By Erin Johnson
They packed up and moved West – well, at least for the week.
Hailing from over 10 foreign countries and dozens of states across the United States, Education Week devotees have literally set up camp around BYU.
Even the parking lot west of the Smith Fieldhouse transformed into an impromptu RV park overnight with lawn chairs huddled in the shade and rows upon rows of trailers serving as home for the next week.
“We”re out here on the good old blacktop. It”s not as good as a park would be, but considering the price it”s reasonable,” Robert Thomas of Wisconsin said.
Thomas took advantage of the free RV parking after driving for two days with his wife to be at Education Week. The 1500-mile drive is an annual event for Thomas and his wife who have been loyally making the trek for ten years just to be able to attend classes.
Bruce Payne, program administrator for Education Week, said more than 1/3 of the Week”s participants will be coming to Utah from other states. As of Monday afternoon, while registration was still on going, Payne said 5,126 of the 12,195 registrants were from out of state.
Payne further said more than 148 registrants have come to BYU from 10 foreign countries including Austria, Brazil, Japan, Nigeria, the Netherlands and New Zealand.
Linda Addington was among those who set out on the road for Education Week as she and her family drove for 13 hours from Fresno, Calif.
Addington said she has been attending Education Week with her mother for 15 years and when her mother died several years ago, she decided to carry on the tradition with her own daughter and husband.
“It”s hard because I still miss my mom,” Addington said. “But it”s still great, I mean the whole atmosphere, the spirit, the shopping and the food.”
Although the classes are inspirational, Addington admitted her main motive for making the annual journey are the mint chocolate brownies in the Cougareat.
Addington said she usually stays in the dorms or in a hotel room, but lucked out this year when her son and his wife offered to let them stay the week in their apartment in Wymount.
“It”s great, it”s like being in college again,” she said.
Dede Ranzenberger and her three friends also drove Monday from Colorado and are getting the complete college experience while staying in Helaman Halls this week.
From eating at the dining center to climbing up three flights of stairs to her room in Taylor Hall, Ranzenberger, 86, said she is getting the full college experience.
“We definitely like the Morris Center best. It has got Cannon beat all to pieces,” Ranzenberger said.
Ranzenberger has been attending Education Week since the ”70s and recently gathered a group of friends who now make the trip together every year.
Lanell Newitt, one of the troupes, said the 5-hour drive from Colorado is more than worth it just to be spiritually uplifted and to expose her daughter to church speakers.
“I come here to get my battery charged, my spiritually battery charged,” Newitt said.