RV Centennial Recognized
A crowd estimated at more than 1,000 gathered at the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum in Elkhart, Indiana, on June 7 to mark the 100th anniversary of the RV industry at the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) RV Centennial Celebration.
The event, officially themed “1910-2010: An American Journey Continues,” treated RV industry workers, executives, suppliers, dealers, and others to a fun-filled festival, reception, and barbecue outdoors on the museum grounds. The event also featured a multifaceted indoor program that included a salute to the RV industry’s history and its workers.
In addition to touring the indoor museum collections and antique RVs parked outdoors, attendees had the opportunity to peruse official proclamations from a number of states designating June as RV Centennial Month.
The hour-long RV Centennial presentation held inside the museum began with a live performance of a song titled “Drive! Drive!” sung to the tune of “American Pie.” The presentation also included a video documenting the travels of Centennial Charlie, a 34-inch American black bear stuffed animal that has served as the centennial’s official mascot. The video depicted his stops at various venues, including FMCA’s Albuquerque, New Mexico, convention this past March.
The audience particularly enjoyed a segment titled “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Our Centennial,” which showcased amusing media coverage of the RV industry over the years, including film clips from movies such as The Long, Long Trailer, starring Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball.
During the indoor presentation, RVIA president Richard Coon introduced a video segment of RV workers who explained why they enjoy being part of the RV industry, and industry executives who expressed gratitude for the employees’ years of service. Mr. Coon then asked all RV production workers in attendance to stand and be recognized. He unveiled a plaque honoring the commitment of the “dedicated men and women who help build products that allow families to travel freely and affordably.” The plaque will remain on permanent display at the museum along with a group photo of the production workers who attended the celebration.
“The RV industry is alive, it’s well, and it’s a survivor, and it’s going to go on for another 100 years, just like it did over the last 100,” commented Elkhart Mayor Dick Moore, a special guest at the celebration.
Guests attending the RV Centennial Celebration were among the first to see FMCA’s new permanent display at the museum, which chronicles the association’s history with a timeline and story, along with a selection of photos from the FMCA archives. FMCA’s display is located in the Boots Ingram Hall, which houses the David Woodworth historic RV collection.
RV Officials Participate In Chinese Forum
Four RV industry representatives were invited to address media and government officials in China regarding the country’s plans to establish a viable RV industry. The forum took place during the third annual Hangzhou China Outdoor Lifestyle Show, March 4 through 7, in Hangzhou, the capital city of Zhejiang province.
The group included Joe Laing of El Monte RV, one of the world’s largest motorhome rental companies; Bob McKinnon of McKinnon RV Consulting, a designer and developer of campgrounds throughout North America and Australia; Wolfgang Bock of Deutsche Reissemobil, a German RV rental firm; and Al Hesselbart, historian for the RV/MH Hall of Fame, who reported on the evolution of the American RV lifestyle and its place in today’s American culture. The international group was hosted by N-Tours International, a tour promotion firm based in Beijing.
According to Mr. Hesselbart, China’s current camping population is composed primarily of tent campers; thus, existing campgrounds are oriented toward tent camping. While the Chinese have the technology to build recreation vehicles, there are fewer than 50 RV campgrounds currently in existence throughout the country and no network of RV retailers, support businesses, or publications.
This year marked the first time Chinese RV manufacturers were given space in the Hangzhou show, the largest outdoor lifestyle show in Asia. The companies exhibited several small motorhomes based on Sprinter chassis, which are made by Mercedes-Benz in China. A couple of 35-foot Type A motorhomes with slideouts were exhibited by Chinese highway bus manufacturer King Long Coach.
Mr. Hesselbart noted that the Chinese government plans to develop 800 RV campgrounds within the next five years related to its many national parks and other attractions. According to Chinese officials, the local RV lifestyle initially will be based on rental, not ownership, of private rigs. Although they discussed establishing a market for small towable RVs, the first stage of development would focus on small motorhomes.
The group witnessed “a dramatic enthusiasm” to develop an RV lifestyle in China, a country in which the population is largely uninformed about the possibilities of self-contained travel for recreation or for business, Mr. Hesselbart said.