It Takes an Army to Get RV Show on Road

January 7, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

One million square feet of indoor and outdoor floor space, one 950-foot-long tent, 11,000 gallons of propane for heat, crews from 17 dealers, several dozen boats and 600 RVs, trailers and campers worth a combined value of approximately $70 million.

The 23rd Annual Manufacturers RV and Boat Show, opening today (Jan. 7) at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton, Calif., has its fair share of logistical nightmares, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

RVs are big. Really big. The high-end models can be up to 45 feet long, or longer, with sides that extend out — widening the vehicles and expanding the square footage of their interiors. From the inside, they look more like plush one-bedroom apartments than motorized vehicles.

Plush comes with a price. Some of the models on display over the next 11 days can be yours for a mere $700,000.

“It’s pretty complicated” to pull a show of this size together, Good Times Promotions President Mike Nohr said Thursday. “You can see how we’re going to be in here (getting ready) until midnight “… Walking through, I see 10 things we have to do.”

Preparing for the second-largest RV show in the United States has been a full-time job for Nohr and his son, Shawn Nohr.

Dealers begin purchasing floor space by the square foot in October. When a final tally is gathered on the amount of floor space purchased, Shawn Nohr composes a schematic based on the space available in the tent and fairground showrooms.

Tent assembly begins about a month before the show opens. Shawn Nohr and others then divide the floor for the dealers, who then must decide how to position their RVs, campers and trailers within their designated area.

“Like, this guy thought he could fit 50 (RVs) in here, but he could only fit 45,” Shawn Nohr said, pointing to a cluster of RVs in the Young California building. “I’m ready to get this day over with.”

Dealers are given three to four days to drive all their RVs, campers and trailers from their dealerships and into their designated spots at the fairgrounds. The more floor space purchased, the sooner a dealer is permitted to move their products into the show room.

As complicated as it is, the process has gotten easier since Mike Nohr began organizing the show 23 years ago.

“It was tough the first couple years, getting the dealers to be friendly with each other,” he said. “There’s no way they can (all) come in at the same time.”

Even though organizing the show has become easier, it’s no piece of cake. Accommodating as many as 600 RVs, trailers and campers and an expected 25,000 visitors presents a number of last-minute challenges, Nohr said.

On Thursday, with only 24 hours before the show opens, heating, electrical and carpeting for the tent had not been completed, the front office had not received the brochures that will guide visitors through the showroom and dealers were still putting the finishing touches on their displays.

The show has expanded from last year, when the amount of floor space purchased required only a 300-feet long tent. In addition to more floor space, this is also the first year visitors will also be able to see boats at the show.

“In the recovering market, RVs and boats are well-matched when you’re putting on events for the public,” said Bob Gorman, the executive director of the Northern California Marine Association. “This is our reintroduction to the winter show.”

In the past, the fairgrounds hosted an annual winter boat show after the RV show concluded. Sales declined significantly with the softening economy, which kept dealers from returning to the fairgrounds. But, boating seems to be bouncing back, Gorman said.

Moving the boats into the showroom presents the Nohrs a different headache.

“They’re a little tougher to set up, because you have to get all the trailers off,” Mike Nohr said with a laugh. “It’s not an easy thing.”

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