More than 800 RVers will take part in a host of activities this weekend at Palm Creek Golf & RV Resort in Casa Grande, Ariz., during the 13th-annual National African-American RV’ers Association (NAARVA) rally.
According to a report in the Arizona Republic, Sheila Jackson is one of about 3,000 members of NAARVA, a group that works to encourage RVing among African Americans.
“To know there are other folks of color that are involved in something you enjoy is great,” said Jackson, 52, who brought her two elementary-age grandchildren along for the ride. She said she thinks the cross-country trip from her home in Culpeper, Va., is educational for the kids, who live in New York.
“They don’t get bored because there’s so many things for them to see,” she said.
Industry analysts say the RVing population is becoming younger, and although they don’t have definitive proof, they believe it is becoming more diverse.
“My wife and kids and I have been camping since 1960, and it was an anomaly to run into another Black family camping anywhere,” said John Taylor, 70, of Tacoma, Wash. “We began to run into more and more African Americans out camping, but it’s just been within the last 10, 12, 15 years that this thing has exploded.”
Ken Sommer, public relations director for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), said road trips are now becoming the “in” way to travel.
“There’s been a dramatic shift in the way Americans have been taking their vacations,” he said.
Neither the RVIA nor the Recreation Vehicle Dealer Association could say for certain whether RV buyers are becoming more ethnically diverse. However, Anne Steele, the president of the NAARVA, said she’s seen the shift.
“We didn’t know that many Black folks even owned RVs until we started this organization,” she said. “Our organization has done a lot to foster RVing in the Black community.”
NAARVA began in 1993 with 52 families. Steele estimates about 850 members made it to Casa Grande for this year’s rally, which runs through Sunday.
She said NAARVA also reflects the other demographic changes in RVers. After seeing an uptick in youth involvement, the association this year added a youth organization.
“We’ve found our members have become younger and younger over these 13 years,” Steele said. “This will be a way to encourage them to go forth with their education so they’ll eventually have employment that will allow them to buy a motorhome.”
Rufus and Sandra Steed of Annapolis, Md., said they have been camping for more than 20 years, and they never really saw many other African-American couples. The Steeds joined NAARVA about eight years ago, and said they love socializing with other African-Americans who enjoy the RV lifestyle.
“A family that plays together, stays together,” Rufus Steed, 58, said.