By R.G. Wilson, F21025
National Senior Vice President; Convention and Rally Committee Chairman
By the time you read this, FMCA’s 27th annual winter international convention in Perry, Georgia, will be history. I hope all who attended had a very enjoyable time. This was the third convention FMCA has held at the Georgia National Fairgrounds & Agricenter. Most of us involved in convention planning believe that this facility meets FMCA’s needs better than any other convention site available.
As you might expect, much work goes into the planning and preparation of FMCA conventions. We have nine employees in the Commercial Services/Convention Department at the Cincinnati national office. They work for months and even years in advance of each convention to make sure it will succeed. Immediately before and during the event, hundreds of FMCA member volunteers also work long hours to make it successful.
The Convention and Rally Committee is made up of national officers and FMCA members appointed by the national president. They make recommendations and decisions and also assist the Cincinnati staff and the volunteers with the overall responsibilities and duties related to the convention. Members of this committee also work with Jerry Yeatts, director of the Commercial Services/Convention Department, to scout and seek out possible future convention locations. We are also continually seeking ways to improve our seminars, entertainment, and exhibits.
As chairman of the committee, I am concerned with convention costs and have been investigating ways to reduce expenses without impacting the quality of our conventions. I can see progress being made in several areas. For example, negotiating the cost of trams and golf carts used to transport people is a challenge on which we are working.
Perhaps most of the concerns brought to our attention relate to the family parking area at our conventions, and solving problems in this area is one of our biggest challenges. We have a very dedicated group called the Parking Layout Crew, headed by Charlie Painter, F23514, who also is on the Convention and Rally Committee. The Parking Layout Crew does a superb job in some very difficult conditions and locations. Alertness and patience are required by this group to get individual members, caravans, and handicapped members parked safely and comfortably. Members of the Parking Layout Crew live in all areas of North America; however, we try to utilize the members closest to where the convention is being held.
Many requests have been made to offer electricity to our family members while they are parked at the convention. We negotiated a contract a few months back to provide this service in Perry to those who want it and are willing to pay extra for it. Our per-coach cost for this service, which was higher than we expected, was passed on to the members who requested the service. We will continue to explore alternatives for furnishing electricity to family members. We also will continue to monitor the costs that our commercial members are required to pay in order to exhibit and sell their products at our conventions. We must realize that our success depends on their success.
FMCA’s next big event is being called “FMCA’s 68th Premier International Motorhome Extravaganza.” Yes, this name is a mouthful, but we feel a name such as this is appropriate to express the size of our conventions. This event will take place October 1, 2, and 3 at the Kansas State Fairgrounds in Hutchinson, Kansas. A new concept for the positioning of activities will be put in place in Hutchinson. All 500 indoor exhibitor booths will be located in four beautiful, air-conditioned buildings on the western edge of the grounds. The outdoor exhibitors will be located in one large, central area on the east side of the fairgrounds. Handicapped members and volunteers will be parked in the traditional midway area of the fairgrounds, so they will have easy access to both exhibit areas and to evening entertainment.
An abundance of good buildings are available for the many seminars that will be scheduled in Hutchinson. Tents will not be used or needed. We believe that this facility and the layout we have planned will permit very good routing of trams and handling of the large number of people we are expecting. We again will be offering electricity to family members who request it and are willing to pay the actual cost that the provider charges to us. In October, however, the Midwest typically offers very pleasant weather conditions, so you should not need to run your motorhome’s air conditioner. I am very excited about having this fall gathering in Hutchinson. I think you will be pleasantly surprised. You should make plans now to attend.
Contracts have been signed for facilities for both 2003 international events. We will be at the Fairplex in Pomona, California, March 21, 22, and 23, 2003, for our first extravaganza of the year. We have had very successful conventions there before. We will be at the Erie County Fairgrounds in Buffalo, New York, July 18, 19, and 20, 2003. This will be the first time FMCA has had an international event in this location. We believe it will be a very popular location for our members because of its proximity to Niagara Falls and to Canada. It will be an outstanding place to celebrate our 70th consecutive international event as well as FMCA’s 40th anniversary.
The Convention and Rally Committee solicits your suggestions for future FMCA convention sites. We also want your ideas regarding how to improve our convention activities. These events provide an opportunity for education, fellowship, fun, and unity for you, our members. It is encouraging to see you participate in this great member benefit. See you in Hutchinson in October.