Editor’s Note: An accompanying video on the Heartland Owners Rally can be viewed in the Video No. 1 slot on the RVBUSINESS.com home page or by clicking here.
Returning to its roots in Indiana’s Elkhart County, Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC hosted around 250 rigs and more than 500 RVers during the June 18-23 running of the 8th Annual North American Heartland Owners Rally.
“The rapid growth and strength of the club demonstrates the close relationship that we have with our owners,” said Chris Hermon, president of the Elkhart, Ind.-based builder, in a press release. “Since the company’s inception, Heartland made a commitment to listen to its owners, and we continue to benefit from that valuable connection.”
The gathering, held at the Elkhart County Fairgrounds in Goshen, represented the largest contingent to date for the national event, attracting “Heartlanders” representing 35 U.S. states and three Canadian provinces. Jim Beletti, director of owners interests for Heartland, explained that the rally was set up on a “home and away” format, bringing members back to Elkhart every other year.
“On the even years we put the rally on the road, and always have a strong draw,’” Beletti said, noting the organization was formed in 2008. “But this year’s event was the biggest and, in my opinion, the best. It served as proof that the club, and Heartland RV, are continuing to grow.”
Beletti reported that the owners club currently boasts 1,200 paid members with state-based chapters in five regions across North America. He also co-founded the Heartland Owners Forum that has grown to around 20,000 members.
To usher in the event, Heartland held a weeklong pre-rally from June 11-17 at the fairgrounds, allowing members to settle in while also giving them access to complimentary service work on their rigs. “We beefed up the agenda this year and the pre-rally was well attended,” Beletti noted.
As in past editions, this year’s rally offered attendees a full range of activities, including nightly entertainment, catered and home-cooked meals, factory tours along with a focus on education. A complement of 23 workshops providing a technical slant were coupled with 20 seminars centered on the RV lifestyle.
“The leisure time activity presentations run concurrently with our technical seminars,” Beletti noted. “Several of our owners were involved, showing the types of crafts and hobbies that people can do when they’re RVing.”
A popular draw for attendees was the Heartland Marketplace, boasting 30-plus product and service vendors. Local dealer Great Lakes RV Center also displayed seven Heartland trailers. “Many of our vendors reported brisk sales and Great Lakes had some new coach sales,” Beletti said.
Capping off the rally, attendees boarded buses on Saturday, June 22, for a tour of the RV/MH Hall of Fame and a trip to Heartland’s manufacturing facilities. “There were several plant tours and then management addressed the owners group,” Beletti said. “It was followed by a lengthy Q&A session that provided some great interaction.”
Beletti stressed that a key staple at every rally is a “charitable component.”
“This year we extended our ‘Babies Wrapped in Love’ project where Heartland owners provided primarily handmade baby items,” Beletti said. “Over 531 items were donated to the Elkhart County Extension of Purdue University. Owners also donated over 1,300 food items to Church Community Services.”