Camporees make an impact on Pike’s economy

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 27, 2001

Staff Writer

When it’s rally time at Swindall’s Campgrounds south of Troy, those who stream the campground from all across the country aren’t amazed at the number of rigs that pack the place.

Those who pass by are astounded.

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This past weekend more than 150 rigs, many that cost in the six figures, rolled in to participate in the Alabama Fall Samboree.

Mike Swindall, owner and operator of the campground, said the number of rigs was down because many people just were not traveling in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the United States.

"We have had as many as 270 rigs at a Samboree, but some people were staying close to home after all that has happened," Swindall said.

Swindall Campground hosts from eight to 10 camporees during the year at its facility, which has more than 300 full-service hookups.

"By full service, we mean that we can provide electricity, sewage, water and cable television," Swindall said. "Not many campgrounds provide cable hookups so we are unique in that respect."

Swindall’s is also unique in its indoor facility which can seat 1,100 and has a full kitchen, bathrooms and a stage for programs.

"Our building is used for bluegrass festivals, gospel sings, family reunions, wedding receptions, church homecomings, school reunions and organizations such as Ducks Unlimited and the Wild Turkey Federation," Swindall said. "We are a multipurpose campground."

However, the camporees are the events that make such an impact on the economy of Pike County.

"These people come into Pike County and many of them stay from Sunday to Sunday," Swindall said. "They buy gas here. They shop here and eat at restaurants. One of their meals was catered locally this past weekend.

Many of them attended the Troy State football game and

some of them always visit the Pioneer Museum of Alabama."

Swindall said he cannot put a dollar amount on the impact these camporees have on the local economy,

but he did give an example from a few years ago.

"We wanted to determine the economic impact, so we had our campers fill out cards and bring back receipts," he said. "That week, they put more than $90,000 into the Pike County economy. That’s a lot of money. And, every time we have a rally or a camporee, Pike County benefits."

Mack Hall, a member of the Heart of Dixie Ramblers RV group in Montgomery, has been on the rally circuit for 11 years and he takes every opportunity to attend a Samboree.

"I’m a member of the Good Sam’s Club because it’s a nationally-known organization and it has many benefits for members," Hall said. "One of the benefits is being a part of state Samborees like this one here in Troy."

When Hall retired from BellSouth, his dream was to travel the highways and byways of America.

"I bought a rig – not one of those $500,000 ones – but one that is suited to my needs," he said. "For me, this is the best way to travel. You don’t have to hunt for nice motels.

Then, you don’t have to dig out your luggage and lug it up and down stairs. Everything is right here, right when you need it."

The convenience of travel is secondary to the fellowship of other RVers.

"We have met some of the greatest people on earth," he said. "When you pull into a RV park or campground, there is always someone there who has similar interests. If you want to visit you can. If you want some quiet time, you can have that. This is the best way to travel. When you stop for the night, you aren’t shut up in a motel. You’re out where you can enjoy nature and the fellowship of others. This is great."

Hall has "rallied" in 43 states and has plans to visit the other five continental states on his RV.

His favorite place is anywhere in the mountains and, next, he likes the Amish country – in Lancaster County, Penn. and Holmes County, Ohio.

"But I like every place I have seen," he said. "We have a beautiful and diverse country. We need to see America first."

And what about Troy.

"Pike County has pretty countryside and it’s a place where we can sit back and enjoy each other," he said. "When we go into town, it not like going into a rat race. We can shop, eat out and take advantage of anything that is going on in the community. We always have a good time here."