The RV industry’s biggest “block party” “” the Elkhart RV Open House “” just got bigger.
Not so much in size, mind you. While there have always been a few outlier displays in nearby cities like Middlebury and Bristol, the annual September trade show has, for the most part, traditionally taken over a large swath of Elkhart’s northeast side. And, true to form, the ninth annual affair will again occupy a lengthy stretch of County Road 6 in Elkhart, Ind., from near the intersection of Indiana 19 eastward to County Road 17 before wrapping up at the RV/MH Hall of Fame.
But this year’s edition of the event, which pulls upwards of 4,000 RV dealer personnel to the city, will differ to an extent because of the hours it keeps. Historically, the times in which displays are open at the highly decentralized Open House have been set by its two anchors “” Forest River Inc., which stages its mammoth exhibition at its sprawling Dynamax facility at CR 6 and Northland Drive to the west, and Thor Industries Inc., which set up an expansive display for all of its subsidiaries to the east on the Hall of Fame grounds.
For the past several years, both Thor and Forest River have officially opened Tuesday morning on the chosen week of the show. While some manufacturers “” notably Gulf Stream Coach Inc. and a few others “” have kicked off the event a day earlier, most tended to adhere to the Tuesday-through-Thursday schedule set up the industry’s two dominant players. That was the agenda communicated to the majority of dealers, so it made sense to “partner” on the timing of the show.
The fact that more companies are opening up their Open House exhibits for regular Monday (Sept. 19) hours is apparently just the latest twist in the ever-evolving agenda of this spontaneous early fall event. Thor President and CEO Bob Martin told RVBusiness that it simply results from the fact that more dealers are arriving earlier in the week to catch the leading edge of this growing, trade-only event.
“We’ve done more on Mondays for the last two years,” said Martin. “We just noticed that some dealers were coming in earlier “” some probably because of flights. They’ve been showing up on Sundays while we were setting up because everybody wants to see the product before anybody else “” they like to “˜sneak peek.’ So the last couple of years, we had our displays set up a little bit earlier and we started informally inviting dealers, who literally began coming in at noon Monday trying to get through units before they were set up. And then, because we weren’t serving lunch, some of them left.
“So this year, to keep them at the display and show them some product, we decided to serve lunch and publicize it so that some of these guys don’t feel they have to run down to Wendy’s,” he added. “It’s just kind of evolved over the last couple of years. And I noticed that Forest River has done the same thing this year as well.”
Of course, with an increasing number of retailers attending Open House each year, the amended schedule also provides OEMs more opportunities to better mix with “” and sell to “” incoming dealer personnel. Flipside, it gives dealers a better chance of visit with more recreational vehicle manufacturers, assuming, of course, that the dealers hang around long enough. Most dealers, frankly, don’t dwell for days at the Open House, a trade show known “” and preferred “” for its free wheeling schedule and general informality.
Also new this year are a few of the exhibiting companies, including Nappanee, Ind.-based inTech RV “” located along Executive Parkway, the main “boulevard” into the Hall of Fame “” and nuCamp RV, Cavco Industries and Oklahoma-based Sundowner Trailers on the nearby display area at the corner of CR 6 and CR 17.