The desert community of Quartzsite, Ariz., a mecca for RVers in January and early February with flea markets and RV, rock-and-gem and classic carshows, drew well over 150,000 visitors this year.
“Business had declined over the last several years, but this was a good year,” said Ken White, president of the not-for-profit Quartzsite Improvement Association (QIA), which sponsored the QIA Pow Wow, Jan. 28-Feb. 1, a gem show with 500 vendors that drew an estimated 150,000 people.
“Our vendor and visitor counts were down a little, but the money was fine. Many of our vendors did well moneywise,” White said.
The same was true for the only organized RV show – the Quartzsite Sports, Vacation and RV Show, Jan. 17-25, which featured new and used units from Paul Everett’s RV Country Inc., Fresno, Calif.
“It was the best year ever as far as sales go,” said Kenny King, president of the show. “The crowds were buying, but it was not quite as typically ‘senior’ as you usually see in Quartzsite.”
According to the Quartzsite Chamber of Commerce, the community, with a permanent population of about 3,000 people, didn’t attract the 250,000-300,000 attendees that it was accustomed to in the late 1990s.
“I don’t think it was quite that busy this year,” said chamber Executive Director Tina Positano. “It’s very, very difficult to know the numbers because there are so many people here.
“The RV parks were all jam-packed and there were thousands of people parked on Bureau of Land Management land. We had a lot more walk-in visitors to the chamber this year than we did last year.”
White said a recent increase in permit fees by the city of Quartzsite may have kept some vendors away.
“It seems like all cities have to raise money, but sometimes it hurts business,” he said.
Both White and Positano said a significant decline in attendance occurred two years ago after the 2001 terrorist attacks. And early attendance this year was hampered, Positano speculated, because of the high-level Orange security alert issued by the Department of Homeland Security during the Christmas and New Year holidays.
“It seemed like everybody waited until after the holidays to get on the road,” Positano said. “A lot of chambers of commerce in Arizona said they were down on their tourism this year, and that a lot of tourists came down later than they usually do.”