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For the last week we've been keeping a secret from you all. Well actually we've been keeping this secret for nearly a year now. Last December when we were camped at Paynes Prairie State Park for Christmas we met a couple, Joe and his wife Ronnie, who were in need of an air pump to inflate a flat bicycle tire.

He was walking his bike around the campground, saw our bicycles outside, then asked if we had a pump he could borrow. Of course we loaned him one of ours and he then mentioned they were camping in an Airstream Touring Coach (aka conversion van) on the far side of the campground. After inflating their bicycle tires he asked if we were heading towards the Canopener Rally. My response was probably similar to what you're thinking now, the Canopener whaaaaaat????

He explained it as a bunch of Airstream owners who get together every year, the first full weekend in January, and well, just socialize! There are planned indoor and outdoor activities, some involve the Park Ranger staff but most don't. There is no event fee, just reserve a campsite and show up. They do ask for donations at some of the events, but all proceeds go to the Friends of Topsail Hill Preserve State Park. They are a committee which takes care of any minor expenses in the maintenance and upgrades made within the state park which the state funds don't cover.

It sounded like something we would enjoy and decided to plan our route so we would be able to attend this year. So eleven months ago we made reservations to spend two weeks here at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park that included Christmas, New Years and the Canopener Rally, which officially starts on Thursday, January 2nd.

WEDNESDAY - Even though the Canopener Rally doesn't officially start until Thursday, January 2nd, there were plenty of Airstreams already in the park for New Years Eve. A couple dozen or so attendees from Arkansas decided to host a free New Years Eve Party in the clubhouse which included a Catfish Fry complete with Homemade Hush Puppies.

The next morning, New Years Day, it was time for a Florida version of a Polar Bear Plunge. With the air temperature right around 56°F at least a dozen people, Tricia included, took a dip in the 63°F waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Because it didn't compare to the frigid temperatures of a true polar bear plunge, we dubbed our little event "The Pelican Plop".

Our New Years Day Pelican Plop participants in action.

As you can see there where many more spectators than participants.

A mid-afternnon crowd gathered at the campsite next door to us for a Low Country Boil and Oyster Party. Our organizers, Kate and Kim, hosted the event and believe me it was well attended. The "boil" included whole shrimp, new potatoes, pearl onions and corn on the cob. Everyone else brought many other snacks, appetizers and deserts to be sampled.

New Years Day Party hosted by Kim and Kate.

THURSDAY - Today is the Official Opening Day of the 2020 Canopener Rally. Although we've already been here for over a week and met most of the other early arrivals we still need to get registered. Registration began at 4PM and then at 6PM the Meet and Greet Meeting began. Introductions were made of all the Volunteers and Organizers, in addition to the GM of Foley RV Center, who sponsors the event with what seemed like a never ending supply of door prizes. Our number was drawn in the first dozen or so and we took home, or should I say Tricia took home, an Airstream Logo baseball cap. Everyone who registered also received a Welcome Gift Swag Bag which included a pair of Yeti Coffee Mugs.

Awesome welcome gifts from Foley RV.

After the meeting adjourned everyone who stuck around were treated to a musical jam session by a half dozen of our more talented attendees. With tomorrow's weather forecast promising to bring rain and winds we left a little early to prepare our campsite. We were in bed by 9PM, who knew having so fun was so tiring!

FRIDAY - Today is the day I've been waiting for! It's the day everyone shows off their chili making abilities. I prepared two of my recipes, my original tomato based Key West Chili and my new favorite Green and White Chili. There must have been more than twenty different kinds of chili to sample and I'm proud to see that both of my offerings were completely consumed when it was all over. By the way, both recipes can be found on the recipe tab on this blog.

SATURDAY - This morning while Tricia signed up to participate in a hike led by a Park Ranger, I tossed my $2 donation into a bucket and entered the Cornhole Tournament. The tournament is a single elimination event which means if you lose, you're out. With over 60 entries and the fact I haven't played cornhole in over ten years, my expectations were not high on winning.

Players warming up before the start of the tournament.

As luck would have it my very first opponent was a past champion of this event. I was quickly down 14-2 before somehow making a miraculous comeback to win. The second round I was once again behind before coming back to win. The third round was a close game and I eventually won by one point. After a win in fourth round I found myself in the Quarter Finals and was starting to feel like maybe I had a chance to compete for the Grand Prize.

This is when I called Tricia to see if she was planning on coming up to watch the action. She just finished with the hike and said she was on her way. As soon as I hung up the phone my name was called and I began my quarter finals game, one more win and I would compete for the Grand Prize.

This is when I ran into a bean bag tossing machine, Todd (the eventual champion), who beat me handily 21-7 before he won the Championship Game by a score of 21-2. For this reason I'm laying claim to a 3rd Place finish. Not bad for a guy who was prepared to sit out after the first round! In case you're wondering, my game was over so quick that Tricia didn't arrive in time to watch me toss even one bean bag.

The picture on the right is Todd displaying his Grand Prize, a pair of custom made Canopener cornhole boards, also donated by our sponsor, Foley RV.

Between 2-4PM today is an event called Open House. If you have a trailer that you would like to show to the other rally members you just put one of the provided signs on the door and leave it open. We had several people come by, mostly to check out our open rear hatch and a few people interested in my make-shift cell booster antenna. We eventually closed up and went out to see a few other trailers who had made their own custom modifications.

Tonight while everyone was enjoying themselves listening or singing karaoke in the middle of one of the campground streets, Tricia and her new friend Susan, were enlightening everyone to exactly what are Adult S'mores.

There were plenty of portable fire pits around and Tricia and Susan put together plenty of different toppings and crackers to make your own custom s'more with. If you're wondering what makes it an adult s'more, simply dipping your melted marshmallow into cups filled with either Bailey's Irish Creme or Kahlua, before assembling your s'more of course!

The karaoke went on right up until quiet time in the park before everyone went back to their own campsite for the night. Tomorrow most of us have to be all packed up and off the campsites before 1PM but not us, we and a few other are spending Sunday in the park and leaving on Monday.

SUNDAY - The last official event of the Canopener Rally is the Farewell Coffee and Pajama Party. Tricia once again volunteered to help setup, take down and clean up this event along with several other early risers.

Now that the rally has officially ended, and so has my very extended blog post, I have to admit I didn't think rallies would be something I would be interested in. We both had a great time and made a bunch of new friends. I still don't think I would want to do this more than twice a year, Tricia may think differently. It was just as exhausting as it was fun.

After being on the road for a year and a half it was the perfect time for us to experience our first rally atmosphere. I'm not sure that our next rally could be any better.

Most, but not all, of the attendees are members of the Airstream Club International (formerly the [WBCCI] Wally Byam Caravan Club International) and we're proud to say that as of January 1st, 2020 we are members too. Some of you may have noticed those big red numbers on the front and rear of some Airstream trailers, that is a WBCCI membership number and ours is 18512.

You may be wondering
just how many people attended this rally?

I'm not sure what the official count was but I can tell you that Topsail Hill Preserve State Park has 140 reservable campsites and that on the first weekend in January this year 128 of them had an Airstream sitting on it. So I would estimate there were over 250 attendees and that's not even counting all the dogs, cats and birds that came with them.

Canopener 2020 Group Photo

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