The 7th Annual International Forest River Owners Group (FROG) International Rally wrapped up an “exceptional” run Saturday (Aug. 17) at the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds in Goshen, Ind. The weeklong event attracted more than 500 units representing 36 Forest River brands with well over 1,000 owners in attendance, according to FROG Director Bob Byrne.
“It’s a little bit down from prior years,” said Byrne. “But I really think we’ve hit a sweet spot in the attendance this year. From the service techs able to help everyone, to the food service at our big dinners, this was an exceptional rally.”
The demographic of the group also changed this year, according to Byrne, who manages FROG along with his wife, Cindy.
“We had a great turnout from first-timers,” he said. “Almost 40% of the attendance was again first-timers. We love having the regulars come back each year but when we have this kind of excitement and attendance from new people, it makes for a very special event.”
He added that many of the first-timers also volunteered to help out at the event with parking, registration and golf cart shuttle services.
“It’s really all about all our volunteers,” said Byrne. “We have a lot of people that know what they’re doing. Cindy and I try to stay out of their way and allow them to do the great job they do. Without all these people giving their time, FROG would never be this successful.”
One of those volunteers, Jim Cummins, and his wife, Mary, came all the way from Kansas for FROG. He has been retired for 12 years and owns a 31-foot 2016 Cedar Creek fifth-wheel.
“We are going to go full-time camping in two years,” said Cummins. “We just love the RV lifestyle. This year, there are plenty of new faces and we are having a ball.”
On the product side, Byrne reported that there was high interest in Forest River’s motorized product line.
“We have a lot of interest in some of the new diesel pushers,” he shared. “The Berkshire line in particular is getting a lot of attention this year. Then, of course, our Class B segment continues to be very strong, both in attendance and in sales.
“We also saw a lot of interest in toy haulers this year,” he added. “And people are also drawn to what I call the smaller, ‘experience camping’ represented by the No Boundaries, R-Pod, E-Pro owners. It’s a crowd that trends a little younger and with smaller families. Our traditional campers haven’t gone away. The mid-sized travel trailer and fifth-wheels are still showing a strong presence. The Flagstaffs, Rockwoods and Cherokees are still in demand.”
The entertainment for this year’s FROG Rally saw a departure from “The Bulldogs,” the cover band that traditionally plays to the crowd on the last night, as Forest River hosted a performance talent show theme.
“We had our first-ever ‘FROGS Got Talent Fest’ this year,” chuckled Byrne. “We did this on Wednesday night and ended up with 14 acts. We had a great turnout for this event but did not get to announce the winner because of a major rainstorm that hit us before we could collect all the ballots. There was some very fine talent represented. Most of them were pretty darn good.”
The FROG group has become one of the largest RV owners groups in the industry. Its membership now stands at over 100,000 member families according to Byrne. This year people came from as far away as California and Saskatchewan.
“The FROG International Rally is the largest, but the groups meet regionally in 24 gatherings around the country each year,” he said. “Many of these are rallies combined with travel tours.”
— Story by Ron Barger