After canceling the 2020 convention because of the COVID-19 outbreak, FMCA once again looks forward to RVing fun under the Tucson sun.
By Doug Uhlenbrock, Director Of Events
Nearly two years have passed since excitement for FMCA’s 2020 International Convention & RV Expo in Tucson, Arizona, was extinguished when the COVID-19 pandemic turned the world on its head. Fast forward to 2022. “Sunsets + Saguaros” is back, and the anticipation for this renewed version of FMCA’s spring event is burning bright. RVers are eager to connect with old friends and make new ones; learn more about the RVing lifestyle; shop for items large and small; and enjoy all that an FMCA convention has to offer.
The “Sunsets + Saguaros” international convention, FMCA’s 104th iteration, will take place March 23 through 26, 2022, at the Pima County Fairgrounds in Tucson. The facility is conveniently located just a few miles off Interstate 10, about 20 miles southeast of downtown.
This will be FMCA’s second convention in Tucson. The first, also at the Pima County Fairgrounds, occurred in March 1985, drawing more than 3,300 RVs to the “Desert Celebration” event. [Hint: This might be good information to remember should you enjoy our trivia challenges.]
Prior to the actual convention, the FMCA Academy will present a pair of educational courses for interested RVers. The first is the RV Driving program, consisting of both Driving and Backing classes. These sessions, led by RV Driving School instructors, involve classroom and behind-the-wheel training in your vehicle to help you learn how to maneuver your RV safely and with more confidence. For additional information about this program, visit www.fmca.com/rv-driving-school. Seats are limited, so call (800) 543-3622 to register and get scheduled.
The second preconvention learning opportunity is the RV Basics program, designed for those new to the lifestyle or more experienced folks in need of a refresher course on the rudiments of RVing. The 2½-day presentation will cover the major RV systems, along with safety, driving/towing, preflight, and boondocking topics, providing students a well-rounded overview of RVing in the 21st century. To find out more about the RV Basics course, visit www.fmca.com/academy. To sign up, call (800) 543-3622 or register online at the web address listed above.
What To See, What To Do
The “Sunsets + Saguaros” convention will be filled with many familiar traditions from conventions past, but it also will include some new activities and events that are sure to catch your eye.
On Tuesday, March 22, first-timers and those who may be new to the Pima County Fairgrounds can receive guided tours of the grounds — we like to call them walkabouts — from FMCA Mentors beginning at 11:00 a.m. Then at 3:00 p.m., first-timers can find out how to navigate their maiden convention voyage during the First-Timer’s Orientation at the Main Stage. This will be followed by the Blue Ox Chapter Fair, where attendees can find out more about participating FMCA chapters. New this year is the Chapter Fair Champs contest, which will determine which chapter presented the best, most eye-catching setup in the room. That group will be named Tucson Chapter Champs and receive a special award for their efforts.
Later that evening, attendees will have a couple of options to keep themselves entertained prior to the official opening of the event the next day. Card Bingo will take place inside Thurber Hall with plenty of fun and prizes, while outside at the Cummins Town Center Stage, the Rock Bottom Boys will perform a variety of popular songs turned and twisted into bluegrass tunes.
Beginning Wednesday morning, FMCA’s renowned seminar program will get underway at 9:00. The in-person learning opportunities at an FMCA convention are unmatched. Nearly every facet of the RVing lifestyle is covered, with topics ranging from major RV operating systems to how to create a “Sunsets + Saguaros” coffee mug. Cleaning, LED lighting, towing, travel opportunities, insurance . . . the list goes on and on. Also included are special sessions about various FMCA benefits, so you can discover how to get the most out of your membership.
At noon Wednesday, join Dave & Daphne at the Cummins Town Center Stage as they help kick off the convention with a rousing country music performance to get folks ready and rarin’ for the RV Expo Grand Opening at 1:00 p.m.
Inside the Old Pueblo Conference and Event Center, attendees will have access to hundreds of companies with just about every type of RV product on display. Parts and pieces, clothing, guided tours, services, knickknacks, and much more will be available for purchase. You also can chat with industry experts about your specific needs or situations to get advice directly from the folks who make and maintain many of the RVing necessities you use on a regular basis.
Outside the exhibit hall, under azure Arizona skies, RV dealers and manufacturers will have hundreds of RVs arranged for you to casually peruse or more thoroughly inspect for possible purchase. From small to large, travel trailer to Type A, reps will have something for every taste. Who knows; you may end up kicking the tires on your future home on wheels.
Fun, Fun, Fun, ’Til . . .
While the serious side of learning, looking, and purchasing takes place inside the classrooms and exhibit areas, don’t forget to make time for fun. Trust me; there will be plenty of chances for you to laugh, sing, and dance during the “Sunsets + Saguaros” event, beginning on Wednesday night with the Southwest Surfers on the Main Stage. Considered the premier Beach Boys tribute group in Arizona, the band also performs a variety of number-one oldies hits that will have you singing and swaying to the sounds.
The next morning, skedaddle over to the FMCA Town Center for Roadmaster Coffee Hour, with musical accompaniment provided by the Frustrated Maestros. Enjoy a sip of java, some tasty doughnuts, and songs from FMCA’s magical musicians to get your day started. Then make sure to come back Friday and Saturday for encores of this convention tradition.
There will be plenty to keep you smiling throughout the event, most taking place at the Cummins Town Center Stage, including “mentallusionist” Rod Robison on Thursday afternoon. Those into throwing things will want to participate in the Bean Bag Toss competition on Thursday and the Try To Stay Dry Water Balloon Toss on Saturday. Thanks to Demco-Dethmers for helping to promote the Fun & Games during the convention.
Another competition for gents proud of their fine facial fur is the Mr. Whiskers contest. This will take place on Friday at the Cummins Town Center Stage during another longstanding convention tradition, the Miller Insurance Ice Cream Social. Other fun activities include the Ladies’ Luncheon on Thursday; the FMCA Trivia Challenge Thursday through Saturday; and activities that will be announced closer to show time.
On Thursday evening, participating FMCA chapters will welcome revelers to their parking areas for the Chapter Block Parties that will be scattered throughout the grounds. These parking lot gatherings will give current chapter members the chance to show prospects how they have fun during rallies or other social events. Chapters will hand out invitations to their block parties during the Blue Ox Chapter Fair and other social gatherings leading up to the 5:00 p.m. block party kickoff.
If you won’t be attending the block parties, grab some popcorn and a drink and enjoy the comedy Three Amigos starring Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, and Martin Short, which will be shown at 6:00 p.m. in Seminar 1 in the Old Pueblo Conference and Event Center.
Enjoy a good crime story? Then you will be interested in the “Sunsets + Saguaros” Supersized Book Club as FMCA welcomes Isabella Maldonado to talk about her book A Different Dawn on Friday afternoon. Isabella is a former police officer turned author who uses her experience to bring a realistic edge to her writing. Read the book ahead of time and bring your questions.
On Friday evening, welcome FMCA member and country artist Cale Moon to the Main Stage for a terrific night of country classics along with some of his original music, thanks to Fantasy RV Tours. On Saturday night, put on your dancing shoes as The Big Zephyr will have you grooving to rock standards you know and love.
If the featured entertainment isn’t enough fun for one night, saunter over to the Cantina for “Last Call With Lamar” on Wednesday and Friday nights, and “Karaoke With A Keck” on Thursday and Saturday nights. Music master Lamar Keck will spin your favorite songs to dance and sing to while you wind down another great day in Tucson.
Through the years, FMCA has made a point to leave something behind in the communities we visit. The On-Road Quilters have made quilt and blanket donations to deserving groups, and recently we began our Magic Mile Walk/Run to collect money to assist a designated event charity. At this convention, we’ll add something new to our fundraising effort: a silent auction.
Chapters, areas, exhibitors, and individuals are encouraged to put together a basket, box, or bag filled with all sorts of great things for the silent auction. Items might include products for the RV, packaged food and drink, gift cards, FMCA logo clothing, etc. Interested attendees will bid on items throughout the event, and once the auction closes on Friday at 5:00 p.m., those with winning bids will be contacted to pick up and pay for the item.
Before featured entertainment on Saturday night, the proceeds from the auction, along with money raised during the Magic Mile, will be presented to the designated charity. For this convention, that group is Casa de Los Ninos, which aids needy children and families in the Tucson area. Plus, the entity whose donation raised the most money will be recognized and receive a special award. It will be an excellent way to conclude what promises to be an exciting and fun-filled convention.
If you haven’t registered for the “Sunsets + Saguaros” convention, what better time than now? Plenty of camping sites are available, including parking with 30-amp and 50-amp electricity. Or you can opt for a full Passport registration, which gives you access to all activities but does not include RV parking. Perhaps you just want to come for a day or two. No problem, as Daily Passports (full access) are available at the Public Gate, along with Day Passes (RV exhibits and displays only). For more information about the event or to register, visit FMCA.com or call (800) 543-3622.
We hope to see you in Tucson for “Sunsets + Saguaros,” Take Two!