INTERLOCHEN — Interlochen State Park and Tin Can Tourists Vintage Travel Trailer Club are teaming up to bring back the good old days.
The camping club caravan rallies at Michigan’s oldest state park with 65 vintage models in a joint centennial celebration. Their June 22 open house encourages the public to tour models dating from 1915.
The first fifth-wheel camper on display is always a crowd pleaser, said club spokesperson Terry Bone. The 1936 Canadian Curtis-Aerocar travel trailer and custom built 1938 International D15 tow car was made for wealthy campers. Vintage makes and models at the rally also include Airstreams, Spartans, Avions, Shastas and Scottys.
“A vintage trailer event is different than going to a car show,” Bone said. “A vintage trailer can’t be appreciated by walking around it.”
Bone said event trailer and motorcoaches range from original condition to museum quality restorations.
“People are always impressed by the woodworking and craftsmanship and what owners have done,” he said.
Matt and Terri Curtis of Long Lake, Tin Can Tourists since 2008, plan to show off their 1960 Shasta trailer at the Interlochen open house.
“If you’re into old stuff, you’re going to be blown away,” Matt Curtis said.
He bought the Shasta from a neighbor 20 years ago and spent several winters restoring it.
“When I finally got it done, I found it was a wonderful little camper,” he said. “I had never thought of it for camping before but just as a novelty piece.”
The international Tin Can Tourists club formed at Tampa, Florida in 1919 after the introduction of the Ford Model T auto sparked recreational camping. Bone said the group’s mission was to educate campers about their responsibility in leaving parks in the same condition as when they arrived. The group also educated communities about the economic benefits of hosting campers.
Today, the club emphasizes the simple pleasures enjoyed in trailer camping yesterday-style. Many open house hosts dress in period clothing when welcoming visitors into their trailers.
The Michigan State Park system and Interlochen State Park commemorate the shared 100th anniversary with Tin Can Tourists by celebrating nostalgia inspired by the vintage recreational vehicles.
“As part of our centennial, we want people to look back at their memories of camping in our state parks,” said Elissa Buck, Michigan Department of Natural Resources Parks and Recreation Division event coordinator. “I hope people see the vintage campers and reflect back on their own memories.”
Tin Can Tourists historically camped in Traverse City. Bringing the celebration to the area seemed like a good match Buck said. Event highlights include campfire storytelling with professional storytellers, plus time for individuals to share personal camping memories.
“It’s a great opportunity to partner our oldest park with another great organization,” said Interlochen State Park Supervisor Chris Stark.
Interlochen State Park, the largest park in the Michigan system, in 2018 hosted 244,000 camping visitors at 444 campsites and day-use guests. June’s commemoration was a year in the making. It offers visitors additional opportunity to view the park’s new interpretive shelter chronicling the park’s 100-year history.
Tin Can Tourists’ open house takes place 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the park’s south campground. A Recreation Passport is required for park entry.
The Tin Can Tourists club name comes from Henry Ford’s Model T’s nickname — the “Tin Lizzie.” In the club’s early days, members would cover their car’s radiator with a tin can to identify themselves as a Tin Can Tourist. According to the organization, membership induction included learning the secret handshake, sign, and password and singing the club’s theme song, “The More We Get Together.” The group today holds annual gatherings in Michigan and Florida. Regional rallies take place throughout the United States and Canada.