May 29 – June 3, 2018
We didn’t have cell coverage while we were at Jackson Center, Ohio. Also, Airstream’s wifi wasn’t working. I’m sure it was overloaded with the number of participants at Alumapalooza. Therefore, I’m writing this post from Can-Am in London, Ontario.
Alumapalooza should be at the top of every Airstreamer’s list. I can’t describe everything we did and saw, so I will just include a few highlights.
- Access to the big chiefs
We had several information sessions, seminars, and a feedback session attended by senior management, engineers, and staff. During the feedback session, attendees offered suggestions for technical or design issues. Management really listened and asked further questions to understand fully. I even spoke (even though I was nervous). One of my suggestions was to improve comfort by focusing less on providing sleeping options. This seemed like a revelation to Justin Humphries, so he asked the audience if others would prefer more comfortable seating options and fewer convertible bed options, and the audience was unanimous in agreement. Several people spoke to me afterwards and thanked me for that suggestion.
- First-hand news
Molly Hansen, Chief Marketing Officer, described the new expansion plans for the factory and introduced Samantha Martin, the new full-time archivist. Over the last 5 years, Airstream has experienced tremendous growth. For example, 6 years ago, there were 250 employees, and now there are nearly 1000. A few years ago, they expanded the existing factory by 200,000 sq ft, but no new structure has been built in 50 years. Therefore, Airstream purchased 50 acres west of town, and they will be building a new 765,000 sq ft factory for travel trailers, and the existing factory will be used for motorhomes. They will break ground at the end of June 2018.
As part of the new factory, there will be an Airstream Heritage Center, where unique trailers, photographs, advertisements, and film will be stored. This is why a full-time archivist has been hired. So far, Samantha has digitized the photographs and 8mm film. Currently, 15 trailers are in the collection, but they are trying to increase the collection. They would like to get a NASA quarantine unit, but one isn’t available yet. They may take trailers on a short-term loan.
Airstream is also looking for property for an increased Terraport. The Terraport is the camping area where people stay while their trailers are in for repair. These are fully-serviced sites, but there aren’t many of them.
Bob Wheeler announced a partnership with Full Sail Brewery, and there was free Airstream beer for all!
- Factory tour
Unfortunately, you can’t take pictures inside the factory, but Paul had taken a few pictures through a door window one night. Even if you can’t attend Alumapalooza, you need to take a tour, or two! There was so much to take in that we attended 2 tours. I always knew our trailer was “hand built”, but it is a term that is thrown around by many companies. Airstreams truly are hand built. There was only one automated machine. It is used for punching out where the windows, hot-water tank, etc. will go. Everything else is hand crafted, including the window frames, the cabinetry, the internal ribs – everything! We fell in love with our Airstream all over again! Every Airstream is unique because of this. No, Airstreams aren’t perfect, but you really get a new appreciation when you see them being built by hand – hundreds of hands!
Here are some photos taken through a window at night:
Here are some photos from Airstream’s website. I added arrows and annotations so that you can see how close we were parked to the factory: