Aniko Kannas, (left) and Connie Amelang are part of the women’s traveling group, Sisters on the Fly, who settled into the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds Tuesday evening. (Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian)

What started out as two friends who enjoyed fly fishing and camping eight years ago has now ballooned into an international club with over 24,000 members over the years.

On Tuesday, about 70 of those women in the group called Sisters on the Fly, rolled into the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds in a wide range of campers, vans and modern to vintage trailers for an evening of homemade beef sliders, beans, cole slaw, dessert from the Gizdich Ranch and their favorite beverages. 

Referring to themselves as Wranglers, they

often sport dramatic cowboy hats, boots and such and dress up their camping vehicles with art and decor of a western theme. Others display mermaid figurines, unicorns,  and original art.

“We’re a women’s adventure camping group that operates on a national and international level,” said  Aniko Kannas of Scotts Valley. “Right now there are about 70 on the ‘Cruisin’ California’ tour that started in San Diego three days ago with a new stop every night.” 

The group heads next to Santa Rosa and will end in Humboldt County with a “mini jubilee,” organized by Jo Tarkington, the group’s Central Coast Ambassador,  Kannas said. 

“Sisters on the Fly might be the longest standing camping group,” she said. 

Connie Amelang, a member for 9 years and a resident of California’s high desert, said the group is made of a diverse range of folks, from a medical helicopter pilot, to electricians, a microbiologist, nurses, a flight attendant, teachers and artists.

“I’m meeting people that,  in the normal course of my career, my neighborhood, my hobbies, that I wouldn’t have ever met,” she said. “It’s diverse and all inclusive; everybody is welcome, as long as they behave themselves. Our motto is, ‘We have more fun than anyone.’”

Amelang said the group engages in crafts, potluck events, CPR classes and RV and trailer maintenance to keep their vehicles rolling.

“We have sisters here from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, and all over California,” Amelang said, who works in real estate and is an NRA firearms instructor. 

“I’m a cowgirl at heart,” she said. “I had horses my whole life. We all decorate our rigs according to our hobbies, our likes or dislikes. We all pick a theme and then we fix our rigs accordingly.

Her 2019 trailer features large letters, “Straight Shooting Sadie,” and a painted image of a cowgirl barreling across the lands on horseback in western attire aiming two six-shooters skyward while clamping her teeth around a rope.

The group was founded by Maurrie Sussman and Becky Clarke who are still active travelers with Sisters on the Fly.

There’s also a book about the traveling caravan, “Sisters on the Fly, Caravans, Campfires, and Tales of the Road” by Irene Rawlings that includes writing, artwork and photos. 

The book, “Sisters on the Fly,” defines the history and tales of the traveling group.  (Contributed)

Debbie Anthony, a retired nurse of San Luis Obispo, said she joined the group about two years ago because she loves camping, is widowed and “for the camaraderie.”

“I travel all over the country in a 2002 Volkswagen Eurovan,” she said. “People here come from all different backgrounds. Tonight we’ll have a nice meal, drink a little bit; we’ll play games, there are hobbies, there are musicians, and we’ll have a good time together.”

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Tarmo Hannula has been the lead photographer with The Pajaronian newspaper in Watsonville since 1997. More recently Good Times & Press Banner. He also reports on a wide range of topics, including police, fire, environment, schools, the arts and events. A fifth generation Californian, Tarmo was born in the Mother Lode of the Sierra (Columbia) and has lived in Santa Cruz County since the late 1970s. He earned a BA from UC Santa Cruz and has traveled to 33 countries.


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    Pilar, Sister 16100
    Construction, Project Manager and Construction Manager
    1972 Lo-Liner aristocrat trailer
    San Francisco, California

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