Boler party Fans of cute little trailer born in city 50 years ago turn Ex grounds into colourful summer camp

What appears on highways and campgrounds across North America, looks like an adorable overgrown coloured egg on wheels, turned 50 this year and was born in Winnipeg?

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/08/2018 (1571 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

What appears on highways and campgrounds across North America, looks like an adorable overgrown coloured egg on wheels, turned 50 this year and was born in Winnipeg?

The beloved Boler.

More than 900 enthusiasts have brought nearly 500 of the diminutive family trailers here to celebrate the milestone, turning Red River Exhibition Park into what appears to be an otherworldly hatchery from a cheesy science-fiction movie.

Hundreds of Boler trailers, originally invented and manufactured in Winnipeg, from all corners of North America hit the road and made their way to Winnipeg to celebrate the birth of the iconic camper trailer. (Photos by John Woods / The Canadian Press)

Ian Giles, one of the organizers of the party, which began Wednesday and continues until Sunday, says the Boler community is tightly knit one.

“We communicate all the time on social media,” he said Thursday. “I know virtually everybody here.”

And that’s why people have travelled here this week from, well… everywhere. There’s a family from Cornerbrook, N.L., a group from Vancouver Island and one from Yellowknife. And some have migrated north from as far away as Florida and New Mexico.

The fibreglass-formed contraptions were designed for four people, but they’d better like each other. A lot.

Giles bought his first Boler — a cream-and-white 1974 model he calls Buttercup — eight years ago. After he and his wife Joan went for their first trip, he realized quickly he wanted to renovate it.

“I love Joanie dearly, but the bed was just a little too cosy,” he said. “Sleeping in them, I refer to it as synchronized sleeping. You spoon and rotate together.”

More than 900 people from across North America gathered with their Boler trailers in Winnipeg’s Red River Exhibition Park, attracting another 1,800 members of the public for a visit. (John Woods / Canadian Press files)

The camper was invented by Winnipegger Ray Olecko, who worked at a fibreglass company in the city. After too many uncomfortable, soggy camping trips with his wife and two children, he came up with an alternative, producing the first Boler in 1968.

The last was manufactured in Ontario in 1988, although there have been American versions produced since then as Olecko’s company changed hands, names and locations over the years.

There was little information about the trailers available online when Giles started renovating Buttercup. As he went along, figuring things out on his own, he documented the rebuild and put it on the web. Eventually, he began manufacturing replacement parts for the vintage trailers that weren’t available elsewhere.

“Trying to keep these… things together, I kind of got known across the country as the person who knew a lot,” he said.

Ian Giles relaxes outside his trailer.

Four years ago, Ricky Mooyman, another Winnipeg devotee, realized the 50th anniversary of the little campers was approaching and he set to work organizing the gathering here.

Mooyman, Giles and two other volunteers put the convention together.

Olecko’s nephew, Dave Olecko, travelled here from Calgary. Seven of his friends, all of whom own Bolers, convinced him to join the festivities, even though he doesn’t have one of his own; that’s on his bucket list.

As a kid, he invited friends to sleepovers in the odd-looking thing in his parents’ driveway.

“You felt like you were in a lunar module,” he said.

The gathering is open to the public Saturday only, beginning at 10 a.m. Admission is $10.

“We’ve got open trailer tours,” Giles said. “People are passionate and love the trailers and love to show them off.

“If the door is open, that means it’s open for you to go in and view it and talk to the owners.”

erik.pindera@freepress.mb.ca

A mat at the door of Giles' trailer.
Giles brews some coffee.
The Wiebes relax inside trailer.
J.J. McColm relaxes outside his orange themed trailer and car.
McColm puts some music on.
Ron Schellenberg with his yellow school bus themed trailer and 1957 school bus.
Schellenberg shows off the modern interior in his yellow school bus themed trailer.
Angela Durand relaxes outside her Yellow Submarine themed trailer.
Durand plays the ukulele.
CP A sign in the window of a trailer from Missouri says it all at the 50th anniversary celebration weekend in Winnipeg on Wednesday, August 15, 2018. Hundreds of Boler trailers, originally invented and manufactured in Winnipeg, from all corners of North America hit the road and made their way to Winnipeg to celebrate the birth of the iconic camper trailer. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
A variety of trailers are set and up and ready for the celebrations.
More than one trailer was tagged 'Winnipeg or bust'.
Maddox Kamphius sits with his grandma Marliss Meyer while they camp with family just west of Brandon on Tuesday evening. (Tim Smith / The Brandon Sun)
Sam McKay of Vancouver Island, part of a caravan of Boler enthusiasts headed to Winnipeg, sits inside her decorated Boler camper near Brandon Tuesday evening. (Tim Smith/The Brandon Sun)
Little Boler camper lights decorate the inside of McKay's trailer. (Tim Smith / The Brandon Sun)
Sam McKay sets up some Boler coasters on a picnic table outside her trailer. (Tim Smith / The Brandon Sun)
Shaun and Nicole Conkle's Boler camper is decorated for the Boler 50th Anniversary. (Tim Smith / The Brandon Sun)
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