The 50th Annual Grand National Rally of the Winnebago International Travelers (WIT) Club attracted a total of 900 motorhomes and travel trailers to the company’s Forest City, Iowa, manufacturing headquarters from July 22-27.
The landmark gathering of Winnebago brand owners booked similar numbers to the last two years according to Sam Jefson, public relations specialist for the company with a wide array of activities, music and events scheduled for its owners. He reported that the the rally has grown so popular over the years that the company created a dedicated park space at the Forest City location.
“This week for our 50-year Grand National Rally in Forest City we had a lot of great events — seminars, factory tours, and entertainment at night. And for the most part it was a beautiful weather week,” he said on last day of the rally. “The presence from our Winnebago Towable Club (WIT TOW) on site is growing as well with a number of travel trailers and fifth-wheels on-site.”
Jefson stated that Winnebago packs the schedule full for its members with educational product seminars, vendor exhibits, craft and hobby classes, and row competitions. In addition, the event features a 2020 Winnebago product preview, service at the Winnebago customer service facility along with nightly dinners and entertainment.
“We had Stephanie Quayle, country western singer, kick things off the first night,” said Jefson. Quayle, famous for her song “Winnebago,” has become a favorite at the gathering, performing the last several few years.
As one of the largest employers in the region, Winnebago Industries has dedicated Tuesday nights at the rally as “Community Night” since “Northern Iowa has been so supportive of the Grand National Rally and the company over the years,” according to Jefson.
“We invite everybody in the community to come out and celebrate here with us,” he added. “So we had a group called ‘Home Free’ entertain that night. It’s a an a capella-country group that was featured on the NBC show The Sing-Off.”
The grand finale night featured Chris Kroeze, singer and songwriter, and runnerup on the season of the NBC’s show, the Voice.
Chad Reese, marketing manger for the company, told RVBUSINESS.com that with the strong reception for Winnebago’s 2020 products, the company instituted a significant change in the motorhome mix at the rally.
“The reaction to the new motorized and towable products this year was very positive,” stated Reese. “We had quite a bit of member excitement about 2020. The growing Class B owners are especially enthused. The volume of Class B attendance was just tremendous, more than double over last year. It’s still a pretty robust segment out there now and is reflected in the attendance at the rally with about 300 here.”
Both Jefson and Reese pointed out that the Winnebago company culture is inclusive of acts of charity and the annual rally is no exception.
“We participate in nonprofit work here,” said Jefson. “There is a shed-build in partnership with a group that is very active called the RV Care-A-Vanners. They work with Habitat for Humanity to build simple shelters around the country, especially in times of disasters and things like that. They are just a great part of our club.”
“We also had strong representation from our owners for our food drive,” added Reese. “They were raising food donations for some area food banks. And our friends from the Nerissa Cannon Foundation also came and did a seminar on RV accessibility for everyone. We had a campaign earlier this summer with Nerissa Cannon who took one of our accessibility enhanced coaches from Forest City to the ‘No Barriers Summit’ in Lake Tahoe, Calif.”
Winnebago Industries’ donations and promotional programs with the The National Park Foundation were also highlighted at the rally.
“There was a big gift for all our owners,” said Jefson. “Everyone received an annual pass to the National Park System. A lot of our owners say one of the reasons they have an RV is to travel to our national parks, so it really fits in well.”