Next week’s Pennsylvania RV and Camping Show, the largest trade/retail show in the nation, is expected to be the last at the state-owned Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg.
“We are in negotiations with the Giant Center in Hershey for a five-year contract,” reported Rebecca Lennington, executive vice president of Pennsylvania Recreational Vehicle and Camping Association (PRVCA), sponsor of the event. Lennington said she expected the move to the Giant Center, 16 miles east of the Farm Show Complex, to be announced during the show.
“We want to have the contract signed and delivered so we can make an official announcement before the show ends,” Lennington said.
Part of the motivation for promoters to change venues may have been a pending rate increase at the Farm Show Complex.
The Patriot News reported that the Farm Show Commission voted in June to set a flat rent of 5 cents per square foot per day for all users of the complex, effective July 1, 2005, resulting in a 29% rent increase for the PRVCA event.
Trade days for the PRVCA’s 36th show at the Farm Show Complex are Tuesday (Sept. 7) and Wednesday, with the retail portion slated for Thursday through Sunday. A reported 154 suppliers and 61 dealers representing 90 manufacturers have registered for the 2004 show, and there will be 1,203 RVs on display.
Even though the Farm Show Complex completed $68 million in renovations in 2003, Lennington said, manufacturers are clamoring for more space.
Lennington said PRVCA has sold 1.6 million square feet of space for this year’s show, but that more is needed. “After this last show drawing, it became apparent to us that we didn’t have the room to grow in Harrisburg,” she said. “And manufacturers were telling us the older area of the Farm Show Complex no longer supported their needs.”
Lennington said she put the question of moving the show to Hershey in an August survey of exhibitors and received an overwhelming affirmative response. “The growth at the Giant Center basically is unlimited,” she said.
The move will allow supplier exhibitors to display indoors, while manufacturers, who display in conjunction with licensed Pennsylvania dealers, will set up outside the Giant Center.
The change also will let registration fees remain unchanged and provide free parking for both exhibitors and attendees, she said. In recent years the Farm Show Complex had begun charging a parking fee without return privileges.
The switch to the Giant Center, part of the Hersheypark Sport and Entertainment Complex, also means this year’s show in Harrisburg will be the last one during the same week as Labor Day.
At Harrisburg, once every five years there were show dates during Labor Day week because the show rotated with other early September events at the Farm Show Complex.
“We are going to lose a day this year because Monday is Labor Day,” she said. “That will not happen again.”
Last year public attendance at the Harrisburg Show was 35,546, up 21% from 2002; 2,668 dealership and 148 campground personnel attended the trade portion of the show.