The 2019 Elkhart RV Open House is set for the week of Sept. 23-27 in and around the northern Indiana RV-building center of Elkhart, Ind., confirmed Pete Liegl, CEO of Elkhart-based Forest River Inc.
This later September date – for the second year in a row — gives scores of exhibitor personnel a week’s break after the finale of the Pennsylvania RV & Camping Association’s (PRVCA) popular Hershey Show to return to the Midwest for Open House. Since its launch 10 years ago as an exclusive “Expo” for dealers aligned with Forest River, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., the event has gradually gained credibility within the industry.
The Open House since then has become the industry’s chief trade-only venue for new model year RV introductions, a spontaneous type of an event that typically draws some 4,000 dealer personnel from the U.S. and Canada. RV sales remain the chief objective, much as they did for years at RVIA’s recently terminated Louisville Show, although social networking with name-brand entertainment has become a key part of the agenda.
No single organization currently oversees the Open House for which most of the exhibits are located on the northeast side of the city near the Michigan State line. As such, the dates are set annually by Forest River’s Liegl in cooperation with Thor Industries Inc. President and CEO Bob Martin, whose two companies represent more than 80% of the industry’s annual retail sales, according to Statistical Surveys Inc.
“This gives everyone a week, again, between the Hershey Show and the Open House so the salespeople can get back from Hershey and have time to prepare for our Expo,” Liegl told RVBUSINESS.com. “Otherwise, as it was before for several years, they’re traveling from Pennsylvania, then they’ve got to be here in Indiana at the Expo.”
Martin added, “For us, last year we felt that we were able to have a few more dealers show up from the East Coast at the Open House that were traditionally impacted by the Hershey Show. And it’s also an effort to let our sales reps that worked PRVCA’s show have a little bit of a breather. Last year, moving it a week later seemed to work quite well for most everyone involved and we look forward to that same time frame this year.”
The annual Hershey Show, officially known as “America’s Largest RV Show,” is scheduled for Sept. 10-15, with an education day on Sept. 9, trade day on Sept. 10 and consumer days Sept. 11–15, reports PRVCA Executive Director Heather Leach. Exhibitor signups are underway for Hershey, noted Leach, who is anticipating another million-plus-square-foot show rivaling last year’s exposition at the Giant Center in Hershey, Pa., which tallied a final gate attendance of almost 60,000 people.