Full-timers. Part-timers. Class 'A'. Towables. Toy Haulers. Monaco. Country Coach. Winnebago. Airstream. What is it? It's 'The Rally'.
Close to four thousand RV's of all shapes and sizes and nearly 10,000 people living right now at the Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center in Redmond, Oregon. The largest RV 'rally' or gathering in North America, and maybe the world. The Rally is a once a year event that brings folks living the RV lifestyle together from across the U.S., all 50 states. It's hosted by Affinity Group Inc., a company that caters to the RV industry and community. This the 7th year.
It also brings the RV business together in one spot. These RVers are here in Redmond not only to exchange stories, hellos and have a good time, but they're also here to buy. Dropping upwards of 9 million dollars directly into the Central Oregon economy. They also open their wallets to purchase new equipment and full-sized RV's. Nearly 30 million dollars will change hands under these blue and white Oregon skies before the weekend is over.
A multi-billion dollar industry, RV manufacturers are coming off the two best years in history. 2007 is slower. But it's only slower at varies price points, not across the board. Those big Class 'A' 'motor coaches', dependent on low interest rates, are suffering a bit like the housing industry. Hey, after all, they ARE classified as 'second homes'. Anything that has full sized home appliances and costs $450,000 dollars should be.
But the 'towables' and the 'toy haulers' are a very good place to be right now. Lower priced, able to be pulled by conventional vehicles, and appealing to a younger 'demographic', they are moving well here at 'The Rally'. And as for the ever rising price of fuel, diesels are one answer, they're selling better than the gas pushers. And longer stays in one spot, and shorter trips are the other two responses. Not once do you hear--'We just wont' go this year.' 'Go' is what these folks do.
But it's more than a big showroom and sales tent. It's a small American town on wheels. There's entertainment. Can you beat Big Bad Voodoo Daddy? There are events for kids and dogs--the Canine Swim Suit Contest. There's wine tasting, both official, and every night under the awnings of thousands of RVs.
More importantly, there is camaraderie, and community. An English journalist is here. He happens to be writing a book about 'full timers', those folks who never go 'home' because they never leave, it's right there under them. They move from town to town, place to place. Why write the book? Because he said with a quizzical look: "This is America isn't it mate? People getting together to share their time and their passion." It is mate, it is. It's a good place to spend the weekend.
"Mike On America" crosses the country to Washington D.C. early next week. Until then, pull up a chair and a cold one, let's talk at 'The Rally.'
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