No 'gypsies' in our community

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By Calen McKinney


Campbellsville has been in the national spotlight for the past few weeks.

I thought the publicity had all died down by now, and it seemed to, but I got another e-mail alert last week.

This story's headline reads "'Amazon Gypsies' Converge on Kentucky Trailer Park in Search of Work."

I'm sure you have heard about all of this by now.

Jeff and Welby Simpson built a new campground this year, right across from Amazon.com.

Welby Simpson told me in an interview last month that Amazon officials approached him and asked him to build the campground to give the company's temporary holiday workers a place to stay. The "work campers" receive free rent and live close enough that they can walk to work.

Many of the workers are retired, Simpson said, and like traveling to other states to spend their days working temporary jobs and sleeping in lavish homes on wheels.

I wrote a story about the campground and talked to Simpson and several of the campers (see the Nov. 8 issue of the News-Journal). They told me about their travels around the country and why they chose to give up their homes for a home on wheels.

They invited me into their "homes," told me about how much they enjoy traveling, about meeting their new neighbors in Campbellsville, about traveling to nearby sites and how they love having the freedom of being able to just start up their engines and go anywhere.

It sounds like a very interesting life, though not one that I imagine everyone would want. The campers I saw, however, had all the amenities a person needs, from televisions to living rooms, large bedrooms to full kitchens and restrooms.

A week or so after my story was published, the news spread that "gypsy" workers had taken over the rural small town of Campbellsville as a makeshift "home" for refugee workers who were in desperate need of making money.

Many news outlets - from newspapers to magazines and even ABC News - have featured stories about the campers.

Some called the workers "unconventional." I guess I can see that.

Others said the workers see their RVs as "mobile opportunity." OK, I can see that, too.

A blog I read said some of the stories make the campers out to be "desperate and deprived" people. Wait, I don't remember hearing anyone say they are desperate.

Reading that, I played the tapes back in my head of the campers I interviewed. No one ever told me they were financially strapped and looking for a place to make a few pennies to feed their children.

I remember feeling quite at home in the roomy campers and giving recommendations for some of the local restaurants. I remember hearing how exciting the local sites are and how nice people are in Campbellsville.

While most of the stories did quote campers as saying how much they enjoy their "unconventional" lives on the road, others seemed out to taint the lifestyle.

This reminds me of something else Welby Simpson told me.

"That's their home now," Simpson said. "They buy gas, groceries, clothing and everything else when they're here."

Seems like a win-win for the campers and for our community.

If you want to read some of the stories, just Google "Amazon Gypsies in Campbellsville, Ky."

Don't forget to read the comments on the stories from some of the campers themselves. They do, after all, have Internet access at the Heartland Campground.

I've heard lots of rumblings in our community about the workers, including that the campers aren't happy being portrayed as "gypsies."

The work camper lifestyle isn't only prevalent in Campbellsville. It's becoming a popular trend, according to some stories I have read.

Perhaps these campers are both retired people in search of a different lifestyle and those having trouble making ends meet. Seems the majority of those who set up their temporary home in Campbellsville, however, were the former.

While I'm glad Campbellsville has been in the spotlight, it seems this community wasn't home to "gypsies" after all.