By Carrina Stanton / For The Chronicle
Rene Ralston had hoped the idea of a vintage caravan rally in Lewis County would be worthwhile.
She didn’t expect it to be as popular as it was right away. When she pitched the idea for the first annual Mount St. Helens Vintage Trailer Rally, held May 5-8 at the Southwest Washington Fairgrounds, all 100 spots available were quickly filled.
“People are munching on the bit to get off and get their trailers out,” Ralston said.
Ralston, who co-owns Down River Vintage Trailer Restoration in Winlock with her husband Jeremy, owns and camps in a 1955 Aloha Vintage Trailer affectionately known as Tin Lizzy. Among their activities in the vintage trailer community, the couple organizes the Mount Baker Vintage Trailer Rally, Washington state’s largest annual vintage trailer rally, held in Lynden for 21 years.
“What I love about rallies is that you already show up with this thing,” said Ralston. “It creates a really cool vibe for the weekend.”
After Down River Vintage Trailer Restoration moved from Woodland to Winlock three years ago, the Ralstons decided they wanted to try and host an event similar to Lewis County’s popular Lynden Rally. Rene Ralston said they decided to name the new rally Mount St. Helens Vintage Trailer Rally to match the theme of their sister event. It is hoped that the Mount St. Helens Vintage Trailer Rally will become an annual event in Lewis County. While the Lynden Rally attracts many vintage trailer owners from Canada, Ralston expects the Centralia event could be just as big due to its more central Northwest location.
“Centralia and Chehalis have amazing history, antique shops and beautiful downtown areas,” Ralston said of the choice of location. “I think the campers will like that a lot.”
Ralston also indicated the need for a second event as classic car trailer collecting and restoration seems to be growing in popularity.
“I was surprised to see the number of new and first-time participants, which tells me this is still a growing hobby,” said Ralston.
At this point, the Mount St. Helens Vintage Trailer Rally has a waiting list of campers hoping for a spot. Ralston said they hope that if some of the areas of the fairgrounds dry out before the event, they may be able to accommodate a few more RVs. But there is still a chance for the community to join the rally during the open house on Saturday 7 May from 12pm to 3pm. The event is free and open to the public, giving curious passersby the opportunity to see the interior of the campers without their trailer owners having to be accessible to visitors throughout the weekend.
“Every trailer has a story,” Ralston said. “It’s never just ‘I saw it and I bought it.’ They all come with a story. People want to proudly show off their followers. Some are staged with vintage towing vehicles. Some will have billboards with before and after photos. Everyone is proud to share them.”
There will be a food truck at the open house and three local classic car clubs will also be joining the celebrations. Ralston said anyone with a vintage trailer who didn’t get a seat at the rally but wants to show their trailer off can still bring it during the open house. Vintage means anything before the 1980s, although Ralston said they’ll even have a section for “vintage in spirit.”
“We don’t want to exclude anyone,” Ralston said.
Visitors to the open house can come just to be entertained, but Ralston said the event can be particularly useful for anyone thinking about getting into vintage trailers themselves. She said she often sees people at the Mount Baker Rally open house taking lots of note sheets as it’s a good way to get their questions answered and get inspiration.
“No one will be quite the same because people really bring their personality to the trailer and that’s what I love about it,” Ralston said.
Mount St Helens Vintage Trailer Rally
• May 5-8 at the Southwest Washington Fairgrounds
• There will be a public open day on Saturday, May 7th from 12:00 to 15:00. The event is free and open to the public. The event takes place rain or shine
• Registration for overnight camping at the Rally is closed, but anyone who owns a pre-1980s camper and wants to show it off can display it free of charge during Open House
• Information: downrivertrailers.com