The Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) will post a significant milestone this year, as the membership-based RV owners club will mark the running of its 100th International Convention, taking place Aug. 14-17 at the North Dakota State Fairgrounds in Minot, N.D.
FMCA’s Events Director Doug Uhlenbrock told RVBUSINESS.com that the organization is anticipating around 1,700 RVs this year, down from 2005, the last time FMCA held a rally at the fairgrounds when more than 4,000 coaches descended on Minot. But it’s not all that much below typical rally participation levels in the post-recessionary era, said Uhlenbrock, who feels that a key factor impacting attendance figures is that North Dakota is in a relatively remote area.
“I’d like to have 2,500 RVs if we could, but Minot is not along a route for many people. We’re happy with it. We’re not thrilled — we always want more. But I think it’ll be a great show,” Uhlenbrock said.
On the docket are more than 100 seminars hosted by FMCA members and RV suppliers. Michelin will present a lecture on care for RV tires, Spartan Specialty Vehicles and Chassis will cover chassis maintenance, and Cummins will be on hand to answer engine questions. There also are workshops on microwave cooking, quilting and first aid, along with competitive games and music performances.
The group traces its roots back to July 20, 1963, when 26 families attended a gathering in Hinckley, Maine, where they resolved to form a group to celebrate their common interest in motorhomes. The next year, 106 coaches attended the first official convention of the fledgling group. Today, thousands of FMCA members convene twice a year to attend educational seminars, shop for new RVs, and socialize.
The fairgrounds venue, which is normally used for livestock exhibitions, has hosted the FMCA three times in the past. Uhlenbrock noted that management made several RV-friendly infrastructure improvements in hopes to continue to attract the event.
“They were concerned about flipping the grounds in time. Most of the buildings were filled with dirt five days ago, but I talked with fairgrounds staff this morning, and they’re happy with where they are,” Uhlenbrock told RVBUSINESS.com.
Uhlenbrock reported that convention registration has been waning since a high of 7,422 coaches 19 years ago, but the organization is now primed for future growth.
“For our first 54 years, the association only served owners of motorized RVs,” he said, pointing to a membership referendum in late 2017 that expanded eligibility to owners of towables, which represent nearly 90% of RVs sold annually. The FMCA now boasts over 150,000 members, and this year’s attendance is shaping up to eclipse FMCA’s last two summer gatherings.
“The association is strong, the reputation is growing,” Uhlenbrock said. “We’ve added around 10,000 new members in the last two years.”
Anchoring the list of speakers for the 100th convention is keynote Captain Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger, famous for his emergency landing of a commercial jet in the Hudson River, who will address attendees on Thursday night. On Friday, The Spinners will perform their hits, and local entertainers will be on hand throughout.
Attendees can tour coaches at the event’s RV Expo, which is open to the public. Over 100 exhibitors will display their wares, including Entegra Coach, Tiffin Motorhomes, Newmar motorhomes from Steinbring Motorcoach, and WiFi Ranger.
“Members can expect a packed weekend. “I want to send everybody home tired. If I do that I think I’ve done pretty good,” Uhlenbrock concluded as he was set to began his 1,200-mile trek from FMCA headquarters in Cincinnati to North Dakota.
— Story by Jason Epperson