This past weekend’s (Nov. 2-4) Good Sam Rally at Florida’s Daytona International Speedway was a successful venture in most every way it could be measured by host Good Sam Enterprises LLC, an affiliate of mega-dealer Camping World Inc., based in Lincolnshire, Ill.
With attendee coaches set up in the race track’s infield, the Daytona rally drew 3,375 consumer rigs, a public gate of about 5,000, dealer displays representing over 25 North American RV builders, a total of about 400 display coaches plus a tent full of indoor vendors occupying 300 booths.
Consumers, enjoying temperatures in the 80’s in the day and 60’s at night, were treated to an agenda of activities that included 25 daily seminars, a veterans’ parade, a dog show, area tours, fireworks displays and entertainment by C&W entertainers Kenny Rogers and Reba McEntire from an outdoor stage set up near the race track’s finish line.
“We always look at it like this: We want people to enjoy the seminars, the exhibits and have a good time with the entertainment,” Good Sam Vice President of Sales Terry Thompson tells RVBUSINESS.com. “And our hope, obviously, is that they buy a lot of product from the exhibitors and, you know, that they meet new friends and have a good experience at the rally and feel good about the lifestyle.
“And I think that all that happened here,” adds Thompson, noting that the celebrity entertainment was a big plus. “I mean, this was a big rally — to get over 3,000 rigs in early November in Florida is hard to do, and we did it, and I think people were really happy with it.”
One of the key pluses for holding a rally at a raceway, which Good Sam also did earlier this year in Phoenix, is that it provides consumers with a convenient and fun means of test driving demonstration coaches right on the track. Thompson reported that 110 motorhomes were available from various manufacturers at the speedway this past weekend.
“What really helped at this rally is that people got to test drive motorhomes around the track,” said Thompson, who’s responsible for selling the exhibitor space at Good Sam’s rallies. “That’s kind of unique. You know, it’s fun. We let these guys drive all the way around. Obviously, they better stay low or they’ll tip over. But it helps people (exhibitors) get deals done.
“Of course, we can’t always hold rallies at tracks, but at least here the novelty of driving around the track is pretty cool,” he continued. “I know some manufacturers did really well, including Winnebago, Fleetwood and Tiffin. These guys were happy.”
Good Sam, the only organization other than the Cincinnati-based Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) to host national-scale rallies at this point, registered 3,370 rigs in Phoenix and 2,033 in Louisville while next year’s two rallies are slated for Albuquerque, N.M., in April and Syracuse, N.Y., in June.
Punctuating a strong year on the RV show circuit, Good Sam Enterprises LLC rolls out its third consumer rally this weekend as more than 3,300 rigs have gathered for the Nov. 2-4 event at Florida’s famed Daytona International Speedway.
“We had more than 3,300 rigs registered and probably will approach 3,500,” Terry Thompson, vice president of sales for Good Sam, told RVBUSINESS.com while directing traffic Thursday at the Speedway. “We’re anticipating a really strong public gate as well.”
Thompson noted that 2012 marked the first year that Good Sam had managed three shows. He said that earlier runs in Phoenix and Louisville, Ky., generated strong gates and may have set the table for the Daytona edition.
“We had 3,370 rigs in Phoenix and 2,033 in Louisville,” Thompson said. “Obviously, we’re above that for Daytona, so with the public gate it’s lining up to be our best rally of the year. I think that people who attended our first two rallies got out the word that they were great events and that brought more people to Daytona.”
While weather is forecasting to be ideal this weekend with warm temperatures and sunshine, Rally Director Sue Bray noted that a brush with “Superstorm” Sandy earlier in the week posed some concerns.
“Sandy fortunately didn’t hit here,” said Bray. “It passed by before we were set up. We have a huge tent that houses all of the vendors but the scaffolding is all that was in place.”
Thompson said that over 25 manufacturers signed on for the rally and are blanketing the infield with new product at the expansive Speedway facility.
“The great thing about having a rally at Daytona is that people can test drive vehicles on the racetrack,” he said. “That’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Of course, the hope is that they also buy the unit they’re testing.”
Over 300 10-foot by 10-foot vendor booths are set up under the tent, also positioned in the infield area. In addition, Bray said that the rally features 25 seminars each day along with a non-stop roster of special events and attractions.
“When people aren’t looking at RVs, they’ll have plenty to keep them busy,” Bray said. “There’s a veteran’s parade, a dog show and numerous optional tours, along with fireworks displays.”
Headlining the entertainment lineup for the rally are country superstars Reba McEntire and Kenny Rogers.
“We are looking forward to a great rally,” Thompson said. “I think that the fact we’re seeing these kinds of numbers in early November – even before the big influx of snowbirds – is a real good sign that our industry is in good shape.”
The annual Winnebago Itasca Travelers (WIT) Grand National Rally (GNR) opened Sunday (July 15) and runs through July 20 at Winnebago Industries Inc.’s rally grounds in Forest City, Iowa, , according to a report by the Mason City Globe Gazette.
Kelli Harms, public relations specialist, said about 1,000 units had registered as of the end of June.
Some units started arriving over the weekend but many volunteers came earlier to help prepare the rally grounds.
“We have people who come as early as July 1,” Harms said.
Early arrivals stay busy in the region and many volunteer.
“WIT Club counts on many volunteers to prepare the rally and (to work) throughout the rally,” said Denise Yeager of Winnebago Industries and the WIT GNR.
Volunteers help get units parked, put up street signs on the rally grounds, teach classes and do other tasks for the GNR. Attendees can also participate in pre-rally events this week, Harms said.
A trip to the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., a tour of historical architecture in North Iowa, and a bike ride to Pilot Knob State Park are just some of the events planned for this week, Harms said.
The theme of this year’s GNR is “Treasure Island.”
“We have a number of new activities and events this year-like a real treasure hunt,” WIT General Manager Doug Formanek said in a news release.
This year also marks the first year towable recreational vehicles are allowed on the grounds. Winnebago bought SunnyBrook RV, a towable manufacturer, in 2010. The company is also making Winnebago brand towables.
Good Sam Enterprises LLC kicks off its Louisville Rally – the Lincolnshire, Ill.-based company’s second national consumer gathering of the year – tomorrow morning (June 21) in the Kentucky Exposition Center (KEC), the same facility in which the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) holds its annual National RV Trade Show each winter.
A consumer coach count of about 2,000 rigs is down some from the 3,370 units registered at the company’s March rally at the Phoenix International Raceway in Arizona, but is pretty much on a par with that of Good Sam’s last Louisville consumer confab two years ago, reports Rally Director Sue Bray.
The Louisville rally, featuring hundreds of informative expert seminars, a veteran’s parade, guided tours to area sites and performances by entertainers Sheryl Crow and Burt Bacharach, runs through Sunday.
“We have very happy people, it seems like, because this is a great venue for us,” Bray, a longtime voice of the Good Sam Club, told RVBUSINESS.com, “and we’re just almost where we were (in terms of attendance) when we were here two years ago.”
Although the summer heat is a factor again this time around in Louisville, it’s not as bad as it was two years ago when the crowds gravitated to the shelter of the air conditioning system at the KEC — a big facility in which some 400 recreational vehicles are being displayed this week.
While OEM display space was sold out at the indoor show, the supplier area, housing 350 booth exhibits, was almost sold out as well, says Bray.
“There’s a couple new things that we’re doing,” added Bray. “One is we’re having something called the Good Sam Culinary Experience, and Food Network chef Bob Blumer is going to be doing cooking demonstrations. And we’ll also have some grills going and that kind of thing from Camping World so people can see the latest and greatest cooking gadgets as well as cooking styles.
“And we’re also offering our first-ever Bark Park, a dog park where you can take your dog and let it run around with other dogs. And we’ve got lots of pet things going on with our dog show, and then we do pet adoptions with the Louisville Humane Society, which is bringing out some adoptable dogs and cats.”
An expected 1,000 visitors and their RVs will be rolling into North Bend, Ore., beginning June 19 as The Mill Casino Hotel & RV Park hosts the annual Northwest Area Rally of the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA).
This will be the first time the national organization will hold its Northwest Rally on Oregon’s South Coast. The event is scheduled for June 21-24, but organizers say that their members customarily arrive two days early. Although the event is open to FMCA members only, a vendor show and display of RV coaches is open to the public, according to a news release.
“To be a member of the FMCA is to be someone who loves to travel and to visit new and interesting locations,” said Larry Close, general manager of The Mill Casino Hotel & RV Park. “Hosting this event is a great opportunity for The Mill, but it is an even greater opportunity to present all of the attractions of our communities to visitors from throughout the Pacific Northwest who definitely love to travel.”
The Mill has planned a variety of activities for rally participants including a poker run to shops and local venues in North Bend and Coos Bay. Tours of local attractions will be available to give visitors a taste of what the region has to offer.
The Southwest’s RV culture continues to ramble on, even as high gas prices and tough economic times leave some enthusiasts parked at home, according to a report by the Daily Times, Farmington, N.M. The Rocky Mountain Ramble RV Rally, which began Tuesday (Oct. 11) and continues through Saturday brought 400 RVs to New Mexico’s San Juan County.
For many full-time motorhome residents, the Ramble is a welcome stop on the RV circuit in a warm, dry climate. It’s a chance to reunite with old friends and see another part of the country. Yet the scene seems to be dwindling as some RV owners look to save money by keeping their favorite hobby in park.
Attendees at the Ramble said they’re dealing with tighter budgets by staying in each destination longer and planning their trips better.
“When we first started, we’d move on every week or two weeks, and now we sit around awhile,” said Barbara McCann, who travels with her husband, Gordon.
The McCanns joined the RV lifestyle in 2004 after selling their retirement cabin and winemaking property in North Carolina during a laborious grape harvest.
“It got to be work,” Gordon McCann said.
They soon bought an RV in Texas and hit the road. Since then, they’ve visited every state except Hawaii, and also ventured into Canada. The McCanns most recently came from the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, where they spent 11 days.
Gordon McCann said he and other RVers sometimes trade work for services. In 2009, the McCanns served as camp hosts at the Grand Canyon’s north rim for the summer in exchange for a place to park. Such arrangements keep costs down.
“Everything I own,” McCann said, gesturing to his motor home, “is right there.”
Gordon McCann said RVers often use gas price websites to plan their fuel purchases far in advance. Innovations such as widespread Internet access, cell phone service and online banking have made it easier to prolong life on the road.
Although hundreds are attending the Ramble, the RV industry has been hurt by tightened lending that often calls for downpayments of 30%. Even those loans now require sterling credit ratings.
“The RV industry has been hit real hard by the economy,” said Allen Rein, national senior vice president of the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA). “It’s just a sign of the times.”
The Rocky Mountain Ramble, put on by the Rocky Mountain Motor Home Association, is one of 10 regional rallies. The Ramble brings hundreds of people to San Juan County, and many of them spend money in restaurants and shopping centers. It’s among the major RV events the area attracts each year, said Tonya Stinson, marketing manager at the Farmington Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“It’s one of the larger ones and the most consistent,” she said.
However, the event is getting less response from the community this year, Rein said. Businesses have been reluctant to advertise in the Ramble’s program.
The Ramble first came to McGee Park in 2004. It skipped a year; this week’s event marks the Ramble’s sixth appearance in Farmington. Events are scheduled throughout the week, including daily breakfasts, and a car show Saturday.
America’s RV enthusiasts seem to be sticking with their passion for the open road despite high gas prices and the down economy, though it hasn’t been without a few concessions along the way.
As reported by the Goshen News, such was the apparent consensus at Indiana’s Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds Friday (Aug. 19) afternoon, where approximately 300 members of the Passport America RV Rally were preparing to clear out after a week-long gathering.
According to Marvin Miller, a 30-year RV enthusiast from Goshen, while a majority of his friends and acquaintances in the RV community still have, and are using, their RVs, just how they’re choosing to use them has changed significantly over the past couple of years.
“Most of our friends have continued using them, but if anything they’ve probably downsized on the distance they drive compared to past years,” Miller said. “Also, when talking with a lot of entry level people, a lot of them are buying, but they’re probably not buying as expensive a unit as they may have in the past.”
Downsizing from a large unit to a smaller, more economical unit is also becoming a popular option among RVers, Miller said, adding that he and his wife, Janet, have had to make a few changes of their own to maintain the RV lifestyle they love.
“As a matter of fact, we had a large motorhome, and we went from a motorhome to a fifth-wheel trying to get a little bit better fuel mileage,” Miller said. “Other than that, for the most part we have probably just downscaled on the distance we travel. For example, rather than taking it to Arizona or Florida, now we’d probably just rent something down there for that period of time, and just stick to the shorter trips overall.”
The Goshen News reported that for RV enthusiast Diana Stone, however, the onset of the down economy and skyrocketing gas prices actually pushed her deeper into the RV lifestyle, rather than pulling her away from it.
Based out of Livingston, Texas, Stone has been a full time RVer for the past 10 years, and wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Being a full time RVer is considerably less expensive than if I owned a home and all that goes along with that,” Stone said. “I don’t pay taxes. I don’t pay any electricity. I don’t pay for water. Really all I pay for is about $50 a year for propane gas, and then the gas we use to travel.”
With a disabled husband and two pension plans devastated by the economic downturn, Stone said living anything other than an RV lifestyle just wouldn’t make sense for her in today’s economy.
“We basically just said we can’t do this anymore,” Stone said. “We considered moving into an apartment, but I nixed that right away. Then one day we saw this baby for sale, we bought her, and never looked back.”
Stone did admit that today’s high gas prices have played a role in reducing the scope of her travels, however.
“Now, instead of going lets say from Arizona to Washington to Illinois to New York down to Florida then back up to Missouri and then over to some place else, now we plan very carefully,” Stone said, “and we do very short increments.”
Even with the restricted travel plans, though, Stone said she can’t imagine giving up the lifestyle that has given her so much freedom and enjoyment over the years.
“The lifestyle is great!” Stone said. “You get to see the country, meet lots of great people. There’s just nothing better.”