They’ve been through hell, so a little heat and humidity won’t slow the MIL-WITS.
The Mason City (Iowa) Globe Gazette reported that the MIL-WITS are military veterans and owners of Winnebago and Itasca motorhomes, and they’re having their usual big ol’ time this week at the 42nd-annual Winnebago-Itasca Travelers (WIT) grand national rally at Winnebago’s rally grounds in Forest City.
“We love it,” said Jack Fraker of Winter Haven, Fla., a retired Navy veteran who served as the first MIL-WITS president when the club’s charter was approved in 1991. “It’s the biggest and best special interest group in WIT.
“When we play taps at night the mosquitoes think it’s a cattle call,” he said.
The club held its national rally last week in Forest City — playing reveille at daybreak and taps in the evening using CDs and a P.A. system.
Members provided the color guard for the opening ceremony parade, the flag-raising and a military services event at the WIT Rally — and they’ll do the same for the closing ceremonies.
They donated money to Honor Flight Winnebago, which sends World War II veterans to see the iconic military sites in Washington, D.C., and, as usual, assembled a float for last week’s Puckerbrush Days parade in Forest City.
“It’s a festive occasion, the Puckerbrush parade,” said Bill Speer of Milford, Kan., the current MIL-WITS president.
Speer was wounded in Vietnam and had his right arm amputated after the war. He got a prosthesis, stayed on active duty and retired as an Army colonel in 1994.
His club, which includes veterans from the U.S. and Canada, is celebrating its 20th WIT Rally. There are about 40 motor homes involved.
“There’s a tremendous amount of leadership skills and talent in a club like this. What their grade was or was their occupation was is moot,” Speer said.
“Our primary goal is to provide an opportunity for retired and active military members to travel in Winnebago products,” he said, “and see the country they defended.”
Around 1,100 motorhomes congregated this week at Winnebago Industries Inc.’s rally grounds adjacent to its manufacturing complex in Forest City, Iowa, as part of the builder’s annual Winnebago-Itasca Travelers (WIT) Club Grand National Rally.
WIT Club General Manager Doug Formanek told Radio Iowa the six-day rally, which opened on Sunday (July 17), brings in people from nearly every state and every Canadian province. He added that the attendees enjoy Forest City because it’s like a homecoming to them, returning to the place where their “baby” RV was built.
“Many people develop relationships on the different tours the club puts on and it’s like one big family getting back together,” said Formanek.
This year’s rally theme is “Hillbilly Jamboree” and Formanek reported there were a variety events, including a “Moonshine Run,” along with seminars focusing on RV cooking, driving a motorhome and the products that are included in today’s Winnebago motorhomes.
Formanek noted this week’s hot and humid weather isn’t appearing to have much of an impact on the rally. He said people are traditionally active in the mornings and the evenings and are almost like “shut-ins” during the afternoons, so “it’s not that much of an issue during the hottest portion of the day.”
He thought the heat might mean some people wouldn’t show up for parts of the rally, but he’s still very pleased with attendance.
WIT, which has a membership of over 12,000 members, is open to anyone who owns a Winnebago motorhome. WIT members are eligible for special member benefits and can also participate in local, state, regional and special interest clubs, and travel on a variety of WIT Club managed special events called caravans and rallies.
About 1,100 motorhomes rolled into Forest City, Iowa, last weekend and will stay through Friday for the Winnebago Itasca Travelers (WIT) Grand National Rally (GNR). According to the Mason City Globe Gazette, the annual WIT event is a big one on the rally circuit because it’s in the hometown of motorhome manufacturer Winnebago Industries Inc.
And it feels like home, GNR volunteers Bob Dunn of Waterford, Mich., and Nancy Miller of Cape Coral, Fla., said. Dunn said the first-time GNR attendees wear a green button signifying them as such. “A lot of them are intimidated by that, but when they walk in town, people will come up to them and ask how they are doing and say, ‘I’m so glad you are here.’ Everybody here makes you feel so welcome,” Dunn said.
Doug Formanek, WIT general manager, said the rally is a “homecoming for all.” While the rally grounds, located adjacent to Winnebago’s manufacturing complex, is the heart of that homecoming as WIT members from all states gather, Forest City and the Northern Iowa region are part of that reunion, Formanek said.
“They love it here,” Formanek said. “Just this year I had a couple of different people say to me that, ‘We live in Florida and Texas, but you guys have a little bit of heaven here.’ They love the town, they love the area.”
WIT GNR attendees shop in local stores and eat in local restaurants, making a significant impact on the local economy. Miller and other volunteers are preparing for the rally and she encourages those volunteers to go downtown to visit the stores.
As of last Friday, a total of 1,050 motorhomes were registered for the event, said Kelli Harms, Winnebago public relations specialist.
A full week of activities is planned for attendees including music and kids events. Events at the rally are only open to registered attendees. This year’s theme is Hillbilly Jamboree.