As more than 1,100 traveling homes arrive at the Hernando County Airport this week for the annual Southeast Area rally of the Family Motor Coach Association, the 2,200-plus visitors will experience Brooksville as never before. From Wednesday through Feb. 6, they will attend seminars, shop among more than 200 RV-oriented vendors, eat at nine food concessions and tour 125 motor coaches offered for sale by 14 dealerships, said Tom Eller, president of the Southeast group. New for this year's rally — from 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday — rallygoers will gather for a Brooksville Street Bash, when downtown shops and restaurants will remain open, and vendors and entertainment will fill the streets.
Eller said he picked up the idea from another rally he and his wife, Lorna, attended in Bowling Green, Ohio. The event connected visitors with the community, he said.
Broaching the idea here, Eller said county tourism officials embraced it with enthusiasm and said they would organize it as a way of saying thanks to the motor coach association for bringing its rally to Hernando for the 14th consecutive year.
Buses from the rally site will shuttle visitors downtown.
The on-road travelers will venture off the airport grounds to visit area attractions, shops, restaurants and other businesses at other times as well, contributing to the local economy, Eller said. A number of local restaurants have provided discount coupons for rally participants, thanks to solicitations from the county tourist development office.
Advance coach registrations are slightly off from last year, Eller said.
Rising fuel prices "might have some effect," he said. The behemoth RV coaches can get as little as 12 mpg.
"The other thing," Eller said, "is the atrocious weather up (North)."
Even in Huntsville, Ala., where the Ellers live, it's been a bad winter, he said.
Nonetheless — and, in some cases, maybe because of the frigid, snowy winter — registrants are coming from states as far away as Washington, California, Maine, Minnesota and Iowa.
All 50 states may not be represented, but "we've got them from all over," Eller said.
Local residents are invited to the rally Wednesday through Saturday. Day passes are for $7 for adults and $10 for three days; children younger than 12 are admitted free. The passes provide access to the vendor tent, coach exhibit and food concessions. A passport, at $125, gives the purchaser access to daylong seminars on road safety, driving, RV maintenance, crafts instruction, plus evening entertainment.
Day pass purchases have increased annually in recent years, Eller said. Many are those who have come to a local RV park for the winter, and prefer not to pack up and move their RVs to the rally, attend to take advantage of the event's offerings.
Beth Gray can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.