When I was about 19, I ran my first caravan rally, for the Thomson Owners Club. Most rallies were around the Midlands which was always a schlep for me, so I ran my own rally in Kent over the Whitsun week to make people's journeys worthwhile. Loads of people said they would come, so I counted on about 12-15 vans.
After a raft of non-bookings and cancellations, I think we ended up with about 5 vans. I was so disappointed, but mainly because people had indicated that they were coming, even when they had no intention of doing so.
And so it was that I committed to a rally with a 'new' (to me) club in May, and duly booked my place. My first rally! How exciting.
But then the Airstream Gathering came along on exactly the same weekend. Dash and blast it! Mindful of the fact that I would not cancel my outstanding commitment despite a better offer coming along, off I toddled to my booked rally. I was a bit nervous to be honest.
I was booked on the rally field, but had received no pre-arrival letter or email telling me where to go, so I went to the site office. There, the warden was confused too. Half of the 'ralliers' were on site, and half were on the 'rally field', which turned out to be a car park as the rally field had been double-booked with a music festival.
There was no meet & greet from the organiser, no central meeting point, no nothing. So I booked myself in on the site and went off to find a pitch. Thankfully I had a friend already on site.
As I drove around looking for a pitch, there were lots of little groups of ralliers all pointing and staring, but none actually saying Hello. My friend R helped me to pitch, and two guys flew over and spoke to him, not me, saying how I should pitch my trailer. Eventually I introduced myself because I could bear it no longer. One guy gave his name in return, but the other just said 'hello', followed by a long period of silence.
Chatty guy then realises who I am, and rather than make me feel welcome on my first rally decides to have a pop that my life is '…one long holiday'.
Timing here was pretty poor. I had just finished a week of getting up early, doing a car and caravan test, driving to Stafford more times than I would care to remember, and having to share a car with a driver with limited social skills and BO that could kill flies within a 10 metre radius. So I wasn't really in the mood to be told that I don't actually work for a living.
The evening's social was held inside under fluorescent lights as established groups sat around tables. Myself and R just stood there. The hosts at last introduced themselves, telling me off because I hadn't parked on the rally field as arranged. I retorted about the lack of pre-arrival info. To which I was snorted at that I should have seen the signs. This is of course on top of towing an Airstream in a busy town, obeying the road signs, watching the traffic, checking the SatNav, and following directions in the Sites Directory.
Later, a past chairman is sent over to talk AT me for an hour about how hard it is for the club to get publicity in magazines.
Next morning, I fled. Yes, there were some nice people there. But I knew what I was missing with the Airstreamers.
Pre-arrival info, hugs on arrival, a completely chilled ambience, lovely people who didn't talk about my job, and the evening social was a shared barbecue and sitting outside around the blazing fire pit chatting until 2am.
What a difference.