Organizing a rally takes a lot of time and effort—not to mention an almost inexhaustible store of energy! And even if you’ve been doing it for a decade, there are still a lot of loose ends to tie up and scheduling snafus that require handling.
We caught up with Susan McNeil, who has been planning the annual Northeast TAB and Friends Gathering since 2013, to get details on the upcoming rally in September 2022 and to learn what led her to create the event.
Taking on a rally
Susan didn’t originally plan on organizing a rally, but when she read Facebook posts about TAB gatherings being held in other parts of the country, she was intrigued. Shortly after she purchased her first TAB in 2013 — a 2004 model — she posted an invitation for others to join her camping at one of the New York State parks.
“The first event was held in September 2013 at Glimmerglass State Park near Cooperstown, New York,” she recalled. “The first year we had about 10 trailers with people from New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. That first year I was surprised that at least half of the other campers were from out of state. Some of the original group still regularly attend the event.”
While her initial thought was just having it as a one-time event or perhaps an annual New York State TAB event, the gathering soon took on a life of its own.
“There was significant interest in getting together again, but also a request to host it a bit further to the east,” she said. “So, I agreed to organize it again and looked for a new location.”
A growing gathering
The next three years the event was held in North Adams, MA, but as attendance grew, Susan had to find a bigger location, moving first to Lake George, NY, and then to Verona, NY.
“Starting in 2020 (year eight), we have been in Arlington, VT, and I intend to continue the event at that location for at least several more years,” Susan said. “The owners at Camping On The Battenkill have been great to work with and the connections I have established within the local community have helped make the event even better. Additionally, Arlington is a beautiful area to explore. There are places to hike, historic sites to explore, and small towns to visit close by.”
While the gathering started at just two days, it has grown to be a five-night event, with many people staying longer at the campground. Expanding it enabled her to add more group activities.
“In the first years, evening campfires and a Saturday night potluck dinner were the only scheduled group activities,” she said. “Now, we continue to have evening campfires but also have other activities such as a morning coffee hour, a local landmark scavenger hunt, multiple shared meals, music performed by our campers and others, and many informal day-trips around the area as new and old friends explore together.”
In 2021, the gathering recorded its largest group of campers: approximately 65 campsites and 90-plus people. “Although we still followed Covid-19 precautions, having the majority of those attending vaccinated allowed for precious time together,” said Susan. “The smiles, hugs, and stories were all a huge part of our fun.”
‘A Labor of Love’
When we asked Susan why she took on such a task, she said it was more of a “labor of love.”
“For me, the event is a fun week to meet new people and to visit with camping friends,” she explained. “Although organizing the event is a lot of work each year, the reward I get from seeing how happy everyone is and the joy of visiting with everyone makes it all worthwhile. I am proud that it is a very popular event and that many people come back year after year.”
While the event is attended primarily by TAB and TAG owners, Susan said that others attend as well.
“I have always made it an inclusive event, and never turn away someone who doesn’t own a TAB,” she added. “This has allowed for long-term friendships to build between people even as their camping needs or styles may have changed over the years. We even have one couple who tent camp each year but are dreaming of a TAB or TAG someday.”
She added, “I am amazed each year how such a diverse group of people (age, economics, socially, politically, etc.) come together and how much love and friendship is shown to everyone. Sometimes, joining an event that has many returning participants can be intimidating, but I am proud of how the people attending this event are so open, friendly, and welcoming to our new friends each year.”
Even though her goal is to make it the type of gathering where people arrive as strangers and leave as friends, Susan noted that she too has benefited by being part of the nuCamp community. “Being a part of this camping community has been great,” she said enthusiastically. “My TAB camping friends have become a very special part of my life.”
In addition to making the event a great experience for attendees, Susan also makes sure that the community where it takes place benefits as well.
“I have looked for opportunities for our campers to give back by supporting local small businesses and organizations. Last year (2021), I arranged with the local fire department to hold a chicken BBQ fundraiser, the local Lions Club to hold a pancake breakfast fundraiser, had a pizza night from a local small business, and had a food drive for the local food pantry,” she said. “I also put together a scavenger hunt for the guests to get out and do things in the local community. Being good guests in the community and giving back are both important to me.”
Tuesday, September 20, 2022, to Sunday, September 25, 2022.
If you’re interested in being part of the 2022 gathering, go here to get on the waitlist. The location of the event is Camping on The Battenkill in Arlington, VT.