You may have heard that the Hershey Show is the largest show in the country, but don't believe it. I haven't been to the Hershey show (my wife has), but I know that even though they have a lot of RVs, their attendance is less than Tampa's. And the Tampa show has more exhibitors and covers a lot of ground. Ask people who have been to both and you'll hear that the Tampa show is the biggest and best show in the nation.
Since we just bought our RV, we wanted to go to the show and camp on the fairgrounds like we have seen so many others do over the years. Better yet, the Newmar owner's club - the NKK (Newmar Kountry Klub) - holds a rally on the fairgrounds every year during the show. The rally is one of the NKK's "buddy" rallies, meaning that you can take along someone else even if their coach isn't a Newmar. We registered early and also registered my brother-in-law who bought his Fleetwood Expedition last November.
Before I get into the details, let me say that I love RVing. It's the best thing since sliced bread. We had only made two trips in our new RV before making this one, and now I'm beyond convinced that this is what I want to do in retirement. The people, the relaxed atmosphere, and the freedom are difficult to overstate. And we've barely started our adventures on the road.
Right off the bat, rallies are going to be fun because you're glamping with people that share a common interest with you. Not just RVing in general, but something specific. In the case of this particular rally, almost everyone had a coach manufactured by the same company that made mine. Unlike almost every other type of camping situation, "owner" rallies mean that all you see around you are coaches like yours - with owners that share the same problems, solutions, and curiosities.
|Our "street" at the NKK Rally in Tampa 2016|
|Our site at the NKK Rally|
As soon as we set up, neighbors started coming by to say Hi and visit for a few minutes. By mid-afternoon, we had met several people and knew that it was going to be a fun and eventful five days and nights. And it was. $205 per couple got us a place to park for five nights, lots of great interactions with people that had similar coaches, morning coffee and donuts, three nights of entertainment, and a five day pass to the largest RV show in America.
My first impression of a rally is that they park the coaches very close together. Normally, in a nice RV park, this wouldn't be so good. But at a rally, it's actually part of the experience because it encourages everyone to meet and mingle. And boy do they mingle! By noon our first full day there, I felt like we knew everyone around us. All of them were friendly and had a lot of great stories to tell. If you want to meet people and learn a lot, don't be shy. Walk up to these "strangers" and introduce yourself. You'll be glad you did.
In addition to the things I mentioned that you get with the rally fee (30amp, coffee, entertainment, show tickets, etc.), there was much more. Newmar service technicians were on-site for three days fixing things. If you were in-warranty, the repairs were free. They serviced RVs in this order: people who registered by mail - first come, first served, and then coaches in declining order of age. When you signed up for the rally, they mailed you a package that included a form where you list things you'd like them to fix. I filled it out and mailed it right away. We pulled in on Tuesday at 1pm and a golf cart pulled up in front of our Dutch Star about 8am the next morning. What a nice benefit!
In the camping area, the NKK had set up a large tent. For the Tuesday night welcome gathering, everyone brought their chairs and listened as several of the NKK leaders were introduced and the week's events were explained. During the next several days, the tent would be used for a lecture about insurance, a large meeting with the top Newmar executives, an ice cream social, Newmar and NKK merchandise sales, and various gatherings of the different chapters within the NKK.
Although not officially part of the NKK, the Hoots are a group of Newmar owner's who have "met" each other online, mainly through the Newmar forums at irv2.com. Norm and Ellen MacLeod, parked a few sites down from us, hosted a Hoots party behind their rig on Friday afternoon from 3 to 6pm. About 30 Hoots showed up and a lot of folks brought food. We met a lot of interesting people and put quite a few irv2 user names to real faces. We enjoyed every minute of it! Don't forget to read Norm and Ellen's MissAdventure web site. There are a lot of great stories about their experiences - and they are some of the nicest people we've ever met.
When we were staying at Stone Mountain, our first night in the new RV, we were talking to some neighbors parked next to us. At some point, we all decided to exchange contact info and I rattled off our e-mail address and the address of this blog. The woman we were speaking with asked us to wait a minute and she walked into her coach, returning a minute later with a "business" card that had all of their information on it. We thought this was a great idea, so we made up some of our own "camping cards" and took them with us to the rally. To our pleasant surprise, most people handed us a card of their own and complimented us on ours (I used our coach as a background, put our pictures on it and listed our phone, e-mail and the address of this blog). I'd post a picture here, but the DW doesn't like her photo on the Internet! :-)
A lot of people come to the Supershow, so a few of our friends who were going wanted to know if they could stop by and see the coach. Since trolley service runs between the rally and the show, it was easy for them to hop on and ride over to see us.
Staying at a rally for the first time was a great experience. We thoroughly enjoyed meeting everyone and making so many new friends. I think there are a lot of rallies in our future.
Next up: The Tampa RV Supershow