RV manufacturer Forest River Inc. has enrolled ”in excess of 8,000 families” in its new Forest River Owners Group (FROG), which has monthly rallies and trips planned through the end of the year.

“Anybody who owns Forest River or related products — new or used — is eligible to join,” said FROG Director Bob Byrne, an RVer for 12 years and a retired banker, insurance industry executive and high school math teacher hired late last year with his wife, Cindy, to oversee the new owners group.

FROG is free to join with members paying only for camping at the rallies or participating in the trips, Byrne emphasized, adding that the FROG club is not intended to replace the 45-year-old Coachmen Owners Association operated by Forest River subsidiary Coachmen RV, Middlebury, Ind.

”We did a quiet launch in October, primarily through (independent) Forest River forum websites and then did a mass mailing in December to people who had bought new Forest River RVs over the last 16 months,” Byrne said. ”The primary thing we are focusing on is getting Forest River owners together to expand their opportunities to go RVing, and when they are ready to trade, we want them to stay with us.”

FROG also launched a website (www.forestriverfrog.com) in October and held its first rally during the National Cherry Blossom Festival March 27-April 1 at Cherry Hill Park in College Park, Md., the closest campground to Washington, D.C.

“One of the things we are doing a little differently from some organizatione is that we don’t have a formal organizational structure,” said Byrne, who drives a 40-foot Coachmen Class A. ”We don’t want people to feel that they are committed to having to do something every weekend or every month.”

Some rallies are organized by Byrne while others are coordinated informally by local Forest River owners in their areas.

”We tell them if one of the rallies fits your interests and time frame, come on and do it.” Byrne said. ”They shouldn’t have to feel that they are committed to doing a specific number of activities.”

An international rally is planned Aug. 13-17 at the Elkhart County Fairground in Goshen, Ind., with regional rallies scheduled this summer and fall at Ouabache State Park in Park Bluffton, Ind., Gore, Okla., Branson, Mo., Tucson, Ariz., Wisconsin Dells, Las Vegas and Charleston, S.C.

As of late April, some 180 RVers had registered for the international rally in Goshen, Byrne said.

”I would love to announce that we have 10,000 members by then, but obviously, our goal eventually is to go beyond that,” Byrne said.