Good Sam Enterprises LLC, an affiliate of Camping World Inc., appears to have hit a home run this past week in hosting a bustling consumer rally Mar. 22-25 at the Phoenix International Raceway that was busier than anything the industry has seen in years.
Good Sam spokesmen report that the total coach count at The Rally – 3,370 units comprising about 7,500 people – was amplified by 9,000 to 10,000 day pass visitors during the four-day event. The result was an impressive crowd that drew heavily from the Southwest region and from an established base of Arizona snowbirds and spring baseball training fans.
Participating in outdoor displays were some 27 manufacturers. The indoor exhibits included about 350 10-by-10 booths, and both areas were sold out, reports Terry Thompson, vice president of sales for Good Sam.
Not since a Redmond, Ore., rally in 2005 had Illinois-based Good Sam, then known as Affinity Group Inc., seen traffic like this. “It was a great rally,” said Thompson, whose firm started hosting rallies in 2000. “It’s the biggest rally we’ve had in a number of years. In addition to the 3,370 rigs, we had a lot of drive-ups that came in and, fortunately, not a lot of cancellations. And so we haven’t had a rally like this in years, quite frankly.”
Beyond the social and commercial aspects, and the seminars and frontline entertainment — including Bill Cosby and Martina McBride – the Arizona location was the biggest factor in attracting a crowd, Rally Director Sue Bray maintains.
“It went really well,” said Bray. “People were very happy, and Phoenix is a great destination. We worked really hard to try to do some grassroots marketing to bring in the day traffic. We went around to all the campgrounds and left two-for-one coupons for day passes. We did some TV advertising and we also promoted at the local Camping World stores. That was all stuff that we had not really done before, and so I think it paid off. But also I think that people really want to come to Phoenix and I’m glad that we finally found a place that can accommodate the event.”
Bottom line, Bray agreed, the basic show formula with some tweaks seems to have survived the economic downturn – a fact that might be confirmed in subsequent Good Sam rallies this year as the company expands its consumer-centric rally schedule for the first time from one to three events. Upcoming venues are June 21-24 in Louisville, Ky., and Nov. 2-6 in Daytona Beach, Fla.
Good Sam/Camping World Chairman Marcus Lemonis says the biggest difference in opting for a racing facility in Phoenix vs. traditional show sites like Redmond and Perry, Ga., is that they had to build their own infrastructure.
“There was nothing here other than asphalt,” said Lemonis, “and I think we’ve proven that we can go into major metropolitan markets and not only serve the RV community and the snowbirds that were there, but also we were expecting a lot more people over five days in terms of day passes compared to Redmond, which was 2,000, because you have a base of four million people in Phoenix.”
One other noteworthy twist at Phoenix from an industry perspective was the rather surprising participation of rolling stock dealers not affiliated with Camping World RV Sales, a sister company to Good Sam and the nation’s largest RV retailer.
“You’ll notice that the Camping World presence was not that predominant here,” Lemonis told RVBUSINESS.com. “You don’t really see it. There were 19 dealers other than us in Phoenix, and that was a really important priority for me. You know, La Mesa, Lazy Days, Paul Evert’s, McMahon’s, Robert Crist and Orangewood were involved. The point is that this was not a Camping World event. This was a Good Sam event, and they really are different. Yes, Camping World had a (parts and accessories) store (at the Phoenix Raceway), like they do at a lot of events like FMCA rallies, and the Camping World dealership had a display along with 19 other dealers. So, it was really a Good Sam event.”
How did Lemonis, a controversial industry figure who had all but secluded his company from the rest of the industry a year ago, succeed in convincing those independent dealers to participate in a function sponsored by a Camping World affiliate, an arch-rival in effect for several of them?
“We didn’t really talk dealers into coming,” added Lemonis. “We gave the manufacturers our word that it would be fair and free enterprise. They are the ones that actually buy the space. They’re the ones who took the chance. They seemed extremely pleased. At the end of the day, if you (manufacturers and dealers) come and you have a good experience and sell product – whatever your opinion is — you don’t care. Selling RV’s is what matters.”
Thousands of RVers are converging on Phoenix International Raceway today (March 22) for the first Good Sam Rally of 2012, which runs through Sunday.
According to a press release, the entertainment lineup includes two Platinum recording artists; Bill Cosby and Martina McBride. Sha Na Na’s Bowzer will provide the opening night’s entertainment, setting the stage for Ticket to Ride, a Beatle’s tribute band performing covers of the legendary hits.
Rally-goers will also enjoy daily trade shows featuring acres of RVs on display – including a few to test-drive around the track – and hundreds of exhibitors offering a wide range of RV parts and accessories. There will also be daily seminars and tours of landmarks and activities in the Phoenix area, including a spring training game pitting the San Diego Padres against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
In addition, Camping World is sponsoring a Match n’ Win game with winners being eligible for thousands of dollars in merchandise. A post-rally tour is slated for March 26-28 at the Grand Canyon Railway RV Park that will include first-class accommodations aboard the historic Grand Canyon Railroad.
Good Sam is hosting two other 2012 rallies: June 21-24 in Louisville, Ky. and November 2-4 in Daytona Beach, Fla. For more information visit www.therally.com, or call (877) 749-7122.
The Escapees RV Club, headquartered in Livingston, Texas, will host the 52nd Escapade at the Missouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia Sept. 16-21.
According to a press release, a new series of seminar topics will focus on the full-time lifestyle in addition to an extensive lineup of educational workshops and lifestyle presentations for the RV enthusiast. The Escapees RV Club currently has almost 60,000 members.
The gathering will also feature a number of activities, including evening entertainment, crafts sessions, line-dancing, RV driving classes, travel, computer, RV technical presentations and daily socials. Escapees RV Club and Adventure Caravans will bring renowned comedian Yakov Smirnoff to entertain attendees Sunday evening and world-acclaimed tenor and showman, George Dyer, will perform Monday night.
In keeping with the Escapees mindset of giving something back, the club will support the Sedalia community with a food drive during the event. In addition, Escapade delivers as much as a million dollars into the local economy while attendees shop, dine and enjoy the charm of the local areas.
Learn more about the 52nd Escapade at http://www.escapees.com/escapade/2012/.
A state law that prohibits out-of-state dealers from selling recreational vehicles in Kansas means a national event will bypass the state, taking with it millions of dollars in potential revenue, organizers said.
As reported by the Associated Press, the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) notified Kansas State Fair Manager Denny Stoecklein Monday that it will not bring its event to the state fairgrounds until the law is changed.
When the event was held in Hutchinson in 2002, about 5,000 motor coaches camped at the fairgrounds, bringing an estimated $24.4 million economic boost to Reno County and another $7.2 million to the state, The Hutchinson News reported.
“You and the entire staff at the Kansas State Fair have been wonderful to work with and you have exerted great efforts to bring our event to Hutchinson,” FMCA’s Events Manager Chris Lusk wrote. “However, the current laws and business environment in the state of Kansas have made it prohibitive for us to return to the Kansas State Fair at this time.”
Stoecklein said FMCA’s 2012 convention will take place in Indiana and that the 2013 convention — the association’s 50th anniversary celebration that the fair had hoped to land — will be in Gillette, Wyo.
“We had a feeling this would be the direction they went,” Stoecklein said. “They indicated … they were concerned with the dealer restrictions, which has been a concern of theirs for a long time.”
FMCA official Jerry Yeatts wrote to the fair board in 2010 saying his association would like to come back to the fairgrounds for an April 2013 rally.
State lawmakers resisted the fair board’s efforts to get the law changed. Kansas is not unusual, Yeatts said, noting his organization considers only a few states friendly to motor home sales.
A regional FMCA rally last fall in Hutchinson that drew more than 600 didn’t attract dealers or manufacturers because of the law, he said.
Bill Hawley, who owns Hawley Brothers Hawleywood RV Ranch in Dodge City, the oldest Winnebago Motor Coach dealer in the nation, said smaller dealers couldn’t afford to provide a large inventory. Manufacturers bring in dozens of units and the dealer has to buy what is left, Hawley said.
“It is not really a rally,” Hawley said. “It really is a big commercial sale.”
Reno County Fair Board Member Brad Rayl was disappointed with the decision but said he could see both sides of the argument.
“It was a good revenue item for us and the state fair,” he said. “It was a lot of outside income, gas, lodging, all the services … it was a big economic impact.”
If the law changes, Yeatts said FMCA will reconsider Kansas.
The Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis will be the site for the Family Motor Coach Association’s (FMCA) 87th Family Reunion and Motorhome Showcase event Aug. 27-30, 2012. FMCA, an international organization for motorhome owners, is calling the event “Formula For Fun.”
According to a press release, the conclave will provide motorhome owners the occasion to explore the local area and to socialize with others who share their interest in the RV lifestyle.
In addition, a full slate of seminars will be offered. Topics include motorhome maintenance, dinghy towing, travel destinations, the RV electrical system, and health and wellness. Approximately 150 different technical and lifestyle topics will be covered, all focused on enhancing the motorhome lifestyle, which is FMCA’s mission.
Motorhome dealers and manufacturers from around the country will join in by bringing motorhome models that showcase the latest amenities. Today’s RVs include an impressive array of features, allowing travelers to take along all of the comforts of home and are available in a variety of sizes and price ranges.
Most FMCA members will drive to the Indianapolis gathering in their motorhomes and stay on-site, having pre-registered for the event. Registration begins in January at http://www.fmca.com. The public will be able to purchase a pass at the FMCA public gate.
Even before the conclave in Indianapolis, FMCA will offer motorhome owners opportunities to gather for similar events but on a smaller scale. Each of FMCA’s nine geographic areas will host regional rallies in 2012, with locations ranging from the West Coast to the East Coast, and points in between.
The year will kick off with the Western Area Rally, set to take place Jan. 11-15 at the Riverside County Fair & National Date Festival grounds in Indio, Calif. Following closely will be the Southeast Area Rally, Feb. 1-5, in Brooksville, Fla. Memorial Day weekend will bring the Great Lakes Area Rally, May 24-28, in Berrien Springs, Mich.. Summer fun will include the Northwest Area Rally, June 21-24, in North Bend, Ore.; the Midwest Area Rally, June 27-30, in Pecatonica, Ill.; and the Northeast Area Rally, July 19-22, in Essex Junction, Vt.
The FMCA area rally season doesn’t end with the big event in Indianapolis. Motorhome owners can enjoy the splendor of fall by attending events in varying locations. The Rocky Mountain Ramble takes place Sept. 11-16 in Gillette, Wyo. The South Central Area Rally will call Shawnee, Okla., home from Sept. 26-30. And the Eastern Area Rally will be celebrated in York, Pa., Oct.10-14.
FMCA also has nearly 500 chapters — smaller subgroups organized on the basis of geographic locale, motorhome make or model, or a special interest. Each of them has its own rallies throughout the year. Through chapters, motorhome owners connected to FMCA never lack ways to get out there and have a good time using their rolling homes.
The first Good Sam Rally of 2012 will be held at the Phoenix International Raceway, March 22–25. Other scheduled 2012 Good Sam rallies will run June 21-24 at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky., and Nov. 2-4, slated for the the Daytona International Speedway.
Presented by DISH Network, the Arizona event will include a slate of RV seminars, hundreds of RV accessories and row after row of brand new RVs on display. Attendees will also be able to test drive a new motorhome on the Phoenix racetrack.
On tap for entertainment are John “Bowzer” Bauman from ’50s nostalgia band Sha Na Na, iconic comedian Bill Cosby and country music star Martina McBride. Closing night will feature the return of “Ticket to Ride,” a Beatles tribute band that performed at the 2007 Rally.
Other highlights include the ninth annual dog show and parade, and the RV safe driver training program. The six-hour session increases driver awareness, identifies bad habits and helps with RV handling so graduates of the class can get behind the wheel with confidence and expertise.
To get the latest Good Sam Rally information and register click here or call 800-701-1399.
According to Mapquest.com, the distance between White River Junction in Vermont and Redmond, Oregon, is 2,941.96 miles. More or less.
Tom and Karen Kilmer are driving the entire way, but never leaving their home or office.
Oregonlive.com reported that the Kilmers are among the 8,000 to 10,000 RV owners set to arrive in Redmond for the annual Good Sam Club RV Rally, the largest such gathering in the nation. It opens July 14.
If the pattern of early registrations holds, the club is expected to fill the Deschutes County Fairgrounds and Expo Center and possibly spill over to neighboring commercial RV parks and campgrounds. Volunteers who help organize the event will show up as much as a week early.
Good Sam is like the AAA for RV owners. It offers insurance, towing, repair shop recommendations and discounts at participating businesses, including the nationwide chain of Camping World stores, which is co-sponsoring the event.
“We’ve been doing a nationwide rally for the past 12 years,” says Sue Bray, a Southern California resident who is Good Sam’s West Coast coordinator for the event.
She says RV owners from all continental states plus Canada have registered.
“Most of them are from the West Coast,” she says. “It’s a long way to travel for some members, so we switch the sites from east to west every year.”
She says that even with the increase in fuel costs, most Good Sam members plan to continue using their motorhomes, campers and travel trailers.
“Our members use their RVs for an average of about 4,000 miles a year,” she says, “so the increase in cost isn’t enough to make a difference.
“If you get 10 miles per gallon, and even if the price goes up a dollar a gallon, it amounts to $400. I don’t think anyone is going to let their RV sit in the driveway all year for $400.”
Certainly not Kilmer.
He’s a national sales manager for Suburban Propane, and he’ll use his 38-foot Itasca motorhome as his rolling office, making sales calls across the country as he moves back and forth from one coast to the other.
By the time he and his wife arrive in Redmond, the fairgrounds will be transformed into a sprawling community of rolling homes, ranging from lightweight tent trailers designed to be towed behind compact cars to $500,000 wheeled mansions complete with propane-fueled fireplaces.
Roughly 500 vendors will fill row upon row of booths, selling accessories from headlights to tailpipes, and most everything in between.
“You find things for your RV that you never knew existed,” Kilmer said by telephone from Vermont, “and suddenly it is something you can barely live without.”
Bray says 600 to 700 new and used RVs also will be on display.
“We went to New Mexico two years ago and came home with the Itasca,” says Kilmer. “Hopefully our sales resistance will be a bit stronger this trip.”
Kilmer says what really draws him and his wife to the rallies are the people he’s made friends with over the years.
The week is heavy on entertainment, education and community service.
Seminars include topics such as eating well and exercising while traveling, training your dog for living on the road and controlling odors from holding tanks (hey, even the most expensive motor home still has its own Honey Bucket hidden under the fiberglass and fancy paint).
Country music star Vince Gill is the headline entertainment act. In an obvious appeal to the Boomer crowd (the largest demographic of the RV set), the stage also will host ’60s crooners Bobby Vinton and Peter Noone, known best for his time with Herman’s Hermits.
Some RVers arrive early to participate in a day of service to the area. This year they have “adopted ” the Redmond-Sisters Hospice and have volunteered to spend a day doing landscaping and helping to remodel resident rooms.
The rally gives back in other ways, according to Daniel Despotopulos, director of the Fair and Expo Center.
“Considering people hired by the vendors, restaurant meals, the hotel rooms that are rented, some of them for two weeks, we figure there is a $30 million impact on the community,” he says.
Despotopulos bases his estimates on two previous Good Sam rallies in Redmond, in 2005 and 2007.
“There is hardly a business that doesn’t benefit,” says Eric Sande, executive director of the Redmond Chamber of Commerce. He also says the impact goes far beyond the city.
“We see a lot of folks head to the coast or to Washington or even Alaska,” he says. “And we answer questions and give directions throughout the rally to visitors who want to go the Columbia River Gorge or into the wine country or see the Spruce Goose at McMinnville.”