Mike Tassinari takes us behind the scenes of the North-East Truck Camping Jamboree and tells us how to launch our own rallies. Let’s get this rally started!
We have met some of the most amazing people at truck camper rallies. It’s as if there’s a magic law that ensures that only the friendly and fun people own truck campers and attend the rallies. While we’re all delightfully different, we’re also on the same page about our desire to be social, adventurous, and helpful to one another.
As adults, it can be hard to make new friends with like interests. Gordon and I are so happy that truck camping has helped us to make so many new friendships. Through the rallies, we feel so connected to the truck camping community. Plus the food is great and the conversations are often hysterical. Who knew we were all so much fun, and funny?
Someone who deserves a lot of credit for helping to bring the truck camping community together in the Northeast is Mike Tassinari. Not only does Mike chart the course for the truck camping club, but he’s also incredibly knowledgeable about truck camper appliances and systems and never hesitates to pass his experience onto others. As you will read in this story, Mike’s the kind of guy you want to have around when you’re in trouble. He’s also the guy who can get things done. A real truck campers’ truck camper.
Without further adieu, here’s Mike Tassinari on how the North-East Truck Camping Jamboree was founded, what it’s all about, and how we can attend and get involved. Mike even has some suggestions to anyone who wants to launch their own truck camping rallies.
TCM: Tell us about how the North-East Jamborees began.
Mike: In December of 2006, a guy from New York named Mike Stryker started the ball rolling by posting a question on RV.net to see if there was any interest or support in having some type of gathering here on the East coast. At the time, NATCOA was starting up in the Northwest as were several other clubs around the United States. But there was nothing really organized in the Northeast.
At the time, I was recuperating from an accident and was bored to death. The post languished for some time and I sent Mike a PM asking if I could further the cause in some manor and his reply was “go for it”.
TCM: Have you ever met Mike Stryker?
Mike: No. I talked to Mike Stryker on the phone, but I’ve never met him. Unfortunately, I don’t know what’s happened to Stryker Mike.
TCM: How did the North-East Truck Camping Jamboree get its name?
Mike: In the beginning, we threw out three to four different names. We were originally going to call it the New England Truck Camper Jamboree and I posted that name on RV.net. I was reminded by several posters that there is more than just New England on the East Coast and I believe that even our northern neighbors in Canada chimed in. Out of those postings the “North-East Truck Camping Jamboree” was born
ABOVE: Truck campers at the first Jamboree in Andover, Vermont
TCM: Tell us about the first North-East Jamboree event.
Mike: We had our first event in Andover, Vermont at Horseshoe Acres Campground. It has a huge safari field where we can all park together instead of being spread out. It also has an enclosed pavilion for bad weather. Twenty-four rigs or so showed up, and that was just off talking about it on RV.net. It was a huge success! I cooked a twenty pound prime rib on a rotisserie, which was my contribution to the Saturday night buffet. Angela, I was so nervous that no one would come and it would be a total disaster that I do not remember very much of that first Jamboree. Heck I did not even do any type of registration so have no idea who attended. Luckily from various people taking many pictures, I was able to come up with just about everyone’s name who showed up.
TCM: RV.net has certainly helped to create a good number of truck camper rallies and events. How did things progress from there?
Mike: My thoughts were to have a once a year gathering and meet fellow Truck Campers, try to solve some truck camper issues, sample some great food, and head home hoping that everyone had a great time and would want to come back next year.
ABOVE: The North Conway, New Hampshire Jamboree in 2007
In under six weeks, we planned another Northeast Jamboree, posted it on RV.net, and pulled it together. Dick became the Wagon Master. I didn’t want the Northeast Jamborees to be the Mike Tassinari show. I said to myself, “I’ve got to get other people involved”. I told the other Northeast Jamboree members that they should run an event if they knew of a good campground for us. I would help with the budget and the behind the scenes work. Our second Jamboree had about twenty-six campers and was in North Conway, New Hampshire.
TCM: After that Fall rally, what were your thoughts for the following camping season?
Mike: That winter we were looking forward to more Jamborees. Anne and Joe Brown decided to be Wagon Masters the second year and came up with blueprint of what we do today. We were growing at that point and even adding seminars to the events. One of the first seminars was on how to do a load RV battery test to check your batteries.
ABOVE: North Hudson, New York Jamboree Group
In the Fall of our second year, there was the North Hudson, New York Jamboree which has been our biggest Jamboree to date. That event was hosted by Dick and Elizabeth. Fuel prices had spiked in September of 2008, and we still had forty-four rigs. We had no idea it was going to be so big. At that Jamboree, we had a camper open house and sign contest. For the camper open house, you signed up during registration to show people your camper and then people could come in and look. We also had a ladder golf game called Blongo going on in the field and had prizes to give away. The Wagon Masters were coming up with so many new ideas that starting the following year we expanded to a fourth day. Our Jamborees now start on a Thursday and end on a Sunday.
ABOVE: Photographs from the Salem, Massachusetts haunted Jamboree
TCM: When are your four annual Jamborees?
Mike: Typically, we have a Spring Jamboree in May the weekend before Memorial day, a Fall Jamboree the second week in September, the late Fall Jamboree in October is usually the weekend after Columbus day in Salem, Massachusetts, which is the haunted Jamboree, and a final Jamboree in Freeport Maine with no hook-ups in November.
ABOVE: Hanging out at the Jamboree in Recompence, Maine
TCM: That Maine boondocking Jamboree in November is hard core. That sounds very cold.
Mike: Last year was our third Recompence Jamboree and we had twenty-four rigs. It grew big time because we were advertising it as a boondocking Jamboree. We teach people how manage their holding tanks and on board systems for the entire weekend. We had a half cord of wood to keep us warm. I bring tents and have propane heaters inside the tents. We still do the Saturday night buffet and the Sunday morning breakfast.
Recompence Shore Campground is right on the Casco Bay of Maine and the view is breathtaking. We do not do any seminars or planned events as the weather is so unpredictable, but Freeport, Maine is a short ten minute drive where there are Outlet Stores by the dozens for all you shoppers.
I just have to say something about our very first camp-out at Recompence. At the time I was not advertising this November event as a Jamboree, but more like a few camping friends getting together for one final weekend of camping before we put the pink stuff in our water lines and put the camper to sleep for the long cold winter. Anne and Joe Brown, Ron and Toni Robertson, and Cathie and Mikeeeeeee were the attendees. Oh man was it cold that weekend with our heaters working hard at night. This was also Anne and Joe’s first time winter camping and they were in their 2005 Lance 1121 with a single battery for twelve volt power. Anne was concerned that her battery would not last the weekend and the first night she kept the temperature very low. Saturday morning I woke up to this roaring six foot fire in the fire pit and there is Joe trying to warm up. Needless to say after checking their truck camper battery, she cranked up the heat for the rest of the weekend.
ABOVE: Pavillion used at the Salisbury, Massachusetts Jamboree
TCM: How do you decide where to hold the Jamborees each year?
Mike: Actually the Wagon Masters help me out on this one. The Wagon Masters find a campground that hopefully has a pavilion in case of inclement weather. When Jayne and Rob ran their spring Jamboree, we took tents and made our own pavilion.
The Wagon Masters also find out if the campground has a safari field or try to get an area blocked out for us. They also set up the schedule for the weekend.
The Wagon Master typically negotiates the discount and free firewood. For example, the campground in Carlisle, Pennsylvania that we’ll be at this September called us and offered a package and discounts and free firewood for the entire four day, three night event.
Before Memorial day, most campgrounds are just opening up here on the East coast. During that early part of the season, they may get six campers for the weekend. With the Jamborees, we bring in thirty or so campers, so the Wagon Masters are usually able to negotiate a substantial discount off of the daily price for our group.
TCM: Give us an example of what a Jamboree is like from start to finish.
Mike: On Thursday and Friday nights we keep things simple with appetizers and maybe a seminar. Friday night is also traditionally our hot dog roast with Red Snapper hot dogs introduced to us by “Trapper Dick” from Bridgeton, Maine.
Then, Saturday has a full calendar of events including seminars, alarm checks, camper height checks, local tours, dogs, shows, and games; especially our favorite Bingo. My wife, Cathie, always comes up with a fun theme for Bingo which has included fishing for prizes in a bucket with a magnet. We have learned not to use edible markers like candy corn, goldfish crackers, and Necco wafers because people started eating them. Basically, it’s a lot of good food, fun games, and great social time with fellow truck campers.
ABOVE: Wine Tasting, NE Jamboree Style
At Jayne and Rob’s Jamboree, we also had a beer and wine tasting. We marked on the tablecloths the origin and description of the beer or wine, and supply little tiny glasses for the tasting. We once did a wine tasting at noon and then Bingo. That was the funniest Bingo ever.
ABOVE: Mike Tassinari’s Chinese Raffle Table
TCM: I bet it was. What do you do on Saturday night?
Mike: We have a potluck dinner and we eat to our heart’s delight. Then we have the raffle tables. The raffle table has a cup in front of each prize. When you buy tickets, you get an arm’s length of tickets.
TCM: Is there an official North-East Jamboree arm length?
Mike: Yes. We use Ron Robinson’s arm, which is forty-four tickets. After you’ve bought your tickets, you put your ticket in the cups of prizes that you want to win.
ABOVE: The traditional Sunday morning breakfast cooked by the men
Sunday morning breakfast is special because the men do the cooking, prep work, and cleaning. We have the stations lined up with eggs, sausage, bacon, and pancakes. Everything has really evolved and everybody brings stuff. The ladies get to eat, chat, and don’t have to do any of the work.
TCM: You have a good partnership with Torklift International for the Jamborees. Tell us about that.
Mike: Torklift International has been a great supporter of our Jamborees. Jessica May the Marketing Director at Torklift International, sent us donations to give away at our rallies including Fastguns, Torklift jackets, hats, and more. Angela, may I take a moment to say that Jessica has taken a leave of absence at Torklift International as her Company has been called up to serve over in Afghanistan for a year. I want to personally thank Jessica and for that matter all of the men and women who are serving in the Armed Forces for keeping our country safe.
Last year I sent Torklift International some North-East Truck Camping Jamboree fleeces and windbreakers as a thank you. It’s been a great partnership. Torklift International has been incredible.
TCM: The Northeast Jamboree also hooks-up with other truck camping clubs, like this year the Michigan-Ohio truck camping group will be at the Carlisle Jamboree. How does that work?
Mike: I had heard that Bruce Scott from Ypsilanti, Michigan was doing Truck Camping gatherings in the Michigan/Ohio area and thought that someday we should join forces and have a mega-Jamboree. I met Bruce and his wife, Kim, at the Mid Atlantic Truck Camper rally a couple of years ago. Last year I finally sat down with them and Jim and Cathy Crisafulli who had already agreed to take on the Wagon Master duties for our Fall 2011 Jamboree. Out of that discussion we all agreed that we should join forces and have the two groups meet one another.
We had to pick a campground. So the third week of August last year (2010) we had a convoy to Pennsylvania. It was Anne and Joe Brown, Toni and Ron Robinson, Cathie and I, Bruce and Kim, Michele Johnson and Bob Fenton, and Jim and Cathy Crisafulli. We were scheduled to see four campgrounds, two on Saturday and two on Sunday. We picked these campgrounds because they were 400 to 450 miles from Massachusetts to mid-Pennsylvania and about same distance from Michigan and Ohio. Now Mikeee likes to be prepared for just about any emergency, but I’ve got to tell you Angela, Mr. Scott blew Mikeee away with a piece of equipment I would have never ever thought to carry.
During our campground review trip, we were having a campfire one night and Bruce says, “I’ll take care of that”, and brings out an electronic chainsaw. He was cutting up two foot logs so we didn’t have to buy wood from the campground. Bruce had topped me, and I got a ribbing on that because I didn’t have a chainsaw.
TCM: That’s funny. I guess you better get an electric chainsaw. Of course Bruce is probably cooking up the next gadget to surprise you with. What happened with the campground review?
Mike: We made an offer on two of the campgrounds and they didn’t get back to us. One campground had hunting season and they have a lot of people that weekend and two were unsuitable because they were on the side of a hill. In the meantime, Jim Crisafulli called me up and said that Western Village Park called him up and they made us an offer to return. So, from September 15th to the 18th, we are going to have a mega-Jamboree of the Ohio-Michigan and Northeast Jamboree groups.
ABOVE: The Taste of Nova Scotia caravan was organized by Paula and Jerry Gale of the NE Jamboree group.
ABOVE: The Taste of Nova Scotia Caravan
TCM: Truck Camper Magazine will be there! We can’t wait. How would you help someone who wants to start their own Jamboree group in the Southwest or another area of the United States?
Mike: Find a campground first that is local and central to the people who will be attending. It’s all about location. Try to find a campground with a pavilion for possible inclement weather. If you don’t have indoor space, it can be a challenge. Get everyone’s email address and start a master email list. If you want a raffle table, you need to front some money. It becomes a focal point. It’s very important to get your name out there and get people to come. Be conservative and don’t put out a lot of money because you don’t know what’s going to happen.
TCM: How do people get involved with your Jamborees?
Mike: RV.net, Truckcamping.net, and Truck Camper Magazine all have announcements and information about our Jamborees. You can also email me at [email protected] First, I ask permission to get you on our email list. On the bottom of the email, I ask if you want to be put on master list for future notifications. I also ask for a phone number which is optional, but if people change email addresses then I can’t send them information. It’s another way to communicate.
TCM: Are there any other truck camper friends that you would like to talk about?
Mike: We have also met many new friends from “far away” although they have not attended a Jamboree. Chris and Wendy O’Connor live on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. They had never been camping and then bought a truck camper. They had retired from the Canadian military and planned a one year camping trip. Their plan was to spend six months touring Canada and six months exploring the United States. They had met Jerry and Paula Gale from Nova Scotia from a NATCOA gathering and they kept in touch with one another.
Jerry called me one morning and told me that Chris and Wendy were having trouble with their camper and asked if they could come down to “Camp Tassinari” so that I could check out their problem. A week before Thanksgiving, they came to our house. They had a battery charging issue which was traced to a wiring problem. They also had a steel belt sticking out from one of their tires. We helped them to get new tires and invited them to stay with us to avoid being on the road for Thanksgiving. So they had Thanksgiving with us that year.
TCM: That’s a wonderful story. I understand that you’re having a fifth gathering this year. Tell us about it.
Mike: Typically we have four Jamborees, but this year we will have five. In the past, we haven’t planned Jamborees from Memorial day to Labor because families are on vacation and we felt that events during that time may not be well attended. Then again, I would get emails requesting a summer Jamboree. When I read about a hot air balloon festival in Wakefield, Rhode Island, I called the organizers. It’s not going to be full blown Jamboree, but it will be a summer gathering from Friday to Sunday, July 22nd to July 24th. We’ll be at the University of Rhode Island athletic fields. This festival has been going on for more than thirty years. It’s dry camping, and sixty dollars for the weekend.
TCM: That sounds like a really fun rally. Thanks for sharing the history and story of the North-East Truck Camping Jamboree. We’ll see you at Carlisle!
Mike: See you there. Thanks for the support.
Read Mike’s latest article on how to run a truck camper rally.