The Family Motor Coach Association’s (FMCA) 74th International Convention, running Aug.15-18, is expected to attract thousands of group members to the North Dakota State Fairgrounds in Minot.
According to a report in the Minot Daily News, Jerry Yeatts, director of conventions and community services for the organization, said the numbers may be down slightly due to the high fuel costs but a good turnout is still projected.
“We’re expecting a little over 3,000 families, so that will be about 6,000 people,” he said.
Although the convention does not officially begin until Monday, many of the motor coachers began arriving in the area this week.
“A lot of the groups go to the towns beforehand to hold what are called pre-rallies, so quite a few people are already here,” Yeatts said. “That’s a common thing for these conventions because the members just love the camaraderie of being with their group.”
The thousands of rigs that congregate at the peak of the convention could present logistical difficulties, but Yeatts believes Minot is prepared for the influx.
“The community has really stepped up to the plate to help us find various land plots to put all these people,” he said. “Most of them will be camping within two miles of the fairgrounds, so that’s pretty good.”
Yeatts said independent studies have predicted that Minot can expect to see an economic impact of $20 million to $30 million from the event.
“This town just has an incredible, supportive community,” Yeatts added. “The North Dakota State Fair has really been eager to host another convention, and the enthusiasm and support that was displayed convinced us to come back.”
The last time FMCA made the trip to Minot, the event was marked by a hailstorm that pelted members’ vehicles.
“At the 1995 convention here there was a tremendous hailstorm, and it damaged quite a few coaches and cars,” Yeatts said. “Our members don’t forget much, and people still talk about the storm in Minot.”
In addition to a host of activities and nightly entertainment, more than 800 vehicles will be on display, many available for test drives by potential buyers.
“North Dakota’s laws are just fantastic. Some of the laws were written to help out the conventions, so the exhibitors can come into the state to display and sell their vehicles,” he said. “That’s very different from most places, so it was a nice perk to come here.”
Industry suppliers will also be displaying products in the fairground’s indoor facilities.
This year’s convention offers proof of FMCA’s growth over the years. The organization, which was created in 1963, now boasts a 130,000-family membership, and holds two large international conventions each year.
“I think for a lot of people there’s this view that the RV owners are driving these million-dollar motorhomes, but most of them are not. Most are just typical Americans, and they come out to these conventions to have fun and be together,” Yeatts said.