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Vintage Camper Trailer Hobby Niche Keeps Growing

Vintage Camper Trailer Hobby Niche Keeps Growing

It was fun! Perhaps a little smaller than the past two years, but to a large degree that was due to the Volkswagen Bus Club’s absence. Other than that, the 2020 Vintage Trailer Fest at Bear Lakes Campground in Manawa, Wis., was a healthy and happy event. It started on Friday Sept. 11 and continued the following day, despite heavy rain.
At one camping space after the other the friendly “tin can tourists” seemed anxious to spin tales about finding their old trailer in the woods or in a gravel pit and fixing it up as a family project. We even met 17-year-old Vance Warner who bought his ‘66 Pathfinder trailer when he was 11. Vance’s dream is finding a same-year El Camino to pull the trailer with. “Fat chance with today’s El Camino prices,” he groaned. “But you never know.”
The campers were also happy to invite visitors into their houses on wheels to show off their refurbishing skills. In many cases, the men involved in the hobby are skilled rebuilders, while their “better halves” take care of redoing seat cushions and sewing up curtains. The window dressings are usually blue-and-white plaid or solid yellow.
If you have an old trailer, you have to have a Scotch plaid drink cooler, a few old bicycles and at least one or two pink flamingo lawn ornaments around it. If you don’t, Jim and Betty Bevers will supply you. The table in front of their ‘62 Shasta Airflyte held all of those items, plus some antique fishing tackle and a ‘50s picnic kit with plastic dinnerware. Jim said he picks up his inventory from swap meets, flea markets and garage sales. 
Some camper enthusiasts pull their old-timers with old-time cars and trucks. Those at this show ranged from a ’49 Chevy “3600” pickup to an IH flatbed truck from the middle ‘60s. A popular pulling power plant seemed to be the Chevy 396 big-block V-8, which was found in a ’66 Chevy wagon towing  Scott and Donna Hanson’s ’65 Airstream Land Yacht and in the beautifully-restored Dark-Copper-and-White ’70 Chevy Custom 20 pickup that brought Tim and Molly Schad’s ’65 Yellowstone trailer to the show.
Nostalgia is a big part of tin can tourism (a name originally coined for “Oakie’s” in the Depression era) and Jodi Foster knows that. She originally purchased her tiny ’72 Sprite 400 in the 1990s and bought it back three years ago. That brand was made by an English company in an Elkhart, Ind. factory, as a way to get around taxes and tariffs. 
Bear Lake Campground normally schedules the Vintage Trailer Fest for late May or early June, but this year it was postponed because of the pandemic. Who knows? That change might lead to having Spring and Fall editions of the show in the future. There’s certainly enough enthusiasm for two Vintage Trailer Fests per year.