It may be a quiet week at the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds in Goshen, Ind., but not for a lack of activity.
This week, the fairgrounds are home to the 12th Biennial National Campvention of the Deaf, a traveling RV/camping rally cosponsored this year by Indiana Deaf Campers, according to The Goshen News. The event was established in 1986 by the Kansas Deaf Road Runners Club and has been held mostly in the western states, such as Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado and South Dakota.
“It’s like a family,” IDC Chairperson Bob Downing said. “You get to see people you haven’t seen in a long time and make new friends; get a chance to socialize. So now we’re all really good friends, it’s awesome.”
Downing said there are currently about 400 campers at the fairgrounds for the event. It could swell to 600 by the weekend, he said. Some of those campers came from as far away as Arizona, Florida, Maine and New York, with representatives from a total of 26 states.
In addition to games, shows and a membership meeting tonight, campers will be taking in the local sights and sounds, visiting the Shipshewana flea market and eating at Das Dutchman Essenhaus in Middlebury. They also have the opportunity to go on RV-related tours to the Jayco Inc. factory in Middlebury and the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart. The event wraps up Saturday night with a banquet-style dinner theater.
According to Downing, the group started looking at Goshen as a possible site for the event three years ago.
“We wanted something in Indiana,” he said. “We were in Montana at the time and were looking around different states for campgrounds. We found this one in Goshen and it seemed like the best.”
Fellow IDC Chairperson Greg Gantt said the area’s designation as Amish country was also a draw, something you don’t see out West.
“It’s another opportunity to see a different area,” Gantt said. “A lot of these people are retired, so I figured it was perfect with the flea market and RV manufacturers. They can see where their trailers were made.”
He pointed out that the Campvention is the only such national event, although there are some similar events held regionally.
Among the attendees was Nappanee resident and Goshen College American Sign Language teacher Debbie Gessinger.
“I’m looking forward to meeting new people,” Gessinger said.
Gessinger originally heard about the event from Downing, with whose daughter she had attended school. While at the event, she is coordinating the unofficial interpreters, all students from her class.