What started as a small-town mineral show in the late 1960s in western Arizona has developed into a phenomenon that peaks in January by bringing more than 1 million people to the town of Quartzsite, where a huge RV show greets them.
The Quartzsite Sports, Vacation and RV Show will run Jan. 17-25, but show founder and operator Kenny King is already hard at work with his business partners, “Mal” Mallory and his daughter, Kimberly King, to prepare for the show, which has been running since 1984.
In 32 years, King said the event has evolved “into the largest consumer RV show in the United States. Unlike most RV shows, where there will be 1,000 coaches for sale, we have 20 acres.”
King told RVBUSINESS.com that it’s a phenomenon that overwhelms Quartzsite, a town of fewer than 3,600 people, adding, “They do the best they can, but the traffic is overwhelming.”
Shawn Farish, who owns Scenic Road RV Park, offered, “Every park in Quartzsite is sold out for the latter half of January. We have over a million people that come through Quartzsite.” While Quartzsite is a popular destination for snowbirds on its own, “there’s a healthy percentage who come in for a week or two weeks. A lot of them dry camp out in the desert. There’s not enough RV spaces for people who come in January,” she said.
King said RVers park “helter-skelter out in the BLM land” across from the show site. “We’ve had estimates of 20,000 to 30,000 coaches at one time,” he said. “It’s just phenomenal how much commerce is done out of this show.”
He has 12 service bays going full time during the show, with Blue Ox, Roadmaster and even a tire company using those bays. There are also 300 vendors who use 380 booths inside the 69,000-square-foot tent and other nearby structures.
Paul Everett’s RV is the exclusive RV dealer for the show and recently signed another five-year exclusive agreement, King said.
Lippert Components Inc. (LCI) has also become a major player in the show, King said. Steve Paul, LCI director of aftermarket sales, said, “We’ve been involved in the Quartzsite RV show for several years from a service standpoint and this last year we got involved in it from a parts-and-accessories standpoint and plan to build our presence at the show for 2015.
“As a company, we’re always looking for opportunities to be in front of our customers. That gives us a chance to get feedback and to talk about possible upgrades for what people have, and also allows us to get new product ideas.”
The show’s atmosphere, Paul told RVB, is “a circus. It comes complete with a tent – it’s a huge tent – and people come from all over to Arizona, out in the middle of nowhere, to camp. The cool thing is you find a lot of camping groups and RV clubs who are all camping together down there. It really turns the town into a city and becomes a really cool event where the consumer can just have all kinds of great experiences relative to the RV aftermarket and products and product experts.”
King said that with the circus atmosphere, he won’t even try to go through the tent on opening weekend. When the gates open on the first day, people are lined up for a quarter-mile at each of the two main entrances to get in. “It fills that thing up,” he said. “It’s gridlock. Name me an RV event that’s going to have 150,000 people walk through.”
Add to that the Pow Wow rock and mineral show and the Tyson Wells Sell-A-Rama and Quartzsite becomes, as King said, the third-largest city in Arizona for a brief time.
Farish added, “If you’re an RVer, Quartzsite in January is on your bucket list.”