RV group's Sedalia rally 'like family reunion'

Friday, July 25, 2003

SEDALIA, Mo. -- Hundreds of recreational vehicle enthusiasts have come to this mid-Missouri town for the 11th annual National African-American RVers Association rally.

The five-day gathering at the Missouri State Fairgrounds began Wednesday evening with a parade in which marchers dressed in African garb and played native instruments.

"It's like a big family reunion," said Shirley Gayle of Whistler, Ala., who brought her 13-year-old granddaughter, LaRita Williams, of Mobile, Ala.

"We're really strong on family involvement," Gayle said. "A lot of us pick up our grandchildren and bring them along to the national rally."

By Wednesday, more than 700 RVs, some costing as much as $500,000, had been registered and were parked at the Missouri State Fairgrounds campground.

Rally co-chairman Michael Holliman said NAARVA started with 52 units in Cincinnati in 1993 and is now approaching 1,500 members.

"We have members from all sides of life," Holliman said. "We've got plumbers, construction workers, doctors, lawyers -- people from all walks of life, the whole gambit."

Holliman, who is a bus driver from Cleveland, said he uses his RV nearly every weekend to take trips close to home.

This year's gathering is hosted by the club's central region, which chose Missouri after a regional gathering last year in St. Charles.

"The people were just so good to us that we decided on Sedalia for this year's rally," said NAARVA spokeswoman Francine Lee of Indianapolis.

Events will include tours of the castle-like Bothwell Lodge, built between 1897 and 1928 for a prominent Sedalia lawyer, and of the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art and Sedalia's downtown historical district. The rally, which runs until Monday, also will include seminars and classes on RV services and products.

"There's a million-dollar lineup of new RV units set up by the big dealers," said rally co-chairman Howard Gregory of Akron, Ohio. "You can spend all day just looking at those units."

NAARVA campers at the fairgrounds represent every state in the continental United States, Lee said.

"This is our chance to meet, socialize, network and see the sights your community has to offer," she said.

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