More and more glowing aluminum trailers will dot the St. Johns County Fairgrounds in north Florida this week as a group of Airstream enthusiasts set up camp there, the St. Augustine Record reported.
Members of the Wally Byam Caravan Club International Florida Unit will camp at the fairgrounds off State Road 207 through the holiday weekend and enjoy shared meals and entertainment at their campsites, said Frank Carson, the director of the rally.
“The facilities here are knock ’em dead,” Carson said. “We really couldn’t ask for better.”
By Wednesday afternoon, several dozen of the round, silver trailer rigs were set up across the large lawn of the fairgrounds. Their shimmery casings were easily visible from the roadway.
The caravanning group has returned to St. Augustine this year, even though some tension with county commissioners almost canceled the trip completely, Carson said.
According to a letter to the editor in November, “St. Johns County instituted a new rate schedule on Oct. 1, 2010. The resident rate skyrocketed more than 200% for the week. We had to set our rally fee by Sept. 1 and did so based on the proposed rate schedule and published it.
“Now unknown additional costs, loss of kitchen facilities due to fire code violations, and the intransigence of the county fairgrounds administrators will cause us to lose money. We have no alternative but to cancel the rally.”
“The county is really just shooting themselves in the foot,” Carson said.
Carson said the raised rates are what almost canceled the trip completely. Members who live in St. Augustine were able to secure a discounted rate, however, which allowed the group to still afford the trip.
“They have one price for people who live in St. Johns County and another for those who live somewhere else,” Carson said. “By doing that, they’re only hurting themselves.”
This particular rally is the most expensive on the group’s schedule for the year. Members are paying $225 for six nights of camping with 30-amp electric and water, and three meals.
Also included are Matanzas River cruise passes, tickets to the Fountain of Youth and four days’ worth of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! trolley tours.
Other weeklong rallies set in other Florida cities range from $10 to $175.
The group has traveled to spend the Easter holiday in St. Augustine for the last 15 years, Carson said.
“It wasn’t that the fees went up; it’s that we waived them in the past,” said Karen Pan, public information specialst for St. Johns County. “We’re making decisions like this in departments across the county because of the tough budget.”
Pan said that fees are being charged at properties like the fairgrounds because there are costs associated with just operating the facility.
Yvette and John Landry spent a few days pulling their 1993 Airstream classic from Kaplin, La., to St. Augustine. By Wednesday afternoon they were happily settled among many other silver rigs at the fairgrounds.
“Isn’t that aluminum just beautiful? You could use it to put on your makeup,” said Yvette Landry, 80.
The Landrys travel with their Airstream a few times a year. This was the first time the couple traveled to St. Augustine.
“Everything we do here helps your economy,” said John Landry, a retired band director. “We’re out spending money in your town.”