Thunder Bay KOA Hosts 'Winter Texans'
Every winter thousands of Canadians pack up their RVs to winter in the southern United States.
To reciprocate, a few Canadians invited their American friends and neighbours to visit the Thunder Bay, Ontario, area and take in the beauty and a reunion for residents of Trophy Gardens Resort in Alamo, Texas, on Monday (Aug. 17). It was all part of a week-long gathering at the KOA campground in Shuniah for friends to meet, exchange stories and eventually explore the Lake Superior Circle Route, according to the Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal.
Couples, mostly seniors from more than 16 states and three provinces, made their way to the campground to register for the gathering.
The event started as a way for friends to meet after dispersing from the resort in Texas. Trophy Gardens hosts a reunion every year, said Carol Ahlstrand, co-organizer for the event.
"They never had a reunion in Canada before and Donna Hunter and I thought this would be a great time to showcase the beauty of Superior North and the city in general," she said. "From what I'm hearing, they love it here. Many haven't been to Canada or this area before. They love the green space and shore drive."
Thunder Bay's organizers approached the city tourism department for funding and loot bags.
Department manager Paul Pepe said the plan to bring hundreds of RV enthusiasts to the city was intriguing enough that it was decided to help plan the event and look into micro-tourism.
"This event is being treated as a pilot project for a new way to advertise the city through individuals," Pepe said. "We are looking into new ways to manage our budget and this could be a very economical and effective way to get people to the city.'
"Rather than spend $3,000 on magazine ads, we could give funding to groups like this who are guaranteed to bring people to the city."
If the numbers warrant it, a new micro-tourism program could be running by 2011, he said.
The group is like an extended family and community. For up to six months of the year they spend time together and form bonds wherever they settle to call home.
Darrel Hardy, a pastor from Oklahoma, said he'd never been to Canada before and was in awe of the natural beauty of the lake and the hospitality.
"The people we've met have been gracious and the land is beautiful," he said.
"We have 54 families from Canada stay at the resort and they wanted to have a reunion here. I would definitely do this again."