Pricey gasoline apparently isn’t keeping RVs and their owners away from the 25th annual Southeast Area Rally of the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA), which opens today (Feb. 1) at the Hernando County Airport in Brooksville, Fla.
The St. Petersburg Times reported that by the middle of last week, 1,928 coaches had preregistered to for the event, now in its ninth year at the airport. Because preregistration is not required, organizers expected the number of coaches likely will surpass 2,000.
Last year’s rally attracted 2,367 motorhomes. The record was set in 1999 with 2,770 coaches.
The high cost of gasoline does affect motorhome owners, said Southeast Area Chapter President George M. Schipper of Brooksville.
“There’s no two ways about that,” he said. “They also know they have an investment, and they want to use it. You adjust your lifestyle to make it fit.”
Hernando County’s location in Central Florida makes this rally an easy drive for in-state travelers who may feel the gas price pinch. But members are still coming from afar.
“It surprised me,” Schipper said as he looked over preregistrations. “We’ve got them from all the way out to Montana.”
Many attend the rally to renew friendships they made at previous visits. And there are seminars each day during which association members can learn about coach maintenance, fire and life safety, food preparation in limited spaces, and suggestions for back-road travel.
Day visitors will have access to the seminars, as well as the opportunity to shop among the nearly 300 vendors and to trek through motorhomes displayed by about 15 dealerships.
Schipper expects 3,000 to 4,000 visitors daily.
“I can’t believe how many people have been calling,” said the rally’s chief organizer for three years.
He attributed the interest to the just-ended Florida RV SuperShow in Tampa and a similar event recently in Fort Myers.
“The spinoff effect is great,” he said.
Beyond the rally site, local businesses will profit, as they do each year, said Pat Crowley, executive director of the Greater Hernando Chamber of Commerce. Uppermost are restaurants, which usually put on extra staff to cook and serve the influx of more than 4,000 visitors.
Businesses that have the facilities to service big vehicles and those that sell fuel also expect an increase in traffic, she said.