The numbers weren’t as strong as hoped for, but things apparently went well for the Good Sam Rally that concluded Sunday (June 24) in Louisville, Ky.
The four-day event hosted by Good Sam Enterprises LLC and staged at the Kentucky Exposition Center – site of the industry’s National RV Trade Show – drew 2,033 guest rigs, according to Sue Bray, rally director.
Bray reported to RVBUSINESS.com that the numbers were down slightly from the last rally held in Louisville two years ago and were off appreciably from this year’s spring rally at the Phoenix International Speedway, which attracted 3,370 units comprising about 7,500 people.
She added that non-RVer attendance went “exceptionally well” in Louisville as the public gate topped 5,000, thanks again to some hefty promotions in area media prior to the event.
Bray blamed the overall decrease in attendance to high gas prices and the fact that, for the first time, Good Sam is staging three rallies in one year instead of one – turning each event into something akin to a regional rally. “We may go back to one; we may go to more than three; we don’t know yet,” she noted, concerning Good Sam’s future plans.
As usual, the weather was warm in Louisville, but not as bad as in 2010 when crowds wilted under the oppressive heat. The inside venue for the more than 350 vendors and 400 RVs on display proved “very appealing and tended to negate the heat factor,” Bray said. OEMs, such as Newmar Corp. and Tiffin Motorhomes Inc., reported good sales at the event, as did Camping World, Bray noted.
On-site activities included hundreds of informative expert seminars, a veteran’s parade, guided tours to area sites and performances by Sheryl Crow, Burt Bacharach, the Gatlin Brothers and an Elvis impersonator.
The Louisville Rally also featured some new twists with Food Network Chef Bob Blumer conducting several cooking demonstrations during the “Good Sam Culinary Experience.” “It worked out well. They had really good attendance and participation,” Bray said. “People were really into it. Camping World ended up selling a lot of cooking equipment tailored for RVers.”
The Rally also staged a first-ever “Bark Park” for RVers who travel with their dogs. The fenced-in facility allowed owners to exercise or run around with their dogs. And, for the first time, RVers were allowed to bring their dogs inside the Kentucky Exposition Center. The rally also featured a dog show and pet adoptions through the Louisville Humane Society.
The final Rally for 2012 will be held in November at the Daytona International Speedway in Florida.
Hundreds of motorhomes are filling the empty lot next to the Mill Casino and Hotel Thursday (June 21) in Coos Bay, Ore., as the Family Motor Coach Association’s (FMCA) Northwest Area Rally gets under way. The show runs through Sunday.
As reported by the Coos Bay World, its members refer to trips out of their vehicles as “shore excursions” and to the car they tow behind as a “dinghy.” So it’s surprising that FMCA has never yet held its Northwest Area Rally here on the shores of Coos Bay.
But that’s happening this weekend, bringing 1,000 RV enthusiasts to the area.
They’ll have opportunities to tour local attractions, see a movie in the Marshfield High School auditorium, see the bay with Betty Kay Charters, golf at Bandon Crossings, roar around the dunes with Spinreel Dune Buggy and ATV and feast at a Coquille Indian salmon bake.
Although those activities are available only to the association’s members, the public is welcome to visit the RV show. To learn more about the Family Motor Coach Association, visit www.fmcanw.org/.
Editor’s Note: The following New York Times article, authored by contributor Andy Isaacson, chronicles his first trip behind the wheel of an RV. Isaacson and friends rented a motorhome from Cruise America and headed out for an RV rally in Oregon. To view the entire piece along with accompanying photos click here.
I have spent the night in a Walmart parking lot. I have driven through a national park with a trail of cars in my rearview mirror. I have learned how to dispose of my waste through a plastic hose, and I have filled my gas tank more times in one week than I thought was possible.
But this is to be expected when you’re driving a small studio apartment, or, as I began to call it, my “rig.” One man in a rural California border town even called it cute. He said it reminded him of a Doritos delivery truck.
The rig was a 19-foot-long, gleaming white, class-C motor home — an RV that I rented from Cruise America, the country’s largest recreational vehicle rental company; 800-RV-4RENT was prominently emblazoned across the exterior, as were colorful images of America’s national parks and natural patrimony.
It was a proverbial flag patch sewn on a backpack, and as someone who makes an effort to downplay the fact that I’m a tourist when I travel, this granted no disguise. And just as well: I had never driven an RV before, and for this I could say I had never experienced my own country as millions do every summer, and have for more than a century.
When I booked the RV online a couple of months earlier, I found myself signing up for not so much a mode of transportation as a set of desirable feelings. “With a Cruise America RV,” the Web site said, “you can roam wherever your spirit takes you, throughout the US and Canada. And with a full kitchen in your RV, you can skip out on endless drive-through menus and enjoy more satisfying meals and snacks.” Roam, spirit, satisfying meals: these are not the sort of words used to tout a rental car or an airplane seat. An RV road trip promised the distinction of freedom and flexibility, comfort and convenience: a travel experience unencumbered by the need for reservations.
To view the entire article click here.
The Elkhart County Fairgrounds, situated in the heart of RV country in Goshen, Ind., has become a focal point for RV clubs to host high-profile member rallies.
As reported by the Elkhart Truth, the approximately 280 coaches affiliated with the Ramblin’ Pushers Chapter 419 are currently occupying the grounds. Several other rallies are scheduled through the end of October.
The gatherings have provided a boon for the local economy, pumping tourist dollars into area businesses while giving the host of RV manufacturers and dealers some key exposure with buyers.
To read the Elkhart Truth article click here.
The Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) has several RV rallies scheduled for the remainder of the year.
According to a press release, FMCA’s 87th Family Reunion & Motorhome Showcase, dubbed “Formula For Fun,” is scheduled for Aug. 27-30 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis. This is the premier event of 2012 and will feature exhibits, seminars, entertainment, area tours and special events.
FMCA’s regional subgroups, known as areas, present additional rallies throughout the year. These area rallies typically include many of the same elements of the association’s nationally run Family Reunion & Motorhome Showcase events, in various locales around the United States.
Motorhome owners do not need to be FMCA members to attend the international Family Reunion or FMCA area rallies. In fact, owners of self-contained towable RVs will be welcomed as well at the Indianapolis Family Reunion in August, and at a number of the area rallies, depending on space issues, etc. (please check when registering).
FMCA’s first two area rallies of the year — Western Area and Southeast Area — took place in January and February, respectively. Remaining events include:
• Memorial Day weekend the Great Lakes Area Rally will be held in Berrien Springs, Mich., at the Berrien County Youth Fair grounds. The rally takes place May 24-28. Berrien Springs is not far from northern Indiana, which boasts great Amish food and crafts and the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum.
• The Northwest Area Rally will run June 21-24 at The Mill Casino on Coos Bay, in North Bend, Ore. The twin towns of Coos Bay and North Bend both offer beautiful views of the Pacific, and the area boasts beaches, boardwalks and museums.
• The Midwest Area Rally will be held at the Winnebago County Fairgrounds in Pecatonica, Ill., June 27-30. Located west of Rockford, Pecatonica reflects the past with historic homes, a preserved business district and a local history museum.
• The Northeast Area Rally will be held July 19-22 at the Champlain Valley Exposition in Essex Junction, Vt. The venue is close to renown Lake Champlain.
• The Rocky Mountain Area Rally, also called the Rocky Mountain Ramble, will be held Sept. 11-16 at the CAM-PLEX in Gillette, Wyo. This RV-friendly facility is set in the midst of America’s wide-open plains and mountains, not far from the famous Black Hills of South Dakota.
• The Heart of Oklahoma Expo Center in Shawnee, Okla., is the host venue for this year’s South Central Area Rally, or Six-State Rally, which runs Sept. 26-30. The area offers some great museums showcasing art and history, as well as the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Cultural Heritage Center.
• The Eastern Area Rally (known as G.E.A.R.) will run Oct. 10-14 at the York Expo Center in York, Pa. Attendees can explore the nearby Pennsylvania Dutch country and admire the colorful autumn scenery.
For more information about FMCA’s 2012 Family Reunion and area rallies, visit www.FMCA.com or call the Events Services Department at FMCA: (800) 543-3622, (513) 474-3622.
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.