An American Icon in the Heartland: The Airstream and Jackson Center, Ohio

 

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How does a tiny village of only 1.26 square miles make an indelible mark on American culture? It was a snap for Jackson Center, Ohio. Thousands of tourists flock to Jackson Center each year to visit the home of the iconic Airstream recreational vehicle.

Instantly recognizable with its bright silver aluminum body and rounded edges, the Airstream trailer is an American cultural phenomenon. The Airstream’s original eye catching “silver bullet” appearance has remained much the same since the trailer began production in the 1930s. Hawley Bowlus, designer of the Charles Li
Airstream is the oldest manufacturer of RVs in the United States. Production of the travel trailers that would become the Airstream brand began in California in 1931, in the backyard of a man named Wally Byam.ndbergh’s “The Spirit of St. Louis,” developed the early Airstream’s look, inspired by the sleek shape and aerodynamic properties of aircraft fuselage.

An aluminum shortage during World War II required Wally’s company to cease production in 1942. Fortunately, the post-war economic boom saw renewed interest in trailer travel. Airstream trailer production resumed in 1948.

In July 1952, Wally Byam leased an empty factory in Jackson Center, Ohio that had once been used to manufacture bazookas. One month later, the Jackson Center facility completed the first Airstream ever made on the east coast. By 1979, Jackson Center was the Airstream’s sole manufacturing site.

Established in 1835, Jackson Center is the quintessential American small town. It boasts a population of just over 1,400. Nestled amid Ohio farmland, Jackson Center is small and friendly. It has a long, affectionate relationship with the Airstream factory, which brings the town a level of tourism it would not otherwise enjoy.

The Airstream factory employs over 300 Jackson Center workers, who build each trailer by hand using aircraft grade aluminum. Each trailer requires 280 hours to complete. The factory offers a free daily tour, recently lauded by Fox News as one of 10 “must-see” factory tours in the country.

June 2010 brought a new annual Airstream tradition to Jackson Center. Hundreds of RV enthusiasts roll into town during the first week in June to attend Alumapalooza, a week-long celebration of all things Airstream.

Alumapalooza offers a little something for everyone, including informational seminars about the Airstream lifestyle, trailer upgrades, maintenance tips and more. Visitors enjoy live entertainment, a factory tour, access to vendors and product demonstrations, morning yoga classes and a big barbecue dinner – thoughtfully, with a vegetarian option included. Alumapalooza is held in conjunction with the annual Jackson Center Community Days celebration, the town’s biggest event of the year.

Looking for some real, quality Americana? You’ll find it in Jackson Center, home of the the Airstream!

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