Except for a brief intrusion by Mother Nature, last week’s Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) 86th Family Reunion and Motorhome Showcase offered attendees an inviting setting to interact with fellow members, take advantage of the slate of activities and enjoy the hospitality in Madison, Wis.
“Overall, the show was a tremendous success,” noted Jerry Yeatts, FMCA director of member services. “We did everything we could to make sure it would be a successful event for our members and the public, and I think we succeeded.
“There were so many special events and we offered just two nights of entertainment on site, allowing members a night out on the town to enjoy the restaurants and evening tours in Madison. That was a big hit.”
Centered at the expansive Alliant Energy Center, Yeatts reported that 1,809 member rigs transporting over 4,000 people motored into Madison for the Aug. 10-13 gathering. “There were also 101 exhibitors that stayed in coaches, along with 194 motorhomes on display and 39 demo units for test rides,” he said. “Overall, we had 2,143 rigs, which was down about 30 from our last two conventions.”
Yeatts related there would be a new strategy in the scheduling of national shows for the next two years. “We normally do two national shows, but in 2012 and 2013 we will just hold one,” he said. “We are going to put more emphasis on regional shows. The one national event in 2012 will be in Indianapolis, running Aug. 27-30 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.”
In addition to the hub of activity at the Alliant Center – spurred by steady gate traffic – Yeatts said that around 400 families set up camp at nearby Lake Farm Park. “It was a beautiful setting on Lake Waubesa,” Yeatts said. “It was a great location to enjoy camping the way it’s supposed to be.”
With one exception. “On Monday, when people were arriving, a funnel cloud formed in the distance,” Yeatts said. “It quickly dissipated and proved to be no cause for alarm. Besides that, the weather was fantastic.”
In addition to member activities, the FMCA national convention annually offers dealers, suppliers and manufacturers a venue to show and sell new product. “The indoor exhibitors, which included 330 displays, were very pleased,” Yeatts said. “It was basically non-stop every day from open to close. In speaking with some of the coach exhibitors, they said there was activity and they were making some sales.”
Yeatts noted that the majority of the display coaches, which included several 2012 introductions, were Class A units. “I’m of the opinion that a lot of folks are looking at Class B and Class C motorhomes that will either introduce them to the lifestyle or offer them an alternative in the face of fuel costs and the economy,” he said. “I guess I was hoping for more representation for those types of products.
“For our members that are full-timers, I’d say most are going to remain in the Class A’s because of the amount of storage and overall room. But there are a lot of people these days looking for ways to save.”
The event annually provides a bellwether of sorts for the motorhome sector, but Yeatts said that although the overall mood was very upbeat, “it was hard to gauge how the motorhome market is faring these days.” He added, “I still believe that people who are in the lifestyle are going to continue being motorhome buyers.”
Yeatts noted there were 140 seminars scheduled throughout the event covering a full gamut of topics including healthy cooking and nutrition, motorhome lifestyle, hobbies and crafts, motorhome maintenance, photography and motorhome safety. Evening entertainment featured several acts, including Double Grande, featuring pianists Deborah Johnson and Wayland Pickard, and Street Corner Symphony, an a cappella group that finished runner-up during the 2010 season of NBC’s hit show, “The Sing-Off.”
As is a tradition at FMCA national events, members were also involved in local charities, collecting $2,435 in a silent auction for the local Big Brothers Big Sisters along with “overwhelming response” to a blood drive by the Red Cross. “To me, that’s what FMCA is all about,” said Yeatts