I later caught up to him and he said he needed to have me present the cash award to him. I found Gary and had pictures taken with him and his van as I presented the cash award to him on behalf of Gold Eagle. He was very appreciative. He won not only the Flying Eagle award but also won First place Full Custom Mid Dodge and Best Paint. The Best of Show went to Marty and Joyce Sooby for their 1969 Chevy. Their van won Best of Show last year as well.
On Sunday it was time to pull out and head on down the road. As we were most likely going to be stuck in the mud and not able to get out, we put ourselves on the list to be pulled out. Good thing too because we sunk as soon as I pulled the motorhome off the leveling blocks. The tractor had to work hard to get us out but they thankfully were able to. On our way home we stopped off to see my sister in Indiana and ended up not getting home until 1am. Next year the Nationals are in Lakeland, FL hosted by Sunshine Vanners, Inc. on July 6-10 2016. We already pre-registered for this and will be representing Cool Rides Online and Gold Eagle. Hope to see you there!
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