Text by Sue George, Photos by Sue & Ed George, Roger Newman, Bob Woods, Curt and Jan Lawson, David Lien

Sparta, Michigan members Mike and Joyce Partridge were the hosts for our 32nd annual National Meet that was held on June 19-23 in Frankenmuth, MI. Weather-wise, it was a near perfect week for us, with only one day of rain. Members began arriving at our headquarters hotel Fairfield Inn on Sunday night and Monday morning. The Fairfield Inn was a beautiful hotel and the staff was more than accommodating and it was the perfect location for our group as there were endless things to do within walking distance.

Monday was a free day to get settled in and tour the town on our own and there was plenty to see and do. Members took off walking in groups to shop and eat, go for a horse and carriage ride, sample the many delicious German sweets and treats, etc. Five times during each day and evening, the German Glockenspiel at the Bavarian Inn would tell the story of the the Pied Piper of Hamelin as the members congregated in the parking lot to watch this old mechanical wonder. The Glockenspiel is a 35-bell carillon tower with figurines on tracks and illuminated clock that was built in 1967 with all parts imported from Germany. Sometime during the day, everyone had to make a run to the Bronner's Christmas Store on the other side of Riverplace. Bronners is the world's largest Christmas store and it's quite a spectacular sight to see. They have the outside of the building decorated and light it all up each night, regardless if it's the middle of June! You literally have to use two-way radios to keep track of each other inside the store, it's that big! Almost everyone left there with an armload (and Toni Svec left with a truckload!) of Christmas stuff. Shown below are the members chatting in the parking lot and their cars at the headquarters hotel.

Some of the railroad buffs visited the Junction Valley railroad and hobby shop where there was a 1/4 scale model railroad set up. It was big enough you could actually buy a ticket and ride the thing. Again, members left with armloads of model railroad stuff they needed for their displays. Some of us went through Amazen Mirrors. If you've never done this before, be warned you'll laugh yourself sore. You totally get confused and run into the mirrors and don't know if you're really seeing other members of your group or just their reflections. It took our group a good half hour to figure out our way to the exit. Just outside the maze were three huge mirrors that did awful things to your reflection. We spent just as much time having fun with those three mirrors as we did in the maze. Also in the area was a Hollywood Stars store where you could look through photos of old movie stills and star photos, a store devoted to pewter figuines, a sausage-making store, many taffy pulling stores, chocolate stores where you could watch candy being made, doll stores, just about anything you could think of, it was there.

Just a few blocks down the street from our headquarters was a wool and fabric store that had two bolts of material with musclecars including a Superbird, Coronet R/T, Cuda and several other Mopars! There was a bolt of light background with dark colored cars and a bolt of dark fabric with light colored cars. We transcended on this store like a bunch of vultures when the word got out that someone had spotted Mopars on fabric there, and the members bought every last scrap of it before the flurry was over. Some members went on a tour of the Black Forest Brew Haus Brewery and Frankenmuth Brewery and sampled the German beers (we also heard the Frankenmuth Brewery had excellent bread from the members who ate in their restaurant), while others visited the Military and Space Museum, and the Nickless-Hubinger flour mill and store which had lots of bakery goods, candies and a flea market, the Chocolate Haus and sampled the sweets. Another activity that some of the members enjoyed was going for a lengthy peaceful horse carriage ride around the city. There were several places where you could board a carriage and you could put up to six people in and split the cost.

Shown below top row from left to right: The Winged Warriors/NBOA T-shirts were seen all over Frankenmuth during the meet; Sue and Jan by one of the beautiful fountains; the store fronts were heavily landscaped and planted with beautiful flowers.

Second row: One of several horses and carriages that took members on a tour of the town; this is the Bavarian Inn where you could eat, shop, and watch the Glockenspiel; a patriotic dog that was watching the Glockenspiel with us.

Below first row: Bob and Carolyn Woods Superbird poses with Bronners Christmas light display in the parking lot; the inside of Bronner's Christmas store.

Second row: Inside of the Amazen Mirrors, which one is really Wayne?! The three mirrors outside the maze did strange things to our reflections. The 1/4 scale model railroad at Junction Valley hobby shop; the members bought all of this musclecar fabric.

In the evenings everyone would walk to Riverplace and grab a chair in the outside courtyard to watch the free laser light show. The show theme was different every night and we saw "music of the fifties and sixties", "fantasy" and "patriotic". Their normal show rotation would include a "Christmas" laser show, but on our last night there we requested a rerun of the "fifties and sixties" and the staff complied. What does that tell you about the average age of our group?!

Tuesday morning, we left for our first scheduled activity, a tour of St Lorenz Lutheran Church, log cabin and museum. We learned that each beautiful stained glass window in the church tells the story of how Frankenmuth was settled. As you can see from the photos below, it's quite ornate and beautiful inside. From the church, we walked across the street where the original church bell that was cast in Nuremburg, Germany is on display. Of course, most of the kids (and some of the big kids) had to ring it. Then we were ushered inside a replica of the original log cabin church which was constructed in 1845 with hand-made wooden pulpit and pews and the preacher's sleeping quarters was up above in a loft. There was a small separate room that was living space--a tiny kitchen, living room and dining room all in one room with some antique dishes and tools on display. From there we took a pleasant walk around the cemetery, which had headstones from the early 1800s that were too worn to even read, to the museum where artifacts from the church of years gone by were on display, clothes that the early settlers wore, old Bibles from the church, furniture, pot belly stoves, a lot of photos of the early settlers of Frankenmuth.

After the church tour, we headed for Zellinger's Wool Company where we were taken on a very interesting tour of the complete wool-making process. We saw bags of wool from sheep, rabbit fur, buffalo hair, even some dog fur that people had sent to the mill to be processed. Our tour started out with a bag of fur being put into a big machine that "combed" particles of straw, dirt, etc out of the hair. From here it was blown into an empty room next door where it was collected again and sent through the same machine a second time. We learned that it isn't actually the wool itself that is scratchy. It's the debris (little bits of straw bedding, dirt, etc) that is left in the hair when it is processed that is scratchy. Wool that is properly processed is not scratchy, in fact, it is the most pure fabric in the world. We also learned that sleeping on wool will open your pores and allow your body to absorb more oxygen. From the combing machine, the fur is put into another machine that takes up almost the whole length of this part of the factory. Here the fibers are separated and pulled tight and at the end of this machine, the hair feels real silky and soft. Next the fiber is separated out further and transferred to a machine that braids it into yarns and winds it lightning fast onto huge spools. Incidentally, the machines used in this building are over 100 years old so when replacement parts are needed, they have to build them. We left this building and went into another building where an employee was using a spinning wheel to spin yarns. There were several machines in this building that were further processing the wool fibers. At one machine, there was a man working with rabbit hair and it was flying all over the area. We went upstairs from there to see several new computer controlled machines that were making socks to the customer's requirements. Across from these machines were metal shelving that held bags of the finished product ready to ship back to the customers. We moved into another room upstairs that was real well lit and had women working at several big tables. At one table, an employee was stitching up a pillow case on a sewing machine. At another table, two women were inserting the wool filler into a mattress pad cover on a frame that they would later quilt stitch on top. There was metal shelving around the circumference of this room which held stacks of finished pillows, mattress pads, quilts, socks, etc. There were several ornate quilts hanging on the wall in this room that the ladies had made. Back in the lobby, several members purchased quilts, mattress covers, socks, blankets, even hand lotion made from the natural oil that comes from the wool during processing!

Tuesday evening the Mopars invaded Ken's Diner, which was overwhelmed with so many people as we showed up with! We completely filled the small diner and all the picnic tables on the patio. Ken's Diner is a 1950s era glass and stainless steel building. The food was excellent and the poor waitresses did a good job serving all of us despite being severely understaffed and apparently not expecting so many. The food was excellent. We ate, took pictures of the cars in front of the diner, and answered questions for all the locals that came by to see the cars. Then we returned to our headquarters hotel in time to walk to Riverplace for the evening laser show. Shown below are scenes of the WW/NBOA at Ken's Diner.

Wednesday morning was mostly free time to explore on our own except for a scheduled group ride on the Bavarian Bell Riverboat in the afternoon that didn't happen. It had rained most of the night and we awoke to pouring rain in the morning, so most of the members took off in their cars to see what they missed on Monday. By noon the rain had let up, though the sun never did come out. We had still hoped for the riverboat ride, but the word came down by early afternoon that the river had risen too high for the boat to fit under the bridge so it would not be going out at all that day. We noted that the horses and carriages were also nowhere to be found this day. We wandered around the village, did some shopping, sampled the food and then walked to Riverplace in the evening for the laser show.

We awoke to beautiful sunny skies on Thursday morning and hit the road for Saginaw. We arrived at Delphi and were greeted by member David Lien who herded us into a meeting room for a quick outline of what we would be seeing on our tour. Then we were loaded into buses and driven around to different parts of the plant where we saw the complete assembly of power steering pumps and front steering sections. Incidentally, we saw the very same power steering pumps being built that were used on our old Mopars! Upon returning to the meeting room, we were privileged to have several Delphi engineers spend their time presenting very informative seminars on power steering pumps, hoses and coolers, fluids and maintenance service. A very big THANKS to David Lien who organized the Delphi plant tour and seminars for us and to all of the engineers who took time out of their busy schedules to share their knowledge with us! Shown below are photos of our seminars at Delphi with David Lien, Ken Seyuin, Ken Hill, Tom Beyerlein and Al Wong. After some photos in the parking lot, we headed out of Delphi and hit the road for Price Nature Center.

Price Nature Center is a secluded woodland park with walking trails, an observation platform and picnic areas. We left our cars in the parking lot at the entrance to the park and walked the short distance to our picnic area along a very scenic walking trail. This area was heavily wooded, very beautiful and extremely private and peaceful. The only ones that bothered us were the buzzard-sized mosquitoes! As is normal routine with our group, some members set up the picnic tables and lay out the food and condiments, while our picnic chefs Mike Svec and Dan Gaddis got their grilles fired up and ready to cook, another group set up the hundreds of raffle prizes that we would give away later while several members sold the raffle tickets. Our picnics are like huge family reunions, everyone just assumes a job and does it and the picnics always come off as really enjoyable events for everyone. We enjoyed a wonderful meal of burgers, dogs, chips, several salads, cookies, and a tray of especially delicious fudge cupcakes adorned with white RoadRunners custom made just for us by Lisa Lien. Thank you very much Lisa for the wonderful cupcakes!

After the picnic we gave away raffle prizes for what seemed hours. Many members donated really neat stuff to the raffle besides what the club provides and everyone got something. A very big Thanks to Milton and Pam Wood, Rich and Rhonda Kelley, Terry and Karen Roelofs, Doug and Carol Croxford, Stuart Sutton, Ric and Vicki LaFollette, and Stan McGuire for their donations to the raffle! Also a special Thanks to artist Dan McCrary who donated two of his winged car art prints to the raffle. Doug Croxford won the "Muscle Tone" print depicting a black Daytona with red wing with the reflection of a yellow SuperBee in the passenger's side rear quarter panel. Ironically, Doug was out cruising around Frankenmuth later that evening after the picnic and raffle, and met up with another fellow who he gave a ride to. This guy saw Doug's art print in the back seat and whipped out a handful of photos he'd taken a few years back at the Chryslers At Carlisle show and gave them to Doug. They were photos of the black and red Daytona with the yellow SuperBee reflection in its rear quarter, exactly like the art print! Another special Thanks to the folks at who generously donated a $25 gift certificate to our raffle.

After we had given away everything we had for the raffle, cleaned up the picnic area and loaded everything in the cars, a large group of us headed to Riverplace to take the Bavarian Bell Riverboat ride, just making it in time for the last ride of the day. Once all of our group was loaded onto the boat, we launched for an incredibly peaceful and relaxing hour-long boat ride down the river. It was so quiet you could hardly hear the paddle in the water. The boat was so smooth that we were free to get up and walk around to get different views from all sides and even the lower level of the boat. Our captain told us the history of the paddleboat and river, and periodically pointed out special sights for us to notice along the way. When we got to the bridge, the captain explained that he had to lower the smoke stacks on top of the boat so it could pass under the bridge without hitting. All along the shore we saw beautiful scenery, a peaceful campground, the entire backside of the business district, some real nice homes. We even had a family of ducks following our boat and our members enjoyed throwing out popcorn to them. The river itself was quite brown and dirty due to the amount of rain and rising rapidly the day before. The entire trip took us up the river about 1-1/2 miles and back to Riverplace where we got off the boat, did some last minute shopping in the courtyard and then walked back to our hotel. We returned to Riverplace at dusk that evening to see our last  free laser light show.

Shown below top row left to right: the first two photos are views of the walking bridge that we crossed each day to go to Riverplace. This is a wood-burning steam tractor that was on display in the courtyard at Riverplace. The waterfall was near where the Bavarian Bell Riverboat was docked. This was another bridge that crossed the river to Riverplace, this one would accomodate vehicles and walking traffic. We enjoyed the view from the walking path on this bridge. Second row: these are views of the two bridges on the river, the passenger deck of the boat and scenes from the boat ride. Third row: a close-up of the Bavarian Bell paddleboat, another view of the waterfall at Riverplace, and more scenes from the boat ride.

Friday morning, those members that didn't get up and leave Frankenmuth early, met back at Ken's Diner for breakfast. This time they were more prepared for us and the service was excellent. We enjoyed a fantastic breakfast and some car talk before we said our goodbyes and hit the road for home. A very big Thanks to our hosts Joyce and Mike Partridge for putting together a really super weeklong event for us; and thanks to Terri Anderson for hauling raffle prizes and picnic supplies in her van for us! Everyone very much enjoyed all the scheduled activities and the free time to shop, eat and see the sights. In fact, it was so enjoyable we'll consider holding the meet here again in future.