The Avan Club national gathering
About 300 Avan Aliners and Cruiseliners converged on Renmark, SA, for the annual Avan Club gathering.
Each year, the Avan Club of Australia organises a national gathering in a different part of the country, ranging from Coffs Harbour on the east coast to Busselton in the west. The 2016 event was held in Renmark, SA. And while there are many towns in Australia that would welcome the club, one important criterion is the ability to accommodate 300 or more Avan Aliners and Cruiseliners.
In Renmark, most members found space in the Big4 Riverfront Holiday Park, a 9ha park which has almost 1km of river frontage along the picturesque Murray River. The accommodation consists of 62 cabins, 200-plus powered sites, 50 unpowered sites and six ensuite sites. With a playground, water park, swimming pool, spa, games and TV room, camp kitchen, barbecues and a laundry, there is something to suit everyone. But as the request for ensuite sites by members exceeded the park’s availability, some Avanners stayed in nearby Riverbend Caravan Park, Paringa Caravan Park and Berri Riverside Caravan Park.
The Avan Club was started in 1999 when a mail-out was expected to entice about 30-40 interested owners. Instead, more than 300 owners expressed an interest in joining. About 20 indicated that they would attend the inaugural meeting but 60 arrived. The first rally (subsequently called a gathering) was held at Anglesea, Vic, in October 1999.
Club membership grew at an unanticipated rate, despite only A-shaped folding campers being accepted in the club. Within a few years, it reached 1200 Avans, not 1200 people. Natural attrition, together with about 120 new vans joining every year, has seen membership hold steady at 1100-1200 vans with up to 2500 members.
Gatherings, on average, attract up to 300 Aliners and Cruiseliners and there are club branches in each state, plus the ACT, which organise regular outings. While members enjoy the outings, the social aspect of the club is a high priority, with many long term friendships being formed. A very active singles group is another feature of the club.
Avan Club members have a reputation for being reluctant to be inactive, so the gathering’s organising committee ensured they weren’t. There were happy hours, craft sessions, kayaking, sing-alongs, crazy whist, a trivia night, board games, wine tasting, caravanning workshops, bowls, klop challenge, chef’s challenge, bush dance and the all-important dinner. The dinner was spread over two nights, as the Renmark Function Centre could not accommodate all of the nearly 600 members at one sitting.
A regular event at every Avan gathering is the major raffle and AGM. Proceeds of the raffle go to either the Flying Doctor Service or the Cancer Council of Australia. This year, as on previous occasions, there was generous support from the RV industry, which donated about $5000 worth of prizes.
END OF AN ERA
It is often said that no one is indispensable but it would be fair to say that the Avan Club would not be where it is today if it wasn’t for the dedication, enthusiasm and ability of the founding members Joan and Brendon Smith. The club has its roots in the Smiths’ garage, and Joan was president for the first 11 years and then the immediate past president for another three years. After standing down from the committee, Joan was re-elected as a committee member in order for it to maintain her valuable organising ability. At the 2016 AGM, Joan retired from the committee, along with Cliff Hicks, who has been at the helm for the past three years.
Brendon Smith has been the hard working club secretary from the outset. While not wanting to take anything away from the talented committee members, a well-run organisation needs an efficient secretary. For 17 years, Brendon has certainly played a large part in the success of the club. Fortunately, Brendon and Joan will remain members and will continue to attend as many events as they can. At this stage, they are looking forward to travelling to the 18th gathering in Denmark, WA, in 2018.
Although Joan and Brendon’s absence from the committee will take some adjusting to, the club is in good hands with newly-elected president Les Lawrenson, vice president Vicki Teague, secretary Rick Houghton and nine other committee members.
The full feature appeared in Caravan World #553 July 2016. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!