The Kittle family shops for an RV at the Indy Expo

The Kittle family of New Castle, Ind. has had enough of tent camping.

“We’ve been camping a few times in tents, and our friends had a camper. Whether it’s hot or raining or too far to try and take everything with the tent, we just hadn’t bought a camper,” Travis Kittle told RVBUSINESS.com as they were shopping along with record crowds at the Indy RV Expo at the Indiana State Fairgrounds on Saturday (Jan. 13).

“We got to experience camping and our kids, who are five and nine, are going to grow so it’s a good time to make some wonderful family memories. I think that’s the push for us to buy a camper” added his wife, Pamela. The couple finalized their decision and purchased a Keystone Passport at the show.

Despite cold temperatures, the Indy RV Expo reported attendance of more than 18,000, representing a 27% increase from last year’s record-setting event. The show opened Jan. 6 and concluded Sunday. (To view a slideshow scroll to the right side of the RVBUSINESS.com home page. Photos by Shawn Spence).

“What really stood out this year was the enthusiasm of the show attendees. People came out prepared and asked the right questions. People came out ready to buy,” said Matt Rose, director of recreation vehicles for the Indiana Manufactured Housing Association-Recreation Vehicle Indiana Council (IMHA-RVIC), who oversees advertising and coordinates media coverage.

Nathan Hart of Walnut Ridge Family RV Sales saw steady traffic at the Indy RV Expo

Rose told RVBUSINESS.com that the organization’s 44th annual Valley RV & Camping Show held last weekend at the Century Center in South Bend also saw an increase, up 8% in overall attendance from a year ago.

Nathan Hart, general manager and partner at Walnut Ridge Family RV Sales in New Castle, Ind., was enthused with what he was seeing at the Indy Expo. “We’re up slightly over last year, which with 2017 being as good as it was, I think is promising for 2018,” he said. “We have seen a lot of first-time buyers. A lot of people eager to enter into the camping lifestyle. They’ve got friends that are doing it. It’s just kind of exploding across those age groups of people with young kids.”
Christy Kirk, general manager of Modern Trailer Sales noted, “At our dealership, we have a lot of repeat business, so I feel like in the past for our shows we were talking 30-40% of people that were trading in product. That hasn’t been the case this year, it’s maybe 10%. It’s a lot of new buyers, not just for our dealership, but for the market, period.”
Exhibitors at the Indy RV Expo, which marked its 50th year, included Braun’s Fun Time Campers, Indianapolis; Camping World of Indianapolis; Colerain RV of Indianapolis; Lafayette Trailer Sales; Modern Trailer sales of Anderson; Mount Comfort RV of Greenfield; M&K Truck Centers of Indianapolis and Walnut Ridge Family RV Sales, New Castle.
— Shawn Spence