Over the years, Jim Beletti’s team has laid down a solid foundation for Heartland RV’s annual North American Owners Rally, offering attendees a full range of activities including nightly entertainment, catered and home-cooked meals, factory tours along with a focus on education.
As a result, the event has turned into a major draw for the Elkhart, Ind.-based builder’s owners group. Beletti, who serves as Heartland’s director of owners interests, reported that the 13th edition, which opened June 10 and closed out on Sunday (June 16), drew 230 rigs and around 470 “Heartlanders” to the Elkhart County Fairgrounds in Goshen. He noted that the club currently comprises 4,031 rigs.
“We also run a one-week prerally, which was very well-attended,” Beletti offered. “People really love to gather with their peers and we always try to give them a rally that offers not only the chance to meet directly with Heartland personnel but also a taste of the area.”
The rally also afforded members the opportunity to see how their RVs are built during a day-long factory tour on Friday. “It started at the audit facility, and then one group went to our toy hauler factory, and another group toured the fifth-wheel production plant,” Beletti said.
Despite the past success of the gatherings, Beletti continues to broaden and tweak the rally’s agenda, identifying areas that are lacking or need reshaping.
“A good example is that this year we added a new component for the women attending the rally,” Beletti related. “When I was walking the grounds I kept hearing from women that they felt left out so we put together a special program. A lot of the ladies do their own crafting at rally. We rented a building and they were able to bring their sewing and quilting machines. We also put together a tour of the local quilting and craft shops.”
In 2016, Beletti’s crew also changed the format for where the rallies are held. In the past, on the even years the event convened at different venues around the U.S. and Canada and then returned to Elkhart on the odd years.
“We now hold regional rallies on the even years,” he noted. “The owners club has eight regions, including two in Canada. We found that regional events are easier for owners to get to instead of having to attend our exclusive rally in Elkhart. A lot of the West Coasters, for instance, just didn’t have the time to travel to Elkhart.”
A key component for the event has traditionally been education as this year’s lineup included 25 technical presentations and 25 lifestyle presentations. The company also provided owners with week-long complimentary service for minor issues on their RVs.
Beletti related, “The work is performed without regard to warranty status or the age of coach. We pulled our whole team of techs down from Elkhart who were supported by our supplier partners. In addition, owners had their coaches washed and waxed, and a local vendor was at the rally to do carpet cleaning.”
Beletti stressed that a “charitable component” is another staple at every rally. “For our ‘Heartland Give Back initiative’ we always find a charitable cause. This year it was the Michiana Chapter of Ronald McDonald Charities. Our goal was $10,000, and we far exceeded that with donations reaching $20,000. Donations came from individual club members along with proceeds from silent auction items donated from our supplier partners.”
As in past years, the centerpiece for the event was the Heartland Marketplace, which this year featured 42 vendors alongside 14 Heartland towable units for attendees to walk through. Beletti explained that for a number of years the company has offered attendees a “rally rebate.”
“If a club member is interested in buying a new trailer we give them a rebate if they purchase within a set date,” he noted. “In turn, when members tour the RVs we receive valuable feedback with regard to our product. Heartland has always been committed to listening to its owners, and we continue to benefit from that valuable connection.”