ELKHART — While hotels and restaurants in Elkhart County get a big boost from Notre Dame home football games, there’s something even bigger coming: Elkhart RV Open House Week.
The event, in its sixth year, will be Monday through Thursday, Sept. 16-19, centered largely along C.R. 6 northeast of Elkhart as RV manufacturers and suppliers show off their wares to thousands of RV dealers.
“Elkhart will be invaded by dealers from all over the country and Canada,” said Randy Fish, who does marketing in the RV industry and has been around the industry for decades.
B.J. Thompson of Elkhart said, “From what I understand, it’s going to be bigger than ever” with Elkhart’s population increasing by 8 percent while the dealers are in town.
Diana Lawson of the Elkhart County Convention and Visitors Bureau said, “it’s not only the tourism industry, it affects absolutely the entire community when this event happens.
“Quite simply, this event is the largest event that we have in this county in terms of filling hotel rooms and the impact that it has on the hotels, the restaurants. Almost everything that we have to offer here is consumed,” from catering to disc jockeys.
Since Forest River started the event in 2008, it has grown into an “amazing” event, Lawson said. “To simply state the enormity of what this event is to Elkhart County, it’s better than the best Notre Dame home game that we’ve ever had,” she said. “The demand on our restaurants and catering facilities is enormous.”
Even better, it falls in the middle of the week. “This is a gift because not only is it great business, it’s great business that allows them to continue on with their every-weekend obligations. It doesn’t interfere.”
There aren’t any hotel rooms available in Elkhart County during the event. Thor Industries reserved large blocks of rooms for dealers, and those were sold out weeks ago. Forest River is putting people up as far away as LaPorte. Lawson said, “You’re not going to find any rooms. “
With the continuing growth, Lawson said, “It feels to me like this is the year that we reach our capacity to service, and it starts going out into the other counties. We’re thrilled with that.
“This is the best of the best. It couldn’t get better.”
OTHER RV TOURISM
Though the open house may be the biggest RV-related event in the county, it’s by no means the only one.
Between RV rallies at the fairgrounds and the campgrounds, the Midwest RV Super Show and visitors to the RV/MH Hall of Fame, the industry brings in a lot of people to the Elkhart County area. At the convention and visitors bureau office, they frequently get RV tourists asking about things to see, Lawson said.
“In general it is one of the primary sectors of visitors that we service and attract to this area. The campgrounds do a number of rallies as well throughout the year. ... The fairgrounds has regular very large rallies.
“In addition to that there’s this other segment. We also regularly have visitors who are coming with or without their RV and they are shopping for and going to the manufacturers to do tours and seeing which they are interested in, or are coming to have their RVs repaired,” Lawson said.
“It is a major piece of what we have in this county, and we’re very fortunate to have it,” Lawson said. Not only for employment, “but also that it does bring a number of people in who area interested in RVs. It’s kind of like the mecca for RVs. If you love RVs, why wouldn’t you want to come to Elkhart County?”