Airstream Creator Focus of Summer-long Celebration

New museum exhibit celebrates Wally Byam-Born in Baker, Oregon on the Fourth of July

A new exhibit at the Baker Heritage Museum will tell the story of Airstream inventor Wally Byam, born in Baker City on July 4, 1896.

The exhibit will be part of a summer of activities for Airstream enthusiasts, including a caravan across Oregon and a rally of the iconic aluminum travel trailers as part of the museum exhibit on Byam's birthday weekend in July.

Rare memorabilia from Byam's early life in Baker County through his caravan adventures around the world will be featured in "Caravanning and Collecting", the museum's 2011 Central Gallery exhibit.

"The exhibit's goal, to use Wally Byam's words, is to strive to 'stir the venturesome spirit that moves you to follow a rainbow to its end'," said Chris Cantrell, Museum Director. "This venturesome spirit is the similar spirit that drove the Oregon Trail settlers to this community."

Generous donations of memorabilia from the Byam family estate will be displayed, including personal items and photos, Byam's own trademark blue beret, and original blueprints of the oldest Airstream-the 1935 Torpedo-made from Byam's drawings.

Featured will be authentic photos of Byam's famous Airstream caravan trips in the 1950s to Mexico, Europe, and the 18,000-mile tour from Capetown to Cairo through the continent of Africa. Items purchased along the way include garments, drums, bows and arrows-some with poisonous beetle dung still on the tips.

The exhibit, opening March 19, 2011, will peak in early July when members of the Oregon Unit of the Wally Byam Caravan Club International (WBCCI) will add an element of living history.

The "Wally Byam Birthday Party Rally" will take place in Baker City on Friday, July 1 through Tuesday, July 5. Airstream trailers will gather at sites throughout town, and an open house of vintage and new Airstream trailers will be on view for the public July 4 at Geiser Pollman Park adjacent to the museum. Owners will be dressed in clothing from the year their Airstream was manufactured.

"Where better to have Wally's birthday party than at his birthplace?" said Teresa Taylor, owner of a restored 1968 Ambassador Airstream and president of the WBCCI Oregon Unit. "We'll be celebrating his caravans and the WBCCI and what it stands for: fun, fellowship and adventure. We'll be having a good time, wearing our blue berets and cooking out." Traditional rally meals are planned to recreate the spirit of the early Airstream journeys. "Wally liked certain foods on his caravans," laughed Taylor.

The rally in Baker City will be a highlight of the Oregon Unit sponsored "Sampling Oregon Caravan", a 30-day, 1,450 mile Airstream journey across the state.