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Tim and Becky Irvine were on a mission Thursday (Aug. 17), the opening day of the 52nd annual Midwest RV Super Show & Rally at the Elkhart County Fairgrounds in Goshen, Ind.
The Toledo, Ohio, couple was looking for the ideal motorized RV to take them places they had never seen, once they begin to slow down their hectic lifestyle. They read about the show in an RV magazine and decided this was the place to be for supplementing their research into buying an RV.
“We’re ready to explore the country,” said Becky, 50, a Mary Kay saleswoman, and Tim, 54, an anesthesiologist, who is ready to cut back on his 60- and 70-hour workweeks.
The Irvines have taken two vacations with their family in rented or borrowed RVs and “absolutely loved it,” she said. They’re ready to buy their own and are leaning toward a Class A motorhome.
They had plenty to choose from. Some 187 ’07 and ’06 towables and motorized units from 16 dealers are on display for the four-day show, back home in Elkhart County for the first time since 1968. All the major brands manufactured in the “RV Capital of the World” are on display at the show, which originated in 1954 in Elkhart, before relocating to the University of Notre Dame.
The show is sponsored by the Indiana Manufactured Housing Association/Recreation Vehicle Indiana Council Inc. with assistance from the Elkhart County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Frank and Janice Milner of Montgomery, Ala., were on a different kind of mission. Their 2006 Gulf Stream Friendship G7 Diesel Class A was in nearby Nappanee, Ind., for repairs and they were “killing time” at the show until it was ready. The retired couple travels some 10,000 miles a year in their RV, and Goshen was just one stop among dozens of locales they will visit this year.
Despite the price of fuel hovering around $3 a gallon, the Milners have not altered their travel plans a bit this year. “It’s not even a consideration,” said Milner, who will put an estimated 2,500 miles on his Class A before he returns home later this month in time for the start of the college football season. They’re fans of Auburn University and tailgate at every home game, of which there are eight this season, Milner said.
A third couple, Paul and Margie McClellan of Columbus, Ohio, were looking to get back into the RV lifestyle after a short hiatus. McClellan is superintendent of the Ohio State Highway Patrol and had to curtail RVing in recent years due to the demands of work.
The McClellans bought their first RV, a tent camper, 35 years ago and gradually moved up to an Airstream travel trailer before selling it a few years ago. Now, they’re itching to get back in with a fifth-wheel trailer. They were eying a Double Tree Mobile Estates at the show. The couple already bought a new tow vehicle and is anxious to tow something behind it.
But the price of fuel worries the McClellans. “It could have an impact on our ultimate decision,” said Paul McClellan. “Not to buy, but how far and how often we travel.”
He’s a Civil War buff and yearns to travel and expand his knowledge first-hand at battlefield sites.
The show comes at a good time for dealers like Rod Martin of DeMartini RV Sales in Wakarusa, Ind., an exclusive motorized dealer. “It’s close to the end of the season in Indiana,” he said, noting there are still too many unsold Holiday Rambler and Itasca motorized units back on his sales lot. He’s counting on “snowbirds” to boost sales this fall.
Martin said his business “is doing better than we anticipated,” but sales of gas-powered motorhomes remain “slow.”
He said his fear is, “if something is sitting here in November, it’ll still be there in March.”
Martin is encouraged by the steady business in diesel and used units, as well as the business he has picked up from the West Coast, supplementing sales of the flagship dealership in Grass Valley, Calif.
“We’re lucky we have a lot of referral business,” said Martin, whose dealership was participating in the show for the first time.
John Swardson, co-owner and sales manager of Camp-Land Inc. in Burns Harbor, Ind., is a regular participant in the show and said his company always does well, wherever it’s held. He was encouraged by the lenders who were providing discounted loan rates on the purchase of show units, a practice which might spur reluctant first-time buyers.
“We’re getting younger buyers. They want to do it and they don’t want to wait. We’ve even had some parents say they’d help out with the down payment,” he said.
He said the people shopping for an RV today are convinced they’re going to buy one.
“We’re seeing a pretty positive person coming in the door,” he said. “They want to get out and have some fun.”
Frequently, he hears shoppers say, “I just want my kids to experience what I did.”
He noted that sales of used RVs are exceeding new sales this year.
Elsewhere at the Midwest Show, five park model dealers are displaying products from several leading manufacturers. More than 50 supplier booths are set up indoors, and several industry seminars are being held during the show. More than 100 RVers also are participating in a Rally elsewhere on the fairgrounds.