Whether you want to travel with all the conveniences of home for a safe weekend getaway, explore the entire country at your own pace, attend your children’s out-of-state sports games, or travel the country while working from home, you’ll want to attend the 61st annual Fort Wayne RV & Camping Show.
The event will take place Feb. 3-5 from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Feb. 6 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, 4000 Parnell Ave.
Matt Rose, Director of Recreation Vehicles for the Recreation Vehicle Indiana Council, says people can view the smallest tear-shaped camper to the largest Class A diesel motorhome, and more.
“The show is a great place to explore and shop for a new RV from any of the nine dealers represented, talk to representatives from area campgrounds, learn about accessories and ask questions,” he says.
Whether you’re a first-time buyer or want to get a new RV because your needs have changed, the show will be the place to see new models, floor plans and features, he says.
The show is returning after a year-long hiatus because of COVID-19 restrictions, and the pandemic has only increased RV sales.
“RV-ing is the original form of social distancing,” Rose observes. “Many American vacationers have changed the way they travel and vacation because owning an RV gives them a safe space with great flexibility. And instead of flying over places, you can stop and see the sights.”
According to the RV Industry Association, 25 million Americans use RVs each year to camp, hike, boat, fish or just to relax in nature. They generate $114 billion for the national economy, with $32.4 billion of that money generated in Indiana alone.
More than 600,000 RVs were sold to dealers in 2021 and that number is expected to increase this year. Previously, 2017 was a record year, with 504,000 units sold.
“Elkhart County in Indiana is the RV capital of the world,” says Rose. “More than 80 percent of all RVs are built in Indiana. The state has about 50 dealerships that employ more than 126,000 people.”
Chris Sallows of Angola, Ind., has been an RV owner for more than 10 years and upgraded a few years ago to a 2016 Keystone Bullet 272.
He says RVing is like a “home away from home” and is an easier and more economical way to travel, without all the hassles of catching planes, booking hotel rooms and renting cars.
“You have all your own stuff with you and you can do what you want, when you want, at your own pace and plan your own schedule,” he says.
He was introduced to camping by his wife, Janine, whose parents were lifelong campers. The couple’s two children, Jada, 22, and Addison, 14, have grown up camping with their parents in a variety of places.
“Both my kids love camping and hiking because they’ve grown up with it. I believe they have a greater appreciation for the natural world because they’ve had so many opportunities to explore it,” he says.
Chris and Janine both work full-time, so they do many weekend getaways, sometimes very spontaneously, and take longer trips once or twice a year, mostly in the Midwest. When they retire, they’ll travel to parts of the country they haven’t yet seen and stay for weeks at a time, says Chris.
They’re not alone.
RV ownership has steadily increased in the past few decades, with ownership skyrocketing 62 percent in the past 20 years among people of all ages, races and socio-economic backgrounds.
“People used to look at RV-ing as a pastime for older people and retirees, but that’s been changing in recent years,” says Rose. “A few years ago, the average RV owner was 49 years old. That number has dropped to 45, and we expect it to keep dropping. What’s driving RV sales right now is younger buyers with families.
“People are looking for a safe and convenient way to get away from it all, while spending time with the family in nature.” ❚