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Winter residents bask in sunshine and thank yous
It was Alberta by a mile — or 1.6 km, as the case may be.
A winter visitor “thank you” party Wednesday at the county fairgrounds drew hundreds of seasonal residents from Oregon to Maine, British Columbia to Newfoundland, and especially Alberta, judging by the pins in the oversized map set up for attendees to mark their hometown pride.
A rainbow of pins jutted out all over the oil-rich western province, stuck near names like Bonnyville, Sundre, Stony Plain, Whitecourt and of course the capital, Edmonton. Other Canadians claimed their hometowns as Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Newfoundland; Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Quebec; Kitimat, British Columbia; Yellowknife, Northwest Territories; and Koidern, Yukon.
Visitors from the United States also generally came from northern latitudes, with more than a couple from Wisconsin, Michigan and the greater Pacific Northwest.
Deanna Middaugh, here from Washington state, quipped that folks from “the frozen north” must be looking for some sunshine.
“Well, they've come to the right city, that's for sure,” said Tammy Heidrich, co-owner of the Shangri-La RV Park in the Foothills and dispenser of the colorful pins.
Wednesday's appreciation party, produced by the Yuma Sun and attended by several partner businesses, drew a steady stream of people on a windy but otherwise blue and mild late-winter day — the kind that didn't get started by scraping ice off the windshield.
This was the first year for a party at the season's end. It complements the Winter Visitor Welcome Back Bash held in December, another Yuma Sun annual event for about 15 years.
The Shangri-La booth was a hub of activity as people stopped by to see where their neighbors were from. At the Shangri-La, about 90 percent of the population is winter visitors, Heidrich said. She remembers opening the park as a winter visitor oasis nearly 29 years ago.
“They're interesting people,” she said. “We learn so much from them.”
Jeff and Julie Dupree are on their first retired winter and have been here on an extended stay. The couple, from Truro, Mass., on Cape Cod, landed here in October and will leave in May.
“My husband is very, very tired of seeing snowflakes,” Julie said. He would be, since he used to drive a snowplow.
Julie said he's claimed to have seen every snowflake to ever drift from the sky. “I have,” said Jeff.
Something nice about a Yuma winter is that the weather doesn't get in your way, he said. “When you wake up in the morning, you can do what you planned on doing.”
This was also the first year in Yuma for Ernie Benedictson and his wife, Eva, from Teulon, Manitoba. His brother-in-law comes here, so they decided to check it out, too.
Theirs was a shorter visit. The couple will be leaving their rented casita on 47th Street and heading back north Thursday, but they're thinking of returning to Yuma next year.
“We gotta go home and make some snowmen yet,” Ernie said.
For the past few years, Deanna Middaugh, her husband, Ron, and their grown son, Scott, have pulled their fifth-wheeler out of Allen, Wash., when the gray, damp chill sets in and pulled into the Cocopah Bend RV park in northwest Yuma.
Allen, about an hour and a half north of Seattle, isn't snowy like some winter visitors' homes, but the Middaughs said it is overcast and wet from November to June.
Ron is a retired veterinarian, and Deanna was his office manager. When Ron retired, he followed his dream of RVing. As many do, they heard the weather was nice here.
They tried Indio, Calif., last year with some friends but returned to Yuma this year. Deanna said it's friendlier and smaller here, with less traffic.
“We decided we like Yuma better.”
Click here for slideshow: http://www.yumasun.com/sections/slideshow/?id=17679011
Hillary Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6857. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSHillaryDavis or on Twitter at @YSHillaryDavis.