Large gatherings of RVs are fairly common in northern Indiana, long considered the hub of the recreational vehicle industry in the United States – but even by those standards, the group sequestered this week at the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds in Goshen was cause for double-takes by travelers along County Road 34.

All 116 of the units that began pulling into the fairgrounds Tuesday  were fifth-wheel trailers.

The 142-acre fairground on Goshen’s east side is hosting the national rally of the Suites Owners International Travel Club (SIOTC), an association limited to owners of DRV Suites fifth-wheels, formerly known as Double Tree RV.

More than a third of the club’s 306 registered members are attending the event, which runs through Sunday (June 7). According to Wayne Rothwell, club president, members have traveled from as far as California, New York and Texas for the program.

“We have 25 states and three Canadian provinces represented,” he added.

The rally, as Rothwell noted, is primarily a social affair, and events such as the welcome dinner are attended by “just about everyone at the fairgrounds.”

The farewell dinner is likewise well-attended, while attendees tend to form up various smaller groups during the week-long rally.

The opportunity to mingle among friends is just one facet of the event, however. As Rothwell pointed out, the rally also features a number of educational seminars ranging from insurance classes to technical dissertations on towing, braking and overall safety.

The 2009 rally’s location, about 30 miles from DRV’s Howe, Ind., headquarters and manufacturing facility, also allows the parent company to maximize its involvement. “We will have a ‘DRV Day’ where they host us at the factory, solicit our ideas and present seminars,” Rothwell said. “Classes are scheduled this year on such topics as hydraulics, electrical interfacing and leveling systems.”

The company enlists the aid of a local dealer in the vicinity of each rally to set up displays. In Goshen, International RV World, Elkhart, brought one each of the three series of fifth-wheels DRV manufactures – Elite, Mobile and Select – to the fairgrounds, allowing walk-throughs by rally attendees while dealer staff was on hand to answer questions.

The 2010 SOITC national rally will be held in June in Colorado Springs, Colo.