Wally Byam began making travel trailers in his backyard. He conceived the name “Airstream” in 1934. Demand for his trailers continued to rise and eventually led to the birth of the Airstream Trailer Company.
Byam led Airstream owners on globe-trotting adventures called “caravans,” which eventually led to the formation of the Wally Byam Caravan Club with a unit in each state. Once a year, an “International” rally is held the last weeks of June through July 4.
In 1978, Ames was the location of the International Rally with 3,993 Airstreams filling all the parking spaces at the Iowa State Center and football stadium. Ames hosted the rally again in 1981.
At the rallies, participants organize themselves as a separate town with addresses, a post office, and other services.
Rally tradition was to convert participants’ money to $2 bills and use them to shop, giving local merchants and food service vendors an idea of the financial impact of the rally on the community.