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A Case for Establishing/Embracing RV Centennial

December 21, 2009 by   - () Leave a Comment

RVIA_Centennial

Editor’s Note: The following editorial was written by Sherman Goldenberg, publisher of Woodall’s Campground Management and www.WOODALLSCM.COM.

We participated recently in a conference call with a bunch of industry people to address the upcoming “RV Centennial” and the opportunities that might exist for participating businesses if they take the time to tune into this off-the-wall idea.

Why off-the-wall? Well, it just seems rather arbitrary for the leadership of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) to have selected 2010 as the centennial year. I mean, there was no one day when inventors like aviation’s Orville or Wilbur Wright perfected the first working design or launched the first functional cruise in a primitive recreational vehicle for all the world to see – at least to our knowledge.

On the other hand, let’s take a practical look at this thing and RVIA’s relatively convincing argument for logically establishing 2010 as the year of the “RV Centennial.” In a recently released white paper, RVIA acknowledges that the roots of RVing are as old as pioneers and covered wagons. But 1910 is the year that America’s leading RV historians — David Woodworth, Al Hesselbart and Roger White — cite as the true beginning of this uniquely American industry.

“The first motorized campers were built in 1910,” says Woodworth, a former minister who represents RVIA as a media spokesperson. “Before then, people had private rail cars that were pulled to sidings along train routes. The year 1910 brought a new freedom to people who didn’t want to be limited by the rail system. RVs allowed them to go where they wanted, when they wanted.”

“Camping has been around for centuries, but 1910 is when the first auto-related camping vehicles were built for commercial sale,” agrees Hesselbart, archivist for the non-profit RV/MH Heritage Foundation Inc., which oversees an RV/MH Hall of Fame, museum and library in Elkhart, Ind.

Known as auto campers a century ago, these motorized vehicles were a forerunner of today’s modern motorhomes. “There were one-offs (individual units) being built prior to 1910,” says White, associate curator of the Division of Work and Industry for the Smithsonian Institution. “But 1910 is a good benchmark for the industry.”

OK, I guess we can live with that.

As you may know by now, RVIA’s current plan involves a website (www.RVCentennial.org) to promote and market the celebration plus a variety of centennial marketing collateral that can be used in advertising, signage, promotional materials or to create commemorative items such as hats and T-shirts plus logos, decals, website banner ads and high resolution images of antique units for use in promotional materials. There’s a social media outreach program, a caravan media tour and a high profile industry party slated for June 7 at the RV/MH Heritage Foundation’s facility on the Indiana Toll Road in Elkhart.

Anyway, here’s how we look it: History aside, it’s a great media distraction from a PR perspective to wash away some of the industry’s fatigue from the economic stress of the past two years as the RV sector’s prospects continue to improve. And without a doubt, it provides a bonafide, low-cost opportunity for the camping sector to entertain hordes of campers in 2010 weekend promotions. Fact is, from all we can tell, there’s no downside to this thing. So, check it out.

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