They were called motorcoaches, house cars, travel trailers and even mobile bungalows. Recreational vehicles are now celebrating a century of putting America on the road with some of the comforts of home, the Waco (Texas) Tribune reported.
The first mass-produced campers were manufactured in 1910. As part of the highway-hopping hoopla associated with the RV centennial, local author Evada Cooper has compiled “Centennial RV Recipe Cookbook: Celebrating 100 Years of RVing.”
The book will soon be released by Texas State Technical College-Waco’s publishing division. It showcases more than 100 recipes that are road-ready and time-tested favorites collected from around the country. Evada specifically set out to find recipes that are easy to prepare in an RV or at a campsite. Another feature is historical photos and trivial tidbits about the allure of the open-road lifestyle.
She and her husband, Terry Cooper, are the owners/operators of MobileRVacademy.com, an online school that offers instructional DVDs and webinars on topics of interest to RV enthusiasts.
Terry, a master certified RV technician/instructor who taught courses on RVs for many years at TSTC-Waco, now teaches solar energy courses at the college. He contributes to the cookbook as well — not as a chef but as a mechanic. He offers maintenance advice and handy tips in the publication.
“So it won’t matter who you are — man or woman — you’ll be reaching for that book all the time,” said Evada, who goes by the nickname “Lady E.”
The couple recently finished production on four DVDs for MobileRVacademy.com. Next year, they hope to establish local classes for women to learn RV maintenance.
Women, the Coopers noted, are the fastest-growing segment of the RV market. “We noticed that about 70% of our students are women wanting to know how to maintain an RV,” Evada said. “So a local class would give us more opportunities to connect with consumers.”
The Coopers met on a blind date a few years ago, set up through Match.com. That first date, Terry recalled, lasted 12 hours. When the first restaurant they were at closed for the night, they went to the IHOP to continue talking about their shared love of RVs. Evada loved camping as a teen, and her grandparents owned a travel trailer.
The Coopers married in December 2008. “We had too much in common,” Terry explained.
The RV maintenance information is a unique feature for a cookbook, Evada said. She hopes it will broaden the book’s appeal beyond food enthusiasts. Some 30 million Americans drive about 14 million vehicles, so the potential audience for the cookbook is huge.
Terry grew up near Somerville, Texas, about 35 miles from Evada’s hometown of Rockdale. “So we’re taking a dip from the same gene pool,” she joked.
“He is providing me with tips, procedures, checklists and maintenance schedules that are so vital for the upkeep of our RVs,” she said. “Having this RV maintenance information right at your fingertips, along with your favorite recipes, is a wonderful idea I know others will embrace.”
A 1978 graduate of Rockdale High School, Evada owned her own cafe in Rockdale for about 15 years before she moved to Port Lavaca for another job. Following a divorce, she had difficulty finding an affordable place to live with her teenage daughter. So she bought an RV and was smitten with the simplicity of the lifestyle.
Even sharing her 37 1/2-foot-long Sierra Forest River with two dogs and a cat was a lot less stressful, she said, than living in a cramped apartment. She moved to the Waco area almost three years ago to be the general manager of a restaurant that has since closed.
The author also works with Workamper News, a publication for full-time RVers who look for seasonal jobs to pay the bills. Sometimes, those seasonal jobs have ways of turning into full-time jobs, Evada said. Examples include docents at animal sanctuaries, burger-flippers at state fairs and desk clerks at national parks.
She started soliciting recipes from the RV community this spring for inclusion in the cookbook. Whether they are old-time family favorites or non-traditional camping fare, she said she wanted any fun recipe that RVers would like to share.
In addition to recipes, RVers were asked to submit brief bios extolling their love of RVs and roaming the nation. She targeted the members of national RV clubs and organizations, the people who would most appreciate a centennial celebration of the lifestyle.
In the spring of 2010, Evada learned that the national Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) was endorsing her book as one of its official publications during its year-long celebration.
“I’m just very excited,” she said. “It’s all about family, friends and food. It’s about a return to the era of simpler fare but good, hearty food.”
The cookbook has “no-cook” recipes as well as items intended to be prepared over a campfire, with a Dutch oven or a trailer microwave.
“The idea is to make (the dishes) fast and easy, so you have more time with family and to enjoy the great outdoors,” Evada said.
For more information on the RV Centennial Cookbook, contact LadyEcooper@MobileRVAcademy.com.
Editor’s Note: Evada Cooper tells RVBUSINESS.com, “As a way to help our friend the RV/MH Hall of Fame Museum continue to preserve the past …the present …and future of this great industry, I am extending the offer for the balance of 2011 that those individuals and organizations that come to MobileRVAcademy.com and purchase a copy or copies of the RV Centennial Cookbook: 100 years of Rving, a donation of 5% of the sale will be given to the RV Museum.”
The RV Centennial program conducted by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) throughout 2010 to focus attention on the rich history and bright future of the RV industry continues to gather recognition, most recently being named as “Newsmaker of the Year” by RV Business magazine.
“We are honored that RVBusiness selected the RV Centennial as the top industry story of 2010,” said RVIA President Richard Coon. “With so many other compelling topics and trends from last year, it’s gratifying that the RV Centennial was recognized for its strong message of resiliency and the way it was embraced by our industry.”
Previously, the RV Centennial media relations effort, conducted by RVIA’s PR team and public relations agency, Barton Gilanelli & Associates, had been recognized by other media and professional communications organizations. PR News named the effort as a finalist in the media relations campaign category of their public relations competition. Additionally, the Association of Marketing & Communications Professionals presented the campaign with a Platinum MarCom Award while the Philadelphia Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) honored it with a first-place Pepperpot Award.
The RV Centennial was originally conceived to generate positive media coverage about the enduring appeal of RV travel and camping in a climate filled with bad economic news. RVIA expanded the scope of the effort to unite the RV industry behind a year-long celebratory event during a time of budget cuts and layoffs.
“In 1910, there was no TV, no air conditioning and no phone — but there were RVs. Through war and peace, booms and busts, fuel lines, fads and the cyber revolution, the RV lifestyle has endured and is still going strong, even in today’s challenging economic times.” — An RVIA press release announcing the then-upcoming “RV Centennial”
Things were still looking pretty bleak for the recreational vehicle industry in 2009 when the PR-focused staffs of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and Barton Gilanelli Associates Inc., RVIA’s long-time agency, first came up with the idea for an “RV Centennial” for 2010.
The plan was to morph the image of the recreational vehicle industry in the national press from a poster child for the Great Recession to something more honorable, dignified and valuable to the American public.
And it worked to perfection, creating an impressive groundswell of positive national press — which is why the RVBusiness staff has named the “RV Centennial” its “2010 Newsmaker of the Year.”
“The primary benefit of the Centennial, and the principal reason that RVIA embraced it, was that it gave our industry a chance to celebrate after almost two years of recessionary misery,” Gary LaBella, RVIA’s outgoing vice president and chief marketing officer, told RVBusiness. “This industry needed something to rally around, to smile about, to unify over and to help make us feel good about ourselves.”
B.J. Thompson, president of B.J. Thompson Associates, Mishawaka, Ind., and chairman of RVIA’s Public Relations Committee, agrees with a number of other industry insiders that the “RV Centennial” was the right idea at the right time.
“I think it (the Centennial) was particularly significant at the time, considering the state of our economy and the fact that a lot of people were thinking that it was the end of the RV industry,” said Thompson.
“And the 100 years of the RV industry — and the celebration of it — was particularly pertinent at that time because it clearly showed with the historical facts that the RV industry has successfully gone through wars and economic depressions that were significantly worse than what we were experiencing at that time.
In establishing 2010 as the rightful year for the Centennial, RVIA turned to three respected RV history experts: David Woodworth (a collector of early RVs and camping memorabilia); Al Hesselbart, an archivist for the RV/MH Heritage Foundation Inc.’s Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Ind.) and Roger White (an associate curator for the Smithsonian Institution). All three agreed that the first commercial motorized campers were built in 1910.
“The first motorized campers were built in 1910,” Woodworth stated in the first of many RVIA Centennial press releases. “Before that, people camped in private rail cars that were pulled to sidings along train routes. The year 1910 brought a new freedom to people who didn’t want to be limited by the rail system. RVs allowed them to go where they wanted, when they wanted.”
With that, RVIA and Barton-Gilanelli went to work building a platform for a year-long “RV Centennial” observance that included a whole menu of media-savvy websites and events that ultimately won the favor of a wide array of mainstream media outlets as well as the country’s public relations trade media, including PR Week and PR News.
It also won a prestigious award in the Silver Inkwell competition sponsored by the International Association of Business Communicators in Washington D.C., where RVIA’s Centennial program was selected “Best of the Best” among 130 entries. And there may be more recognition to come, we’re told, because the RV Centennial program will be entered in additional 2011 award contests that judge 2010 campaigns.
Some of the Centennial’s key elements:
- A website parading industry history.
- A special media tour by Woodworth from Elkhart to New York.
- A Congressional resolution plus legislative proclamations from more than a dozen states.
- A 100-day tour by “Centennial Charlie,” a stuffed bear inspired by the Go RVing Coalition’s animated ad characters that served as the Centennial mascot at numerous retail shows, manufacturing plants, suppliers and dealerships.
- A souvenir edition of The Elkhart Truth, the local newspaper.
- A time capsule now on display at the Hall of Fame museum.
- A “Salute to Workers,” now permanently displayed at the Hall.
- Video testimonials from approximately 20 celebrities and political figures.
- A social media outreach program through which Go RVing’s Facebook fan page and Twitter were utilized to focus attention on the Centennial.
- Press release templates to be used by industry members to alert local media about the industry’s 100th anniversary and what was being done locally to celebrate.
- “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to our Centennial” video montage of famous RV moments in film and TV.
Capping it all off was a climactic June 7 industry party at the Hall of Fame that drew scores of people, many of them in the area to attend RVIA’s Committee Week and Annual Meeting. Also adding to the crowd, which drew a large contingent of personnel from Elkhart-area companies, was a meeting of the National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds’ (ARVC) Business Forum, whose members had agreed to meet in Goshen so that they could also attend the party.
“The June 7 event on the grounds of the beautiful RV/MH Hall of Fame & Museum, under sparkling blue skies and with 1,100 happy faces, was a party for the ages, perfectly punctuated by a moving, memorable salute to our workers who are the heart and soul of our business,” said LaBella.
“Centennial was the right celebration for the right time,” reiterated Frank Gilanelli, president of Philadelphia-based Barton-Gilanelli. “Every facet of the RV industry at this party — from campground owners to distributors to suppliers to manufacturers to dealers — took great pride in the RV’s 100-year anniversary.
“And it was the catalyst that Barton-Gilanelli used to get all of these media outlets to do stories and focus their attention on the good things that the RV industry offers,” said Gilanelli, whose support team of Fran Conner and Jon Tancredi played a key role.
“You know, we had The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, USA Today, CNBC, ‘The Today Show.’ We kicked off the whole thing in front of 30 Rock (30 Rockefeller Center in New York City) with an antique RV and a modern one — just tremendous.
“And the feather in the cap was having one of the most popular shows in the history of TV — “Jeopardy” — doing a whole category about RV’s. Who would have ever thought of that, were it not for the publicity surrounding the Centennial?”
Other major news stories in 2010:
RV Industry’s Continued Rebound: Last year’s Newsmaker of the Year, “The RV Industry’s Resurgence,” could have easily served as this year’s top news story as well, considering the hundreds of stories that RVBUSINESS.com posted on rebounding stock prices, production levels and shipments that were up 52.6% through October. “Although the wounds of the recession haven’t all healed yet and there were still too many business failures to report last year, it’s hard to ignore all the ‘cup-half-full’ news that proliferated in 2010.”
Market Share Consolidation: Fewer companies are controlling more market share, particularly in the towable arena, Statistical Surveys Inc. confirms. Thor Industries Inc. (37.2% towable market share) and Forest River Inc. (29.4%) together occupy 66.6% of the nation’s towable RV retail sales. Add Jayco Inc’s 11.6% to that, and you’ve got three companies accounting for 78.2% — nearly four of every five — of U.S. trailer sales. While the motorized category is not quite so consolidated at this point, it’s clear that the “Big Two,” Thor and Forest River, are becoming even more critical factors through acquisition (Thor recently purchased Heartland RV LLC) and expansion (Thor in 2010 launched Redwood RV in Syracuse, Ind., while Forest River started Shasta Recreational Vehicles in Middlebury, Ind.)
Campgrounds Outperform Economy: The big news in the RV park and campground sector is that — with the exception of one fairly soft year in 2008 — the accommodations sector has trudged right through the bulk of this global recession. And that fortunate trend continued in 2010. Kampgrounds of America Inc.’s 460-plus parks experienced year-over-year gains in each of the year’s first 10 months, while occupancies and revenues were also up at Cincinnati-based Leisure Systems Inc.’s 75 franchised Jellystone Camp-Resorts. That, in turn, is consistent with what North America’s independent parks are reporting.
The Emergence of Open House Week: One of the more interesting industry developments in the wake of the global recession is a mushrooming fall event called Open House Week in and around Elkhart County, Ind. This whole spontaneous turn of events was triggered by RV-building powerhouse Forest River Inc., which in late September 2008 invited hundreds of dealers to the grounds around its Elkhart headquarters for social hour and a good look a new model year products. By this past fall, nearly 20 other companies — to varying degrees — had joined the fray by inviting dealers to their respective facilities on the exact same September week. Forest River’s management doesn’t seem to mind and, in fact, has said that the more dealers that come to town, the better it is for everyone. Now, a lot of people are waiting to see what’s up for Open House Week — 2011.
Diesel Engine Debate Simmers: When the Environmental Protection Agency approved its 2010 diesel emissions standards, it didn’t tell diesel engine manufacturers such as Cummins and Navistar how to meet those more stringent objectives. So, the two companies and their customers have developed their own engine blueprints — Navistar with a variation of its “Exhaust Gas Recirculation” (EGR) approach and Cummins with a new aftermarket system known as Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR). Without belaboring the details, the rhetoric between SCR partisans, led by Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp., and Navistar’s pro-EGR Monaco people has gotten pretty heated this year and generated more than its share of web postings and news stories.
Winnebago’s Towable Acquisition: Motorhome builder Winnebago Industries Inc. in late December finalized the surprising $5.7 million purchase of SunnyBrook Manufacturing Inc., a relatively small towable RV manufacturer in Middlebury, Ind. The transaction, completed through a newly formed, wholly-owned Winnebago subsidiary called Winnebago of Indiana LLC, marks recovering Winnebago’s first buyout of another company in 20 years and its first entry into the faster growing towable arena in 40 years. The SunnyBrook deal also puts the Iowa coach builder on the front line of northern Indiana’s supplier-rich RV-building center for the first time.
Major Association Transitions: Linda Profaizer’s announcement earlier this year that she was retiring as president and CEO of ARVC at the end of the year didn’t come as total shock. A respected exec, she’d joined the RV park & campground trade group in 2000 after having spent 29 years with Woodall’s Publications Corp. On the other hand, news that Gary LaBella was resigning his post as vice president of communications at RVIA was a bit more revelatory because nobody really expected that LaBella, who’s played a pivotal role in shaping the industry’s message through public relations for 32 years and as staff liason for the Go RVing Coalition the past 16 years, was ready to hang up his spurs and retire. In fact, some people still don’t think he will.
The Ongoing “Green” Movement: The need to be politically correct, technically savvy and earnestly fuel efficient has taken hold of the RV industry in a big way — from the inclusion of light-weight materials like Azdell composites to whole finished units manufactured by a host of companies from Forest River Inc. to Jayco Inc., Earthbound LLC and Evergreen Recreational Vehicles LLC. Playing a key role in much of this are third-party certification companies T.R. Arnold & Associates Inc., of Elkhart, Ind., and NTA Inc. of Nappanee.
Among the other front-page stories:
- “Virtual conventions” like that introduced this past fall by Art Lieberman in the campground sector and a new one announced by the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) for March of 2011.
- The trend toward “cabins” and “lodges,” more sedentary dwellings, in many North American parks is real, having prompted a number of RV builders to alter their strategies somewhat in product development.
- The shift to towable RVs has reached a point where even the venerable Family Motor Coach Association is hosting trailer owners at is 2011 convention.
- RVDA celebrated its 40th birthday during its annual Con/Expo in Las Vegas in October and was pleased to inform attendees that the association’s financial situation, “after adjusting to the new normal,” was showing signs of recovery.
- Affinity Group Inc.’s Rally July 22-25 in Louisville reflected a new order in the consumer rally business, with some 2,867 coach owners and 10,000 attendees escaping the sweltering heat in the air conditioned Kentucky Exposition Center — almost as if the recession had faded.
- The Escapees RV Club’s 50th birthday party took place Sept. 12-17 at the Elkhart County Fairgrounds in Goshen, Ind., drawing more than a thousand of the club’s loyal members.
- Dometic Corp.’s move from Elkhart, Ind., to Louisville, announced in June, left Elkhart business leaders scratching their heads. The reason, said President Doug Whyte, was a need to find a place “from which we could further grow these business units.”
Meanwhile, industry watchers will remember warmly those left behind in the obituary pages of 2010, including ElDorado’s Bob Stewart, association activist and supplier Al Ruhl, Chinese market entrepreneur Bill Horvath, Teton’s Robert “Boots” Ingram, Art Decio’s wife and longtime companion Patricia Decio, Escapees RV Club co-founder Joe Peterson, former RVDA head James Summers and two of Coachmen Industries Inc.’s founding fathers: brothers Keith and Claude Corson.
These, of course, are not regular times. These are post-recessionary times — emphasis on recessionary — when the U.S. is digging out of a tough situation. And, as you know, we’re still digging, more so in some areas of the country than others.
Yet, as sister publications RVBusiness’s and Woodall’s Campground Management’s small staff sat down to review the year that was, we couldn’t help but marvel at the top-ranked story in our list below — the fact that the industry had indeed outperformed many other American business sectors for the second year in a row.
Without looking a gift horse in the mouth, it’s hard to figure in times like these.
But maybe that’s the point: Maybe times like these in some cases bring out the best of those lucky enough to enjoy them. Maybe we’ll just chalk it up to North America’s drive — lust might be a better word — for affordable recreation, a habit that the average family has retained throughout the global recession.
We’ve seen it at the tollgates in large public parks like Yellowstone and at the registration desks of hundreds of private campgrounds and resorts enough to know that it’s real. Having said that, here’s a quick look at our Top Ten campground news stories for 2010:
(1): RV park and campground business again bucks recessionary pressure to post gains in 2010. “Our members are generally reporting a better year than 2009, with the exception of the Gulf Coast areas,” Linda Profaizer, retiring president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), noted in her President’s Message.
“It appears that snowbirds are returning in bigger numbers than last year as well,” she added. “Most parks report an increase in rental accommodations and tenting is still a major part of the picture.”
Indeed, in his remarks during ARVC’s annual meeting, ARVC Chairman David L. Berg said the economic downturn has actually created new business opportunities for private parks as families and other travelers look for more affordable ways to enjoy weekend getaways and vacation time.
It’s not just an isolated trend. Industry leader Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) reported year-over-year gains in each of the first 10 months of 2010 with total revenues up 8.5 % over 2009. For the summer camping season, same store revenues were up 6% and camper nights up 4.5%.
Leisure Systems Inc. ((LSI), franchisors of the Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts, reported same park revenue up 5% in 2010. While site revenue was down 4%, rental income was up 15%, store revenues grew 15% and miscellaneous revenue was up 19%. And LSI looks for more of the same in 2011, thanks in part to the release in late 2010 of a new “Yogi Bear” Warner Brothers movie starring the voices of Dan Akroyd and Justin Timberlake.
(2) The RV Centennial, the focus of which was in June when the ARVC Business Forum ventured to Elkhart, Ind., along with much of the recreational vehicle industry for Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) joint Annual Meeting and Committee Week proceedings and a party at the RV/MH Hall of Fame.
RVIA determined that 2010 was the centennial year for the industry, and what a year it was. The Go RVing Coalition promoted events throughout the year in conjunction with the centennial. The Coalition’s “Ambassadors of Affordability” cartoon characters appeared in Go RVing TV spots, and “Centennial Charlie,” a stuffed bear, made a PR tour across the country. The highlight of the year came in early June with a big bash in Elkhart, but other events were held across the nation at campgrounds, RV dealerships and elsewhere. It was, by most accounts, a public relations extravaganza.
(3) Gulf Coast RV parks share with other commercial segments in negative oil spill spillover. An explosion on April 20 at a Deep Water Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico killed 11 men working on the rig and set off a massive oil leak that would ultimately send more than 250 million gallons of oil into the Gulf and threaten hundreds of miles of ocean frontage.
The oil fouled beaches from Florida to Louisiana, stifling tourism for months. Business was down significantly at campgrounds across the region, even where the beaches were never involved. It was a major PR problem for the tourism industry, which was still gradually recovering at year’s end.
(4) Flash flood kills 20 campers in June at Arkansas campground. Heavy rains the night of June 11 sent a wall of water in the “Loop D” area of secluded publicly operated Albert Pike Campground nearly Langley in western Arkansas. In all, 20 campers at the 54-site park were killed in the disaster,
The Caddo and Little Missouri rivers — two normally gentle waterways — rose by 20 feet overnight, engulfing the hikers and campers who were spending the night in tents along the rivers in the isolated Ouachita Mountains. “Within ten minutes the water had rose and campers were floating down,” a survivor told ABC News. “If they didn’t get out of their camper within five, ten minutes, they weren’t getting out.”
(5) Succession at ARVC — Linda Profaizer retiring and Paul Bambei succeeding her. Profaizer announced in the spring that she would be retiring after 10 years at ARVC’s helm and 40 years in the industry — a tenure that included her time as president of then Chicago-based Woodall Publications Corp.
ARVC looked both inside and outside the RV park and campground sector for her successor and recently hired Comcast Corp. veteran Paul Bambei. He never owned a campground, but he’s an avid RVer and was touted as an expert marketing executive. He was introduced at ARVC’s InSites Convention in December.
(6) Succession at KOA — Pat Hittmeier named president of KOA in February, succeeding Shane Ott. A 29-year veteran of the Billings, Mont.-based franchisor’s front office, Hittmeier was named president on Feb. 28 after Shane Ott stepped down. Hittmeier held several positions at KOA before taking on the presidency of the 475-member campground chain, and so far, from all we can gather, his relatively quiet demeanor and astute business instincts are serving him well.
(7) Virtual Campground Expo breaks ground on new era of trade shows. Campground vendor Art Lieberman earned praise in 2010 for introducing the industry’s first virtual online trade show, a “Virtual Outdoor Hospitality Expo” that kicked off in early November and continues today for those choosing to pay the site a visit.
While some argue that these online expos are the way of the future, Lieberman gets an “A” for effort, but a “C” for the site’s actual performance due to software issues that soured some on this landmark event. Lieberman, owner of MCPS for Campgrounds, was up front about the problems and pledged to try again, if not in 2011, then in 2012.
(8) Best Parks in America expands membership to 71 by year’s end. Best Parks in America, launched in 2004 by industry consultant and entrepreneur David Gorin as a marketing network, must be somewhere close to reaching critical mass by now, as the 71-park organization held its annual meeting and a slate of seminars Dec. 1-2 at the Rio All-Suites Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas on the brink of the ARVC InSites convention.
Now, having made some serious changes over the past year, Gorin says Best Parks is getting ready to grow to the next level as an organization that will provide more business tools yet remain “a system of independent unique parks.”
(9) CalARVC takes lead on holding tank chemical ban in California, despite legislative headwinds. Based on the premise that formaldehyde-containing products used in RV holding tank waste treatments have troubled RV park and campground septic systems for years, the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (CalARVC) decided earlier this year that it was time for a change.
So, CalARVC lobbied extensively to ban six specific chemicals from all holding tank treatment solutions utilized in the Golden State, and the California State Assembly passed landmark legislation in late summer. However, outgoing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill to ban the chemicals and referred the matter to a state agency for remediation while CalARVC Executive Director Debbie Sipe has vowed to march on with an education program.
(10) ARVC’s ongoing headquarter saga. The national trade association announced in late spring its decision to move from Larkspur, Colo., a rural location to which it had moved in 2009 from Washington D.C.’s suburban Virginia, to more urban Castle Rock in the Denver area on the premise that it would be a better place in which to do business.
Then, in December, after some internal debate a few weeks ago, the ARVC board voted unanimously not to move to Castle Rock and instead authorized new CEO Paul Bambei to look elsewhere for suitable space in the greater Denver area.
RVs will be one of the categories during an upcoming broadcast of “Jeopardy!” CBS’s popular quiz show.
On Dec. 9 long-standing host Alex Trebek will give three contestants a chance to test their knowledge of one of America’s popular pastimes.
The “Jeopardy!” Clue Crew visited the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Ind., in August to film a full set of clues all related to RVing.
“The show approached us,” Al Hesselbart, historian at the RV/MH Hall of Fame, told RVBUSINESS.com. “We have been so well promoted this past year as a center for the celebration for the RV Centennial. We have had a lot of air time for all kinds of different media.”
The questions were filmed at closing time so there was no need to close the hall of fame to visitors.
“The filming did not interfere with museum operations,” Hesselbart said. “We have shot a dozen TV-related things in here and have not needed to close down for any shoots.”
The Clue Crew, including two of its three roving correspondents, Jimmy McGuire and Kelly Miyahara, took about seven hours to complete the shoot. Since the Clue Crew’s creation in 2001, the team has recorded clues in over 200 different cities, spanning 45 states and 33 countries.
“It was really startling to me to observe them,” said Tom McNulty, hall of fame vice president, who was there to host the crew. “They did a bang up job. I thought it was really fun and they were very appreciative of us.”
Neither Hesselbart nor McNulty tipped us off as to any of the answers — or questions.
Go RVing Canada recently announced the winner of its “Top 100 Spots to RV in Canada” Centennial Contest.
Lloyd Blue from Camrose, Alberta, won the contest through a drawing that took place on Aug. 6, after entering his favorite spot to RV in Canada – Two O’Clock Campground in the Kootenay Plains ecological reserve, according to a news release.
Go RVing Canada, in partnership with the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) of Canada and the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC), launched the month-long contest on July 6 in commemoration of the RV Centennial. This contest, engaging RV enthusiasts across Canada, allowed Canadians to submit their favorite spot to RV in Canada for a chance to win an Apple iPad.
“We had over 570 entries during the contest,” said Go RVing Canada Spokesperson Angèle Lapointe. “It was absolutely incredible to read all of the submissions and it really makes us realize how fortunate we are to live in such a great country.”
The complete list of favorite Canadian RV destinations is available on Go RVing Canada’s website, www.GoRVing.ca, and consists of answers submitted by Canadians from coast to coast.
Some of the top spots to RV in Canada include: Kluane Lake (Yukon), Pacific Rim National Park (British Columbia), Eagle Lake RV Resort (Strathmore, Alberta), Douglas Provincial Park (Saskatchewan), Spruce Woods Provincial Park (Manitoba), Algonquin Park (Ontario), Gaspésie (Québec), King Neptune Campground (Indian Harbour, Nova Scotia), Cavendish Sunset (Prince Edward Island), Fundy National Park (New Brunswick) and Gros Morne (Newfoundland and Labrador).
“This event is a true testament to the RV lifestyle,” added Lapointe, “which clearly remains a popular vacation choice for those who are looking for an affordable vacation that offers freedom, flexibility and fun.”
Excel Distributors, an online purveyor of RV mattresses, RV mattress protection pads and RV pillows, is celebrating the centennial of the RV industry with a look back through history. The company has published an illustrated timeline of the RV’s evolution spanning 100 years of road trips, rambles and rustic adventure titled “Evolution of the RV.”
“Even though RVs are still as popular today as they ever were during the past century, not many people know how the RV got its start, or even that it has been around for a hundred years,” explains Scott Oster, general manager of Excel Distributors. “This is our birthday gift to the RV: educating the camping collective with a road trip through history.”
Excel’s RV evolution timeline starts in the early 20th century when American’s first felt the urge to start exploring the great outdoors for fun. Most built their own recreational vehicles out of wood and on top of existing car chassis.
“Early RVers were ingenious,” says Oster. “They knew what they wanted and made it happen. The automotive industry had to catch up.”
Catching up didn’t take long: The Evolution of the RV shows the skyrocketing popularity of RVs and travel trailers in the 1930s, the lull in the ’40s, and revitalization during the ’50s and ’60s. The timeline incorporates vintage photos of different vehicle designs to help illustrate how the RV developed into the road warriors cruising today’s highways. “It was an exciting project. We’ve been in the RV industry for years, and we are still learning,” says Oster. “We hope this timeline sheds some light on the rich history of the RV.”
Click here to visit the Evolution of the RV.
Editor’s Note: Mary Forgione, Los Angeles Times daily travel and deal blogger, posted this short story about the RV Centennial.
It’s hard to believe that a century has slipped by since we started looking at vehicles as suitable places to eat, sleep and recreate, but 1910 marked the official dawn of RV civilization, in the view of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association of Reston, Va.
In that year, camping trailers, or campers, were being mass-produced by Pierce-Arrow (a pricey model for the time was called a “Touring Landau”), Los Angeles Trailer Works and Auto-Kamp trailers, a report by the association says. And somehow these, and the flotilla of metallic Airstreams they spawned, morphed into behemoth RVs and mobile homes that carry folks to campgrounds and beyond every summer. Here are a couple of places to stop and experience the culture that all began with the Conestoga wagon:
The Rally 2010: Ten thousand RV enthusiasts are expected to converge Tuesday through Sunday at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville for entertainment, more than 150 seminars — from healthy cooking on the road to RV caravan travel — and a display of vintage RVs from 1937 to 1978. Comedian and actor Bob Newhart and country singer Tanya Tucker are scheduled to perform during the event. Camping prices, which include admission to activities, range from $149 to $369. Phone: (877) 749-7122.
The RV/MH Hall of Fame: This museum in Elkhart, Ind., showcases vintage recreational vehicles and motor homes, including an adorable 1915 Model T with a trailer built onto the back and a 1929 covered wagon trailer that does resemble an old Conestoga. The museum is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. Admission is $8 for adults; $3 for kids ages 6 to 16. Phone: (800) 378-8694.
– Mary Forgione, Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger
The 2010 RV industry Centennial promotion conducted by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) was featured in the July 16 edition of PR Week, a leading public relations trade publication. The budget for the year-long campaign, “RV Centennial: An American Journey Continues,” was $725,000, the magazine reported.
The story follows.
Gary LaBella, vice president and CMO of Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), explains that “a boost” was needed to help the industry recover from weak sales caused by the recession. Longtime AOR Barton Gilanelli & Associates (BG & A) helped devise a campaign honoring the 100th anniversary of the first mass-produced RVs to generate industry and consumer excitement.
“We wanted to celebrate industry history and shine the spotlight on the modern product and current market,” LaBella says. “The centennial was the perfect hook.”
LaBella adds that the industry’s image had remained positive despite weak sales, so ensuring ongoing positive coverage is a priority.
BG president and co-founder Frank Gilanelli says the aim is to rally and empower manufacturers, dealers, suppliers, and campground owners, and promote RVing to consumers.
Outreach includes media relations, events, videos, social media, and websites. RV historian David Woodworth serves as spokesperson. Mascot “Centennial Charlie,” a four-foot stuffed black bear, also attends media, industry and consumer events.
Woodworth kicked off a media tour on April 12 with an SMT showcasing RVs at the RV Hall of Fame Museum in Elkart, Ind., and an April 17 “Today” appearance featuring 2010 and 1916 model RVs outside NYC’s Rockefeller Center. The tour, including the RVs, continued through April. Messaging focused on RV travel’s evolution and relevancy. Gilanelli says coverage has also included lifestyle and economic recovery angles.
Rvcentennial.org launched in January. LaBella says it’s primarily industry facing. Consumers and media are directed to GoRVing.com (centennial materials were added March 1). Four videos were created for media, online and event use. They include an industry salute by VIPs, such as GE chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt.
A caravan dubbed “100 Days Celebrating 100 Years of RVing” featuring “Centennial Charlie” visited industry and consumer venues from Feb.27-June 7. An industry celebration was held June 7 at the RV Hall of Fame museum.
The team has used RVIA’s Twitter and Facebook pages to post campaign information, including 100 daily “industry fact” tweets coinciding with the caravan.
LaBella says 2010 RV shipments from manufacturers to dealers are expected to be to up 39% compared to 2009.
“Certainly, this centennial celebration has put a favorable light on the industry and contributed to a quick [economic] turnaround,” he adds.
From Jan. 1 to July 4, RVIA reports 61% traffic increase (1,090,070 total visits) to GoRVing.com compared to the same period in 2009. Nearly 1 million visits occurred after centennial pages were posted on March 1. BG notes a 49% increase in Facebook fans (to nearly 10,500 currently) since Jan. 1, and 300 new Twitter followers joined during the 100 days of tweets.
BG “conservatively” estimates 20 million media impressions to date in outlets including MSNBC, BBC, Redbook, and USA Today. Gilanelli adds a pitch to TV show Jeopardy yielded an RV category that will air in September.
Media relations and social media outreach continues. In September, TV quiz show “Jeopardy” will air an episode featuring an RV category. On Aug. 26, RVIA and member company Flexsteel will ring the NASDAQ closing bell.
Go RVing Canada, in partnership with the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) of Canada and the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC), has officially launched its “Top 100 Spots to RV in Canada” Contest, in commemoration of the RV Centennial.
This month-long contest, engaging RV enthusiasts across Canada, will allow participants to submit their favorite spot to RV in Canada for a chance to win an Apple iPad in a draw on Aug. 6.
2010 marks 100 years since the first mass-produced motorized camper was produced. Several events will be taking place throughout the year across North America and Go RVing Canada is thrilled to take part in the celebrations honoring this important occasion.
“This event reinforces what we’ve been saying for years – RVing remains a popular vacation choice for those who are looking for freedom, flexibility, and fun,” says Go RVing Canada spokesperson Angèle Lapointe. “RVing is a lifestyle that many Canadians have adopted and have maintained, and the best part is, it’s incredibly affordable!”
“The RV lifestyle continues to thrive and that’s what the Centennial is all about,” adds Eleonore Hamm, RVDA of Canada president. “We are excited to hear about the many incredible RV destination spots that Canadians are visiting and raving about.”
“RVing is an intimate and accessible way to explore our beautiful country,” says Gisele Danis, CTC executive director, Strategic Marketing, Canada Program. “The CTC is pleased to take part in the celebration of this milestone event and inspire Canadians to discover a Canada they didn’t know existed from coast, to coast, to coast.”
To participate in the contest, RV enthusiasts are invited to visit www.GoRVing.ca and fill out a ballot for a chance to win.
As part of its coverage of the RV industry’s centennial in 2010, a year set aside for the industry’s 100th birthday by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), RVBusiness magazine and RVBUSINESS.com have issued an unprecedented listing of the “100 Most Influential People in the History of the RV Industry.”
“The lengthy listing in our May/June issue was simple enough in concept,” reports RVB Publisher Sherman Goldenberg. “But as the article in our May/June issue indicates, the execution was tougher than any of us would have dreamed.”
In addition to assembling their own in-house listing, based on general knowledge of the industry and its past, RVB’s staff networked with other industry people for additional nominees. They also invited website visitors to contribute nominees and ultimately turned to the RV/MH Heritage Foundation Inc.’s Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Ind., for backup information on some of the likely names of individuals who’s days in this industry had long passed from the scene.
“From all of this,” Goldenberg adds in the current issue of RVB, “we developed a lengthy draft listing of about 250 candidates who might likely qualify. But paring that list down to 100, says Goldenberg in the linked feature story, is where the “wheels came off” in the selection process.
“The challenge for us wasn’t in naming the obvious candidates, legendary industry pioneers like John K. Hanson of Winnebago, Dick Klingler of Holiday Rambler or John Crean of Fleetwood, all three of whom are profiled separately in our ‘Most Influential’ editorial package,” he said. “The difficulty was in dealing with the other 90 slots because it seems like, for every individual we generally felt belonged on that list, there were always two to three others who also realistically vied for inclusion.
“We don’t mean long-shots,” says Goldenberg. “We mean solid, high profile, established industry players who would have been automatic if only we could have expanded the list to, say, the most influential 110 or 125. But that wasn’t the game as we had set it up. That wasn’t the editorial mission upon which we had originally agreed. So, we had to go in a few cases with our gut instincts. In any event, we’re proud of the results.
“And some of those individuals who were on the edge and didn’t make the list should know that they are in some cases ‘works in progress,’ meaning that they are people who by the time they retire will more than likely be slam dunk nominees for the next century’s most influential listing.”
Here’s the link to download the full article: (file is 724KB. Right click on link and download or save to your desktop, or click to load in your browser): http://www.rvbusiness.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/100MostInfluential-Low-Res.pdf.
For those who prefer a high-resolution version of the article and have a fast Internet connection, you may access the article here (file is 125MB): http://www.rvbusiness.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/100MostInfluential.pdf
Today’s Featured Video comes from the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and shows a number of business and government leaders saluting the RV industry on its centennial .
The RV Centennial time capsule, filled with RV memorabilia and sealed at the Centennial Celebration at the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Ind., on June 7, has been permanently displayed, along with the many state and federal proclamations recognizing the centennial.
The display is located at the entrance to the RV Founders Hall sponsored by Winnebago Industries Inc. and Thor Industries Inc. at the Hall of Fame in Elkhart. It is scheduled to be unsealed and opened in 25 years.
Today’s Featured Video comes courtesy of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), which paid tribute to RV workers during last week’s Centennial celebration in Elkhart, Ind.
The Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA) spent three days at the three Interstate Welcome Centers coming into Florida to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the RV Industry and the 30th year of the FRVTA.
In addition to handing out free popcorn and bottled water, the Tin Can Tourists had a display of “antique” RVs on display as well. The centers are located on I-95, I-75 and I-10.
“The response from travelers was great,” said FRVTA Marketing Director Dave Kelly in a news release. “They were very surprised to see us handing out freebees and they loved touring the older RVs. They were more popular than the modern RVs we had on display.”
Tim Heintz, the Southeast regional representative of the Tin Can Tourists, had the oldest RV on display, a 1950 Spartanette trailer that he restored himself. “I found this trailer in a field, it had tress growing up beside it and I was able to buy it for $800. It has been valued at between $70,000 and $80,000. The Tin Can Tourists all have one thing in common, we love to save old RVs.”
Other vintage RVs on display included a 1967 Avion, a 1964 Airstream and a 1963 Shasta.
The Lake City Reporter ran a front-page story about the celebration and First Coast News in Jacksonville ran a two-minute story on the evening news. “We were thrilled with the media coverage,” said Kelly. “I think we accomplished what we set out to do, expose the media and public to the RV Centennial celebration. We are going to keep working with the Tin Can Tourists and already have a few of them that will be attending the Florida RV SuperShow in January.”