BROOKSVILLE — Making their annual pilgrimage to Hernando this week are some 1,300 recreational vehicles — from behemoths with multiple slides, cushy upholstery and entertainment electronics to basic tag-alongs with the bare necessities.
The 28th annual Southeast area Family Motor Coach Association rally began filling slots over the weekend at a 35-acre site at the Hernando County Airport, where the event runs from Wednesday through Sunday.
Advance reservations translate to some 2,600 visitors, said rally chairman and Southeast area president Charlie Schrenkel. Although the area covers Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, the RVs are trundling in from almost every state, he added, as far away as California. Some will call in at the last minute, so the tally is likely to rise.
The number of homes on wheels making the trip is down about 200 from last year's attendance.
"I don't think the price of gasoline is a factor," Schrenkel said. "I think it's just the world economy and the unknown."
Overall membership in the association is off as well.
The entire RV industry across the country has slowed, with some dealerships having gone out of business or into bankruptcy, Schrenkel said.
On the other hand, some people are leaving land-based homes, buying RVs and moving into them until the economy stabilizes, he said.
They'll find good shopping opportunities at the rally. Coach and chassis manufacturers and RV dealers with displays on site number 11, up by two from last year.
More than 200 vendors — "a bunch of new vendors," Schrenkel noted — will fill the commercial exhibitors' tent with all sorts of RV and camper amenities, from hydraulic waste disposal systems and satellite TV dishes to window tints and electric mobility scooters. Also in the mix are booths promoting RV and camper resorts from Florida to Michigan.
In addition, the rally is an educational event, with seminars daily on such subjects as insurance, refrigerator maintenance, safe driving, weight and tire safety, electricity and fire issues, and fuel mileage extension measures. Another is titled "How to Retire and Enjoy It."
Association members will offer classes of leisure such as painting on canvas, designing greeting cards, gemstone crafts and microwave-convection cooking in an RV.
Of course, there will be food — kettle corn to barbecued chicken or rib dinners — served by groups including several local civic organizations that count the rally as a major fundraiser for their community activities.
Although there is plenty to do at the airport site, RV visitors are encouraged to get out and about in Hernando County. The Greater Hernando Chamber of Commerce has gathered discount coupons from area restaurants and gas stations, invitations to shop and advertising trinkets, all to be given in a goody bag to those attending. The county's tourist bureau will staff a table with information and volunteers to tout local sites worth visiting.
Beth Gray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.