First National Rally Recap
October 12-16, 2005

Dates: October 12-16, 2005
Location: Branson KOA
397 Animal Safari Rd
Branson, MO 65616
Hosts: Judith and Ed Leswig

It was quite a sight .. and site ... for the first National Born Free Rally starting Wednesday, October 12, in Branson, MO. Unless you were there, it may be hard to visualize 62 Born Free motorcoaches all in one place. It was inevitable, however, that the KOA wasn't going to be able to accommodate us all on one level, so a small group of "hillbillies" created their own community as they rose above the "flatlanders"! Any way you looked at it, that many Born Free Coaches are impressive on any level!

Our first evening get-together offered a wonderful opportunity to renew friendships from previous rallies as well as meet new friends. Particularly since this was the first rally for 21 units, nearly one-third of all participants.

Starting with "supersized" hors d'oeurves selections from the assembled Born Free kitchens, our hosts Judith and Ed Leswig outlined the logistics for four days of activity. Despite being a California transplant, Ed Leswig perfected his "good 'ol boy" down-home Ozark humor as emcee during the evening introductions which included: "Greetings" from Leap'n Lions South Central Region Vice President Bill Lyon; "Welcome" from Leap'n Lions current President, Howard Norlin; and "Remarks" from Born Free Corporate Representative, Phil Overby. Secretary/Treasurer, Mary Findlay, was also recognized for her behind-the-scenes efforts and professional skills during this period of growth and transition.

Ed also acknowledged the leadership of Howard Norlin as President, who is electing to step sidewise into a new role as Rally and Caravan Coordinator - a position that suits his enthusiastic commitment to the members and relishes every opportunity to talk up the fun and excitement of putting on memorable rallies or caravans. He walks the talk!

A surprise visit from a sultry, redheaded "Phyllis Diller" highlighted the evening, especially as she captured the microphone from Ed to whisper more information to the group. Ed's comeback to "Phyllis" was that her bib overalls made her look more like Raggedy Ann - a remark that "Fang" might come to regret later!

After the free KOA pancake breakfast Thursday, the group boarded buses for a tour of Branson, shopping at the Tanger Outlet Mall and Dick's Five and Dime in old town Branson before stopping for lunch. Then it was on to the spectacular Shoji Tabuchi Show. His violin selections were choreographed with costumed dancers, talented back-up vocalists, dramatically lighted sets and a whole lot of flashy jacket changes for Shoji! Incidentally, many in our group also found the restrooms surprisingly choreographed with colorful decor, fixtures, mirrors and a pool table in the men's room!

As if we needed another meal, we squeezed in dinner prior to the evening show at "Cirque" which featured an entertaining combination of artistry, balance and athleticism. After a full day we returned to the KOA to rest up for another full day.

Friday morning brought another sumptuous breakfast of KOA pancakes. Many took advantage of the trip to Silver Dollar City to sample this Ozark version of Disneyland - most of it on a hillside! Artisans, musicians and the weatherman provided a comfortable day to enjoy the City. We were immediately struck by the interesting presentation of food preparation offered by several booths. After several hours of walking, most of us couldn't resist the tempting local specialties. With careful planning, we could also take advantage of the local musicians giving short performances in specified locations. (Usually next to another food vendor!) Ozark craft items became the souvenirs of choice.

Back at the KOA that evening, everyone was invited to the community hall to share their photos, scrapbooks and computer visuals of earlier Born Free Rallies and Caravans. Simultaneously, there was a large group of very serious looking people playing Mexican Train. It was the end of another perfect day.

There was a short business meeting on Saturday morning which included the unanimous election of a new slate of officers.

Saturday was Duck Day. This optional event featured war surplus amphibious vehicles that could take advantage of the area's rugged terrain, and a dip in the backwaters Lake Taneycomo while enjoying a brown bag lunch.

By mid afternoon, those interested in the Technical/Maintenance Seminar assembled to exchange words of wisdom from the co-leaders of the discussion, Mel Wilbur and Phil Overby. Judging from the attendance and the excellent participation, it is apparent that these exchanges of information are extremely valuable, if not lifesavers, to many of us who may be technically challenged. Mel has a wealth of first-hand experience that he shared here as well as on the website. Representing Dodgen Industries, Phil Overby shared his knowledge as well as taking notes back to the Company.

Through the courtesy of Phil Overby and Dodgen Industries, our final dinner featured typical Ozark fare including fried catfish, chicken strips, coleslaw, baked beans, hush puppies (the corn meal, not the shoes!) followed by an artistically decorated cake, coffee, iced tea or lemonade.

Once again, Ed and Judith emceed the final evening's festivities by presenting the "Mel Wilbur Award" to Joe Reed for creating the most add-on modifications while still remaining a Born Free. Under the heading of "you had to be there", Suzanne Gulbranson presented Howard Norlin with a "frog" necklace, only to be outdone by Barb Norlin who, for some reason, presented Howard with a "talking frog". Hmmmm. If you want the real story, email Ed Leswig. And speaking of Ed and Judith, Bill Lyon formally recognized them for their great personal effort in making the first National Born Free Rally a complete success.

The entertainment highlight of the evening was a hillbilly show in the tradition of the Ozarks. As they traded self-effacing Ozark humor with each other, we heard some pretty perky "pickin" that got the group in the spirit with a little clappin', a little dancin' and a whole lot of toe tappin'. The evening closed with an ecumenical service led by Rev. Merlin Bartelt.

Saying those last good-byes and fortified by those KOA pancakes, Sunday saw the mass exodus of Born Free Motorcoaches back to the highways. Thanks again Ed and Judith for hosting our Born Free community.

Prepared by Dick Simpson.