As the 67th Annual California RV Show wound down Sunday afternoon (Oct. 13) — and a day before the gate attendance would be reported at a record 45,112 — Tom Gaither, RV Industry Association (RVIA) Western Show Director, was able to pause long enough to stroke the feather in his cap for dramatically transforming the event’s popularity.

At the same time, Gaither is looking to the future for growth and additional bling. He has his sights set on boosting attendance to figures boasted by other popular mainstream RV shows in the country (think Hershey and Tampa), and will be looking to create a bigger piece of the pie — along with notoriety for RVIA — when it comes to producing a world-class show that results in consumer excitement and strong RV sales.

After record-setting attendance on opening day, this year’s show — held for the first time at the Auto Club Speedway facility in Fontana, Calif., after having spent the previous 26 years the L.A. Fairplex in Pomona — continued to attract strong crowds, despite ferocious Santa Ana winds having reduced the gate for a day or two. Buoyed by this year’s record attendance for the 10-day fall event, which was nearly 5,000 more than last year’s previous high of 40,191 — not to mention that many of the 45 manufacturers representing 65-75 different brands and 150 vendor booths reported brisk sales — Gaither said he almost feels as if hey have struck upon the “honey hole.”

“With how we’ve moved it around over the years it almost feels like we’re on a lake and we’re looking for where the fish are biting. Well, you could say this year that we’re right smack dab in the middle of the honey hole,” Gaither old RVBUSINESS.com. “We’re about 20 miles down the highway from Pomona, in what’s known locally as the ‘Inland Empire.’ When you sell your house here, you advertise it as having RV parking.”

Gaither added that the Speedway having free parking certainly was one incentive as was the venue itself, which among other factors offered the grandstand as a backdrop and permanent restrooms for convenience. Many guests told him this was their first time attending the California RV show, he said.

The record gate continues the growth curve of the California RV Show, it should be pointed out.

To boost attendance, Gaither started bringing in sports legends and entertainment celebrities, which has proven to be highly successful. “This is the fourth year for Steve Garvey (former Los Angeles Dodgers baseball player). Mr. Garvey is a great guy; he never leaves his post until every customer has an autograph,” said Gaither.

Traditionally, the California RV show features large displays of toy haulers, targeting a younger group of enthusiasts who enjoy the thrill of off-road ventures. The Southern California landscape offers vast opportunities for off-roading, and the side-by-side vehicle market is exploding, playing right into the hands of toy hauler manufacturers like Genesis Supreme of Perris, Calif., whose display took center stage among the many toy haulers on display. Genesis, which started in owner and CEO Pablo Carmona’s driveway, now employs 200 people and offers an exclusive toy hauler lineup of 35 models.

Among the numerous toy hauler models were RVs representing all segments of the industry, including a few local manufacturers looking to attract Millennials and those interested in RVs with more diminutive profiles. Feature-rich Class B motorhomes, like those from ModVans, Ventura, Cailf., and Storyteller Overland, Birmingham, Ala., offer surprising amenities and high-tech features that attract energetic audiences. Both vans have unique designs that concentrate on sleeping and passenger comfort.

Those with a penchant for tiny homes got plenty of eye candy from Happier Camper, manufacturers of double-hulled fiberglass, ultralight HC1 trailers. Another product of personal quests from the Los Angeles, Calif.- based company principals is a proprietary Adaptiv Modular system allows owners utmost versatility from hauling everyday items to creating generous sleeping accommodations.

The plethora of toy haulers and RVs from the major and relatively new industry players, combined with the vendor tent and seminar presentations, reinforced the value of the California RV Show as a mainstream event for those looking to capture the RV lifestyle.

Story by Bob Livingston