Dealers, Campgrounds Part Of Fort Wayne Show (2/6/2019)

Story by Ben Quiggle

2019 Fort Wayne Show

The 2019 Fort Wayne RV & Camping Show saw strong attendance after the weather warmed up. 

A Polar Vortex in northern Indiana kept many people inside at the end of January, with wind chills hitting 40-below zero. However, as the calendar flipped to February, so did the weather, with an almost 60-degree difference occurring over a two-day period, as temperatures sat at the 50-degree mark on Saturday (Feb. 2).

The quick turnaround benefitted the 2019 Fort Wayne RV & Camping Show, according to Matt Rose, director of RVs for the Indiana Manufactured Housing Association/Recreation Vehicle Indiana Council (IMHA/RVIC), which ran from Jan. 31-Feb. 3 at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, Ind.

“Overall, the show went really well for us,” he noted to Woodall’s Campground Management (WCM). “Our ticket numbers were down this year compared to last year, and even compared to the last three years, but some of those years were record breaking years.”

Rose explained that dealers at the event recorded strong sales figures after the show.

“The show had a very upbeat atmosphere,” he said. “One of the things I noticed this year was that we had a noticeably younger crowd. That is something that has been growing the last few years, but I really noticed it this year.”

Lyn Knott, co-owner of Fort Wayne-based Knotts RV Center, told WCM on Saturday that once the weather improved people started coming out in droves.

“The attendance has quadrupled compared to the last few days,” she said, noting that there seemed to be more buyers this year.

Knotts didn’t seemed worried about the recent decrease in RV shipment numbers to dealers.

“If you have a good product and you are good to people, then you are going to be fine,” she explained.

Paul Coplen, owner of another Fort Wayne-based dealership, Coplen’s Coleman Camper Center, told WCM that he definitely noticed an upbeat crowd at the show on Saturday.

“A lot of the people who attend these types of shows already own an RV and are just looking at what’s new or different,” he explained. “But there are also some first timers that we have spoke with.”

Coplen said he tries to stress the fact that his dealership also rents RVs, something that allows customers to try out a unit before they purchase it.

“It is a big decision, so we tell people instead of plunking $20,000 on a unit right away, why don’t they try it out first,” he noted.

On the consumer side, Coplen noted that the recent downturn in RV shipment numbers hasn’t impacted his dealership.

“I'd say that there's still definitely a lot of interest at this point,” he explained. “There are always those variables that get into play, but as a general rule, for the 42 years we've been in business, people always want to get out and enjoy the outdoors one way or the another.”

Besides just RV dealers that were present, there was also representation from area campgrounds and campground associations, including the Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds of Michigan (ARVC Michigan).

Jamie Wilfinger, a volunteer for ARVC Michigan and owner of Greenwood Acres in Jackson Mich., was manning the association’s booth at the show. She said that the show provides valuable exposure to their member parks.

“A lot of the clientele to our parks are people that are coming from out of state,” she noted. “So, for our members to have their brochures up at the show, it helps draw attention to what they have to offer.”

Wilfinger also explained that their booth is staffed by individuals that have a lot of experience in Michigan’s campground sector, so they are also able to answer questions people may have about particular parks.

At another booth David Lenick was touting the Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resort in Pierceton, Ind. Lenick is a board member of the camper-owned park that has been with the Jellystone Park system for 50 years.

“The Jellystone brand helps draw people into the park,” he explained. “But coming to a show like this helps us push our amenities and gets our name in front of people who are actively seeking outdoor experiences.”

He said that the show’s attendance on Saturday was the best he had seen in 10 years.

"People are looking for ways to get outdoors and we offer them a chance to do so in a family-fun environment," he noted. 

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