Albert Lea had its own van club 40 years ago

Published 6:24 pm Monday, July 12, 2021

As vans from all across the country came to Albert Lea last week for the 48th National Truck-in at the Freeborn County Fairgrounds, residents may be surprised to learn that Albert Lea had its own van club about 40 years ago.

Albert Lean Gary Hagen said he bought and customized a Chevy van in 1977 and initially got involved with the Mason City Car Club and became vice president.

“I thought if I’m an officer of this club, I’m just going to start my own club in Albert Lea,” he said.

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So that’s what he did.

He said he put an ad in the newspaper and asked people who were interested to meet at Edgewater Park. He estimated the club — called Vantasy Vans — had about 20 members. He remembers the club hosting van shows at Skyline Plaza.

Eventually, the Albert Lea Vantasy Vans and the Mason City Venture Vans clubs merged, and for three years, Hagen said they hosted van owners — known as “vanners” —at the KOA near Albert Lea.

Hagen said he used to go to several van shows a year and one summer recalled going to 17 van shows. A lot of times when he got done with work for the week, he would pack up and head to a different show in the Midwest. He even attended some of the Van Nationals shows as well.

His van, which he owned through 1984, was featured in Trucking Magazine for a show and shine Van Nationals event.

Hagen said the local club was in existence about five years.


Related story: Van Nationals participants showcase vans during public parade, show