Winnebago Towables in Middlebury, Ind., hosted its first owner’s rally July 24-26 at Eby Pines RV & Campground in nearby Bristol. The event brought together leadership from the local towables operation, corporate representatives from Winnebago Industries, the company’s partner suppliers and Winnebago owners who all worked together on the last day to create exclusive Winnebago-themed literacy kits for Crossroads United Way.
Corporate Responsible Lead Allison Viets of Winnebago Industries flew in to represent the corporate office in Eden Prairie, Minn., and to take part in the charitable event.
“I’ve been with Winnebago more than a year and this is my first towable rally. We had our big RV rally in Forest City, Iowa, last week so it’s great to see the towables having one as well,” she told RVBusiness.
Viets said she wanted to be part of the volunteer portion. “It’ll be a great event. We try to incorporate some sort of community service event at all of our owners’ rallies,” she said.
Noelle Flora, product market specialist and Community Go Teams lead, shared the rally’s schedule of events. She said with the 54th annual “Camp Winnebago” – formerly known as the Grand National Rally – in Iowa last week, “Our facility wanted to piggyback from that and give owners a chance to see where the units are built and have a chance to get serviced.”
Twenty-five owners participated and attended a welcome dinner with Winnebago leadership Monday evening where they had the chance to have their questions answered and an opportunity to get to know one another. On Tuesday, they started the day with Rise n’ Roll donuts and coffee – “So they could have the ‘Amish crack’ experience,” Flora said – then they got on a tour bus to the RV Hall of Fame in Elkhart, where they also saw the vintage travel trailer on lease from Winnebago. They had lunch at State and Main in Middlebury, sponsored by BAL RV Products and Norco Industries management from those companies joined the owners for lunch and then they sent out a service truck to the campground.
Flora said they also took the owners on a factory tour. Product & Development Manager Grant Smith and General Manager Adam Christoffersen led them on an in-depth start-to-finish tour of manufacturing and fielded questions at each process. The owners all went to dinner together at Das Dutchmen Essenhaus.
On Wednesday, they had an “Explore the Community” day and suggested places to visit like the Elkhart County 4H Fair and Shipshewana Flea Market. A representative from Dexter then gave a seminar, followed by the Community Go event of putting together literacy kits for United Way with Winnebago leadership, employees, suppliers and owners working together.
Flora said the owners were “super excited about the ‘pen pal’ aspect — it’s a nice way to give back to the community we all live and play in.”
After the event, dinner was sponsored by Crane Composites followed by another chance for owners to visit with leadership of Winnebago and suppliers. River Park sponsored a S’mores goodbye campfire to end the night. Flora said a few owners were sticking around to explore more of the area.
National Sales Manager of Crane Composites Nancy Rapp said they’re a supplier partner with Winnebago Industries and Winnebago Towables. “We consider them a valuable partner and we feel honored to participate with the owner’s rally. Anything we can do to help.”
Read United Literacy Kits
Director of Community Engagement & Volunteerism Jill Yoder of Crossroads United Way, which serves Elkhart, Lagrange and Noble Counties, said they’d be putting together 107 “Winnebago exclusive Explore Reading Literacy Carrying Cases.”
Items in the kits include a Flat Stanley Goes Camping book and a Flat Stanley cut out, Winnebago Water bottle, Winnebago coloring book, an adventure journal, word find, two question dice, a box of crayons, scissors, pencil, stickers and a note of encouragement. Volunteers would be encouraged to decorate the box’s lids. The kits will be going to Bristol Elementary School first- and second-grade classrooms. They’ll also be creating pen pals with the owners and the students, and the owners will be able to post photos of their travels.
Owner Debra Knight was enjoying the rally. She said she loved the social aspect of it and shared the owners had an open house where they visited each other’s units and got decorating ideas and more. She admitted her husband was probably enjoying the technical education. She mentioned the tours and all the meals provided and said, “To balance that out with the community service aspect gives insight into them as a respectable company that really does care.”
Winnebago Towables Senior General Manager Adam Christoffersen and Vice President of Towables Joel Eberlein shared how the rally came about.
Christoffersen said they have a Facebook group called WIT Tows with owners and “a member reached out and asked if they did a poll and got enough interest would we host and help support a rally. Anytime we can connect with owners we welcome that opportunity.”
He said they planned it a week after the rally in Iowa so that those traveling back east could stop here for a few days and it would also be an opportunity for those owners who didn’t make the company-wide rally.
“This was a good opportunity to connect with them on a more personal level and it was also an opportunity to showcase the Elkhart area,” he said.
He added, “Multiple owners shared how great it was for them to connect directly with suppliers and to end the week with owners, suppliers all giving back to the local community’s United Way is pretty neat to see.”
Eberlein mentioned they’ve rebranded the Grand National Rally to “Camp Winnebago”.
He added, “For this evening to close this week in this way — doing community service really — encompasses what Winnebago is all about. Community service is a big part of what Winnebago is all about and having our owners be a part of that is pretty tremendous for us.”