BROOKSVILLE — Motor coach dealers were licking their chops Wednesday as the big-wheeled behemoths rolled in by the hundreds to the Hernando County Airport.
That's because many of the owners of the 1,127 recreational vehicles arriving for the opening day of the 30th-annual Family Motor Coach Association Southeast Rally will be looking for new models, both upgrades and down-sized.
"We're not here to show; we're here to sell, baby, sell," said an enthusiastic Chris Burdin of Long View SuperSales, one of the 14 dealers at the event.
The dealers have 125 models on display, the most ever, said Southeast Area association president Tom Eller. The rally that continues through Saturday.
("Buying) has increased in the last nine months. Last year was depressed," said Keith Abbott of Five-R Custom Coaches of Sanford.
"Banks are starting to finance again," noted Tommy Kay, of Great Recreation.
"(Business) is upbeat. It's getting much better," added Dick Rocha with Giant Recreation World, a dealership with sites in Winter Garden, Ormond Beach and Melbourne.
"On Sale" signs surrounded the venue for Long View, which has taken part in the rally since 2002. Burdin said his company is offering RVs at 40 percent off dealership prices, from $40,000 for a 21-footer to $260,000 for a 43-foot model.
They're willing to deal, the dealers said, because they don't want to drive their coaches back home.
All of the dealers mentioned that more and more baby boomers are taking up the RV lifestyle, while some older folks are looking to downsize for economy's sake.
"I think by the number of coaches here," said Kay of Giant Recreation, "you can tell interest is up." His company has 19 coaches on display.
What are shoppers looking for? More slide-outs, perhaps bigger counter tops, greater living space, bathrooms at the end of the living space rather than in the middle, computer and desk tables, dealers report.
Of course, many visitors from the North come to the rally for the warm weather.
Mike Jorde of North Attleboro, Mass., removed himself from 61 inches of snow this winter. More snow was in Wednesday's forecast back home. "We come to Florida every year,'' he said, "to live in the RV."
Tim and Verona Calbath of Dover-Foxcraft, Maine, didn't take any chances on getting caught in the blizzards. They toured in their RV to Zephyrhills in November and visited the rally on a daily pass Wednesday, just wanting to see what's new in the RV business.
Back in Maine, "It's snowing,'' noted Verona Calbath.
Beth Gray can be contacted at [email protected]