The Missouri Good Sam RV Club’s annual Samboree festival brought people from across the country to the Boone County Fairgrounds in Columbia, Mo., this weekend, where they ate, played games and visited with as friends while dressed like Jethro, Granny and Elly May Clampett, the Columbia Daily Tribune reported.
“How many times do you see people in their 60s to 80s put costumes on, let their hair down and just be silly?” asked Jane Huddleston of Springfield.
Huddleston has been attending Samborees, annual festivals sponsored by Good Sam RV Club chapters, for the past 16 years. Each year, she says, the festivals feature a theme, and this year’s is the Beverly Hillbillies.
But it’s not the themes that keep Huddleston coming back; it’s the friends she’s made. “The people really make it wonderful,” she said.
The Good Sam Club began more than 40 years ago when a group of RV owners put Good Samaritan bumper stickers on their vehicles. Today, the club boasts nearly 1 million families.
Maggie Brantley, an RV owner from St. Joseph who said she has attended 312 Samborees, agreed that making connections is the main event of each festival.
“It’s the people you meet from all different states,” she said.
“I think I know more people from different states than I do in my own hometown.”
Brantley, 75, has been to Samborees in 28 states and Canada since 1989 with her 89-year-old husband, Art.
Although Art no longer can drive the RV after suffering from numerous strokes, the couple still travels to three Samborees each year to see the people Maggie says are like family to them.
Don Woodard, a “Sambassador” from Texas, says most RV owners come back each year for that exact reason. “It’s like a family reunion,” he said.
The festivities at Samborees are fairly similar from town to town and typically include food, games and live entertainment.
“What people enjoy most is the fun, food and fellowship,” said Jean Gardner, director of the Missouri Good Sam RV Club.
The Missouri club also makes an effort to reach out to first-timers with meetings that include Q&A, refreshments and door prizes — such as gift certificates to local restaurants.
“Merchants have learned that when we give a free meal away, that person will bring three or four or 20 of their friends, so most of them are very willing to give away a free meal,” Gardner said.
Gardner said local merchants benefit a great deal from the event, which she said brought about 570 people to Columbia. By the end of the event, she estimated the RV owners will spend an excess of $40,000 at local businesses.
Gardner said that although food and fun are big attractions, building relationships and helping one another is the most important part of the event and the club.
“If you have tragedy, these are the people that will step up and be there for you,” she said.
Woodard nodded in agreement.
“These people are the best medicine in the world,” he said.
Affinity Group Inc. (AGI) is the parent company of the Good Sam Club and RVBUSINESS.com.