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Cowboy Up!

Originally Published in MotorHome Magazine

Blame it on Brewster. Until the affable author penned the words to Home on the Range, most
Easterners’ impressions of the Wild West came courtesy of dime novels. Brewster Higley’s
1873 verse, however, painted a new picture of frontier living, replacing images of
gunfights with comfortable country life. But Brewster wasn’t pining over Arkansas, or
Oklahoma, or even Texas – he was writing in a cabin in Smith County, Kansas. Years before
the Great Oklahoma Land Rush, Higley’s remembered sights and sounds of the Sunflower State
were enticing homesteaders – and Kansas has been having the same effect on visitors ever
since. Granted, what was once the edge of civilization is now the geographical center of
the United States – but as participants in this summer’s Great North American RV Rally will
discover, the roots of the Old West still run deep in Kansas. Not that you’ll need boots
and a beaver-felt hat before heading to Hutchinson for the biggest RV roundup of the year,
June 21-24 (early-bird days June 19 and 20) at the Kansas State Fairgrounds. Since the date
coincides with the 150th anniversary of the founding of Kansas Territory, however, you
might want to dust off the denim. We plan to. This fifth Great North American RV Rally is
sponsored by MotorHome/Trailer Life, Woodall’s Publications, the Good Sam Club, Camping
World President’s Club and Coast to Coast Resorts (all units of Affinity Group Inc.), and –
as in the past – special programs will be conducted daily by each of these.
MotorHome/Trailer Life and Woodall’s Publications will jointly sponsor RV Publications Day
on Monday, June 21. Although much of the program will be a surprise, we can tell you that
you’ll feel, well, right at home on the range. Other programs include Camping World Day,
scheduled for Tuesday; Coast to Coast Day, Wednesday; and Good Sam Club Day, Thursday. Each
promises to deliver as much fun as a country hoedown with two fiddle-players – and all the
events are accompanied by prize drawings held throughout the four-day show. It’s said that
outlaw Sam Bass robbed the Deadwood Stage four times, only to net a total of seven peaches
and $50. With prizes that include a 2004 Suzuki Grand Vitara, attendees at the Great North
American RV Rally will fare a lot better! True, not every person will win a prize and only
one lucky participant will drive away in the Suzuki, but it’s a safe bet to say that
everyone attending the rally will leave with more than they came with. That might translate
into material possessions – more than 400 exhibitor booths will offer everything from the
latest RV products to cooking utensils, clothing and even jewelry – but it also might just
as readily be a reflection of the wealth of information to be disseminated on site:
Seminars are scheduled on hundreds of subjects of interest to everyone from the novice to
veteran RVers. Among the most popular seminars is the one on Tech Topics led by
MotorHome/Trailer Life Associate Publisher (and Highways Technical Editor) Bob Livingston.
Seats also figure to fill up quickly for MotorHome columnist Gaylord Maxwell’s talk about
the RV lifestyle, as well as a session featuring Highways columnists Joe and Vicki Kieva,
who will offer practical tips from their experience. Other knowledgeable speakers will
address everything from how to select the right RV to RV maintenance, from adventure travel
to healthy cooking. Hands-on sessions of another sort come courtesy of an amazing array of
brand-new RVs sprinkled throughout the fairgrounds’ 280 acres. More than 1,000 vehicles of
all sizes and types, both motorized and towable, will be on display – many for sale at
special rally prices and most accompanied by manufacturers’ representatives eager to chat
with interested browsers. Fun in the Sun Though Brewster Higley wrote the
words to what has become Kansas’ official song, it remained for Dan Kelly to put them to
music – and, 131 years ago, it was no small feat to assemble enough musicians to play it.
By contrast, the Hutchinson shindig’s Rally Idol Contest – loosely patterned after the
popular American Idol TV show – simply requires that participants step up on stage with
their own music, the ability to carry a note and enough nerve to sing in front of an
appreciative audience. First held at last summer’s Great North American RV Rally, the
contest will include last year’s winner, Noel Byers – this time, as a judge. Nerves of
another sort are needed for the popular Oreo Cookie-Stacking Contest, which (as you can
discover by practicing at home beforehand) is a lot harder than it sounds. Hutchinson also
will be the site of the annual rally’s first-ever dog show, plus an attempt to break the
world record for the largest group hug. In 2001, Sweden set the standard with 4,703 people
– and a lot more folks than that are expected to drive through the gates of the Kansas
State Fairgrounds! The event also features more traditional treats, including a free
ice-cream social, along with special programs designed for children ages 5 to 16 (led by
Good Sam Club Sambassadors Ira and Rosemary Bates). The Entertainment
Each evening, attendees will relax while enjoying top-notch on-stage
entertainment. Opening night’s performers are The Temptations Review Featuring Dennis
Edwards. Edwards is one of the last survivors of The Temptations, the legendary
rock-and-roll group that earned five Grammy awards, 14 gold albums and 38 Billboard Top-40
hits. His soulful voice carried the group to hit after hit, from I Can’t Get Next to You to
the Grammy-winning Papa Was a Rolling Stone. The rest of the entertainers are pure country.
On Tuesday, Bobby Bare takes to the stage, celebrating a career that kicked off with 1959’s
The All-American Boy, that went to No. 2 on the charts. Bare, who has recorded duets with
many of country’s top female singers, including Skeeter Davis, Rosanne Cash and Lacy J.
Dalton, had a dozen Top 10 hits, including Detroit City, Daddy, What If and Marie Laveau,
which topped the charts in 1974. Ronnie McDowell is Wednesday’s entertainer. In 1977,
McDowell wrote and recorded The King Is Gone, a tribute to Elvis Presley, that charted all
the way to No. 3 and spurred a career now stretching into four decades and 30 albums.
McDowell’s string of hit songs include Older Women and In a New York Minute. Headliners
Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers will bring the rally to a foot-stomping close on
Thursday night. Grammy-winners for Best Country Song in 1976 for Broken Lady, the group’s
memorable hits include Houston, Somebody’s Baby and All the Gold in California. World-class
performers for nearly four decades, brothers Larry, Rudy and Steve are renowned for their
vocal harmonies and showmanship. Early-bird entertainment will be provided by the Texas
Fiddlers on Saturday night, with an arts-and-crafts fair set for Sunday. Tallgrass
on the Side
Along with the rally’s full schedule of events – plus the opportunity
to wear out saddle leather on your own – there will be a number of optional half- and
full-day tours available during the four-day get-together. Some of the more interesting
side trips within driving distance that you can enjoy with rally buddies: – The Kansas
Cosmosphere and Space Center – right in Hutchinson. This world-class facility features the
nation’s most comprehensive collection of space artifacts outside the Smithsonian Institute
(plus, it has an Imax Theater and a planetarium). – The Eisenhower Center. Though a Texan
by birth, President Dwight D. Eisenhower grew up in Abilene, Kansas. There, you can see his
boyhood home, a museum documenting his military and political careers, a research library,
a chapel and Ike’s and wife Mamie’s burial site. – Dodge City Days. Wyatt Earp, “Doc”
Holliday and “Bat” Masterson once hung their hats in historic Dodge City. Those wild days
are remembered year-round at the Boot Hill Museum – and during Dodge City Days (July
30-August 8) when a professional rodeo and country-music concerts add to the sagebrush
flavor. – The Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. Located near Strong City, this is the
last virgin prairie in North America (and one of only five left in the entire world). Tours
of the preserve help visitors imagine what the vast prairie looked like when 19th-century
wagon trains rode along the Chisholm, Santa Fe and Oregon trails. – Other optional tour
destinations include: Fort Larned and the Santa Fe Trail Center; Lindsborg (known as Little
Sweden) and the Maxwell Wildlife Refuge; the Smokey Hills Winery and Rolling Hills Zoo in
Salina; the Sternburg Museum of Natural History in Hays; Wichita’s Old Cowtown Museum and
Mid-America All-Indian Center; and the Prairie Rose Chuckwagon experience. To ensure
getting a prime RV site for this not-to-be-missed event, make your reservations before
rally prices increase March 20. The dry-camping price for two adults/one rig is $119; for
one adult, $99. Sites with electric hookups are $249 for two adults/one rig; $229 for one
adult. Early-bird campers pay $30 for two days’ dry-camping, $15 for one day; two days with
electric hookup is $62, one day with hookup, $31. For registration information, visit www.rv.net/rally or call toll-free (877) 749-7122.

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