RVs cover the grounds at Hall of Fame during last year's Open House

RVs cover the grounds at Hall of Fame during last year’s Open House

Forest River Inc. CEO Pete Liegl has confirmed the dates of the 8th Annual Elkhart RV Open House as Sept. 22-24, although a number of companies will likely be hosting Open House-related activities throughout the week of Sept. 21-25 in and around the greater Elkhart County area.

Unlike other trade shows throughout North America and elsewhere, the Elkhart RV Open House – a spontaneous exposition that emerged in the wake of the Great Recession – still has no individual sponsorship, committee, board or organization that oversees its timing or exhibits. On the contrary, Forest River, in cooperation with its largest competitor, Thor Industries Inc., generally sets the dates for the event.

Liegl, who declined further comment with RVBUSINESS.com, originated the Open House concept as an informal, one-manufacturer event held during the recession that brought the company’s dealers to Elkhart to see new RV, boat and cargo trailer products for the upcoming year. The Open House has since snowballed into one of the industry’s chief national trade shows, last year boasting nearly 60 RV manufacturer and supplier displays and drawing more than 4,000 attendees from RV dealerships across the U.S. and Canada.

While still five months out, Elkhart County is again primed for the invasion of dealer personnel who generally provide a notable boost to the local economy. In turn, manufacturers view the Open House as their prime selling venue, providing a spike in order backlogs heading into what had traditionally been a slowdown period.

“In 2 1/2 days we at least did a billion dollars worth of business,” said Doug Gaeddert, a group general manager at Forest River, speaking for the industry as a whole following the last year’s show. “We had to be in that billion dollar range easily. There’s no question there are more units and more sales written in this 2 1/2 day period than by far anything else.”

Timing for this year’s show places the Open House a week later than past editions, reflecting a change in scheduling by America’s Largest RV Show in Hershey, Pa. The annual event, hosted by the Pennsylvania RV and Camping Association (PRVCA), was also bumped back a week, opening with Industry Days Sept. 14-15 followed by Public Days running Sept. 16-20.