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“I’ve always thought Jeff & Carole were not your ordinary caravanners and now I know why - they’ve got a direct link to God!” These were the words of former Swift MD, Tony Hailey, at Flag on the Sunday morning when he reflected on the fact that the third Group Rally in a row had enjoyed fantastic weather. (For those who don’t know, Carole, ably assisted by husband Jeff, has been Rally Co-ordinator since the first Group Rally in 2000.)

And so it was - four days of great weather, fun and entertainment. But these events don’t just happen, they take a lot of planning, and the planning for this event started at the end of the previous Group rally in 2003. Since then a committee of 30 people drawn from Swift and the various owners clubs under the Swift ‘umbrella’ had been meeting on a regular basis to plan everything from the marquee to the marbles.

The advance party arrived on site on the Monday to set up camp and get ready for the huge marquee and other equipment to be delivered. A second wave of organisers arrived on Tuesday to see the marquee going up. It took the team of 6 men well into the evening to complete. They weren’t allowed to drink, so they looked on in envy as the organisers tucked in to their sustenance. A little later one of them was heard to remark “blimey – they’re even barbequing now!”

By 2pm Thursday everything was in place for the first ralliers to arrive, and they did, by the score. But it wasn’t just ralliers, the traders too poured in along with White Arches who brought no less than 11 new caravans and motorhomes to tempt us (including the brand new Charisma 555). The grand scale of the event was now becoming apparent.

At 5pm a small crowd gathered in the marquee to watch England play Trinidad & Tobago in the World Cup. Two loud cheers around 6:45pm told everyone the result. A little later the marquee lit up to background music and provided a perfect venue to renew old acquaintances.

By Friday morning, as yet more people began to arrive, the weather was warming up. The slush machine (ice crystal drinks) in Arkwright’s tuckshop was going well. Then Arkwright had a brainwave. Why not try to make slush sangria? Red wine, lemonade and orange juice were poured in and before long out came the most refreshing sangria you’ve ever tasted! He did a roaring trade at £1 a go with all proceeds going to our chosen charity, Cancer Research UK.

By Friday evening most people had arrived and the event was in full swing. Country & Western group Whiskey Under the Bridge provided the entertainment with a great selection of classic numbers which had many people up line dancing.

First thing Saturday morning the catering team set off to local suppliers to collect the freshly baked bread and other perishable ingredients that would make up the ploughmans and wine lunch for everyone that day. When they returned at 9:30am the sun was already cracking the flags and the table top sale was under way.

By lunchtime the temperature was close to 30°C and a magician entertained the queue for the first sitting. Further entertainment was provided by the 25-strong Bilton Silver Band from nearby Rugby, who played magnificently during both sittings. Meanwhile sales of sangria slush were going so well that Arkwright had to send out for more supplies!

During the afternoon the children were entertained with a host of activities including face painting, kite making, a ball pool and various games. The adults got chance to play crown darts and to visit the many invited traders who had tempting things to sell and to have a go at a trailer reversing competition organised by one of them.

Saturday evening kicked off with ‘part one’ of the grand raffle with lots of fabulous prizes to be won. Next came one of the UK’s premiere live bands – the Sharp Cuts. These guys have played for Princess Diana, Richard Branson and the Variety Club Children's Charity to name but a few well known people. The dance floor was soon heaving as the band played one classic number after another. ‘Part two’ of the grand raffle filled a short break before the band was once again back on stage and several hundred people rocked the night away………

Sunday was thankfully a little cooler and, after the Flag meetings of the various clubs, everyone gathered in the marquee for the Group Flag. In the afternoon a craft and hobby fair staged by fellow ralliers drew a lot of interest. Crafts ranged from encaustic art (painting with hot wax) to embroidery.

The evening kicked of with a charity auction followed by caravan and motorhome racing. Albeit the units were only made of plywood but it was still great fun. After that background music allowed people to wind (wine) down ready for the long trek home on the Monday.

What a fabulous event. Thanks to Swift and all our sponsors and to all those who worked so hard to make it so successful.

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Saturday Night Entertainment

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