By Bradford Koshland, F313666
Hello from Cincinnati. As I write this month’s commentary for our June issue of FMC magazine, I reflect back on the past few months as to what our staff has accomplished since my arrival here in January. I can report that things are moving at a fast pace, and many good things are happening behind the scenes at FMCA with one main goal and mission, which is to move FMCA forward and make it a better and stronger association for years to come.
To accomplish this goal, we must hear from our membership as to what you like about FMCA and what we can do to make things better for FMCA members. This month our acting national president, Judy Czarsty, writes in her column about the structure of FMCA and how it works. It is a big association and, as such, sometimes things can get lost in an organization of this size. From my perspective as your new executive director and a member myself, it is the committees where ideas are brought forth, discussed, and researched before seeing if it is something that FMCA should be doing, not doing, or could do better. It is then written into a committee report that is presented to the Executive Board. The Executive Board then weighs all the facts presented and decides through a vote if the program is something viable and something they want staff to pursue and implement.
As your executive director, I sit in on all of these various committee meetings and am authorized to provide input to the chairperson. I, too, can be the voice of the membership as to ideas you might have to improve FMCA but don’t really know how to get that idea to be heard. When I arrived here in January, I asked that a suggestion e-mail box be created so that I could receive suggestions, ideas, and money-saving tips from our staff. This has proved to be something extremely beneficial by allowing our staff to come up with suggestions to help me move FMCA in a positive direction. We also have a group of staff that meets once a month in a group setting, which we call the “Just Think!” group. Many ideas are brought forth by this group forum and get channeled to the appropriate committees and ultimately on to the Executive Board. One recent example of this happening is how FMCA’s tagline “Enhancing the motorhome lifestyle” came forth.
We do, however, run out of ideas, and this is where I believe you, the member, can play a key role in helping to make FMCA the premier motor coach association and the envy of the RV community. I have decided to open up my suggestion e-mail box to all members of FMCA so that you may submit your ideas directly to me. Please know that I am not out to steal your idea and take credit for it myself. I will ensure that the committee knows who submitted the idea so that the proper credit is given to the member or members. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your executive director, and here is the e-mail address I refer to above: email@example.com. Let’s get the suggestions and ideas flowing.
Again this month, I have asked one of our directors to explain a part of the operations of FMCA here in Cincinnati. This month, Jerry Yeatts, the director of conventions and commercial services, will provide some insight about himself and how long he has been employed with FMCA. He also will provide an overview of the responsibilities with which his department is tasked; the main task being our international conventions. After reading his segment, I think that you will be impressed as to what work it takes to put together one of our international conventions. It is a daunting task, but he and his staff are always up to the challenge in making each convention a success. Much of the planning begins a year or two prior to the actual convention. For those members who have attended one of our international conventions, they are something we should all be extremely proud of. Well-planned, well-executed, and, through the use of many volunteers, very successful. For those members who have yet to attend an FMCA international convention, you do not know what you are missing out on. So, please consider attending, and I hope to see many first-timers at our next convention in Madison, Wisconsin. It is a beautiful area and facility, and I believe you will be impressed from the time you arrive until you depart.
Until then, from your 49 hard-working staff here in Cincinnati, may you have safe travels this summer wherever the road may take you.
FMCA Family Reunions:
Creating An Unconventional Convention
By Jerry Yeatts, F390000
Director Of Conventions & Commercial Services
As summer approaches, many of us are thinking about the trips we will be taking across the United States and Canada. These summer excursions may involve extensive planning, including mapping out the directions to your final destination; seeking locations along the way where you may take in some of the unique sights, smells, and tastes; possibly learning about any rules and regulations of campgrounds involving firewood, pets, or length of motorhome permitted. You may even want to see what entertainment options await you at your destination. Similarly, the FMCA Convention Department staff devotes countless hours doing the same thing in planning an international convention, now known as the FMCA Family Reunion & Motorhome Showcase.
Convention Department Staff
I am fortunate to work with an extremely enthusiastic, creative, and a little bit crazy staff. Since my arrival at FMCA in 1999, I have been impressed with the complete dedication of the convention staff in putting together these outstanding events. Prior to FMCA, I had worked with students on two different college campuses; promoted Cincinnati as a meeting destination for conventions; and helped to hire staff, create business opportunities, and perform preopening responsibilities for a hotel chain. From a member’s standpoint, the process of planning a convention may seem easy. From a meeting planner’s standpoint, it takes countless hours to complete all the details of an FMCA Family Reunion.
An FMCA Family Reunion requires nearly two years of planning. Many resources are used to locate convention sites that may accommodate these large events. Preliminary searches for sites may include reviewing the International Association of Fairs and Expositions (IAFE) directory. This valuable resource provides information on amount of exhibit space, total amount of acreage of the facility, and the dates of their annual fair. Minimally, FMCA Family Reunions require 100,000 square feet of indoor exhibit space; approximately 10 to 15 acres for motorhome exhibit space; 10 seminar rooms with capacities ranging from 30 people up to 1,000 people; a grandstand or coliseum that may accommodate between 7,500 and 10,000 people for evening entertainment; a location to accommodate approximately 900 volunteers for a dinner; a location for a youth program during the summer; a service center location; and multiple office spaces. In addition, 150 to 200 acres are needed to park families residing in their motorhomes during our Reunion; a smaller area of 10 acres that may serve as a holding area; vehicle parking for 600 exhibitors; and vehicle parking for the public. A facility may have plenty of space to park thousands of motorhomes but very little space for seminars or indoor exhibits. All aspects of the fairground are evaluated on paper to see whether they meet the minimum requirements for an FMCA event. Contact is then made with the facility regarding potential dates. A proposal may be requested and a site visit may be scheduled to further evaluate the site.
Putting It All Together
Once a site has been approved by the Governing Board, the Convention Committee, the national vice president for the host area, and the FMCA national office staff kick into high gear with planning the event. The host national area vice president is given the responsibility of recruiting between 800 and 1,000 volunteers to assist with various functions associated with the Family Reunion. Volunteers are recruited to perform security duties; act as seminar monitors; work with the FMCA (merchandise) Store; welcome members by distributing goody bags; maintain a safe environment for members and guests riding trams; offer a smile and a doughnut early in the morning; become a kid again by assisting the youth program; act a little crazy with our fun and games; or offer an ice cream treat during the ever-popular ice cream social.
A minimum of two visits are made to the site by a planning committee in order to begin putting all the pieces of this puzzle together. Every parking lot is measured by FMCA’s show decorator; entrances to the facility are identified for caravans, volunteers, handicapped, and exhibitors; routes are driven and designed for all groups in order to ease traffic congestion; exhibit space, meeting rooms, and the entertainment venue are determined; and meetings are scheduled with local law enforcement agencies, emergency medical personnel, hospital representatives, the department of transportation, as well as other service providers. All aspects of our event are discussed as we develop positive working relationships with those involved. Realizing we are guests of the city, our task is to put together an outstanding event for our members with minimal disruption of the local community. FMCA appreciates the cooperation of the communities involved in hosting this unique event.
An advance crew arrives at the convention site approximately one week prior to the beginning of the Family Reunion. They all implement the plan that has taken two years to develop. Parkers lay out the lots for parking families; tram crew members design the routes to maneuver around the grounds; safety and security crews survey the grounds to create a safe and enjoyable environment for our members and guests.
There are also a few details of the event that may be taken for granted by the normal convention attendee. Portable toilets, wheelchairs, coach-to-coach trash collection, aerial photography, mail services, honey wagon services, public address systems, and Wi-Fi networks are just a few of the more than a thousand items placed on the convention department’s job list.
Let Us Entertain You
What would any family reunion be like without the camaraderie associated with fun and games; entertainment; socializing with other families; and enjoying some family-oriented entertainment? Catch the aroma of 250 dozen freshly made doughnuts being delivered to coffee hour each morning, along with nearly 200 gallons of coffee and hot chocolate. Feel the hundreds of boxes of frozen ice cream novelties being served on a warm summer’s day. Hear the popcorn machine and see tables of candy bars offered complimentary to members as a seminar room is transformed into a movie theater one evening. Hear the cheers of “baseball teams” as members assemble for a game of beanbag baseball or yell, “Bingo!” as they win a game of card bingo. Settle in for evening entertainment programs, where wholesome, family-oriented entertainment is selected to satisfy almost everyone’s tastes, from country to comedy, and acrobatics to a cappella.
One of the reasons you probably own a motorhome is to give you the flexibility to explore and discover the beauty of an area. FMCA works with a local company in each host area to offer optional sight-seeing tours. Although you may choose to go out on your own and discover, many of the tours are designed to provide something unique that a normal visitor would not experience.
Safer Motorhoming Through Education
A key component of FMCA’s Family Reunions is to provide seminars and programs of interest to the membership. These seminars and programs are categorized as educational; technical; product specific; crafts; and fun, games, and exercise. At our last Family Reunion in Perry, Georgia, nearly 17,000 people attended 138 seminars covering 127 different topics. There were actually 32 brand-new seminars presented to members. The seminar presenters range from members who have experience, or at least a keen interest, in a specific topic to roundtable discussions with industry experts, as well as technical and educational seminars from seasoned professionals. While make-and-take craft classes are limited to approximately 30 people due to room size, individual instruction, and supplies, many of the technical and computer-related seminars attract several hundred people.
Come To Our Family Reunion In Madison, Wisconsin
Now that you know that all the planning has been done for you, pack up the motorhome, call all your friends, and make plans now to join us in Madison, Wisconsin, for FMCA’s 86th Family Reunion & Motorhome Showcase. This will be one of the more unique settings for an FMCA international event, with many families parked at Lake Farm Park. Picnic shelters, walking and bike paths, boat docks, a fishing pier, and spectacular sunrises and sunsets over Lake Waubesa are certain to create lasting memories of this great reunion of motorhome owners. Registration information may be found starting on page 48 of this issue.
The FMCA Web site “” FMCA.com “” contains additional information about tours, seminars, entertainment, and directions for the Family Reunion. Visit it often to get the most up-to-date information on all the plans being made for this exciting event.
We look forward to welcoming you to the next FMCA Family Reunion.
Effective January 1, 2011, FMCAssist replaced MEDEX as FMCA’s medical evacuation program. The initial carrier for FMCAssist was Travel Guard. Because of complications with Travel Guard covering our members in some states, effective April 1, 2011, On Call was contracted for this coverage. The emergency telephone number, 877-202-4176, will remain the same as before. New cards will be issued to that effect. Rest assured that no FMCA members were without coverage during this transition.