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RV lifestyle on display at civic center
January 31, 2018

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One of the oldest events at the Lee Civic Center has been the annual Fort Myers RV Show, and this past weekend was the 33rd year the event has been held.

From humble beginnings, it has turned into one of the biggest RV shows in the Southeast, where 13 dealers and more than 100 vendors presented their vehicles inside and outside the civic center to show off new models, share how to enjoy lifestyle and maybe even make a sale or two along the way.

Jack Carver, show manager, said the first two days went very well, with strong traffic, thanks to a strong RV market, though the local weather - wind and threat of rain - was an event concern.

"We're moving a variety coaches in a variety of sizes, including the big motorhomes to the small camping trailers. There's something for every price range and every purse string," Carver said. "People have been pleased with what the show has to offer."

The first two days were very busy, with nice weather and lots of merchandise to look over. Saturday was overcast and windy, but dry, while Sunday had the expectation of rain and even thunderstorms.

The RVs gave people an opportunity to get inside and see what they had to offer. Most coaches were in the $160,000 to $200,000 range. But there were also some of the higher-end models that exceeded a half-million.

Steven Betten, sales consultant for North Trail RV, had many people go through their Newmar models and said these shows are a must to bring in new people.

"We're having a great year and I think we'll set new records. We've sold two or three at the start and expect to put a lot of signs up this weekend," Betten said. "We always pick up a few leads as well. Not everyone is ready to buy the day of the show, but we develop a rapport and earn their business."

Betten said North Trail does about 10 shows a year and visits trailer parks. A good 40 to 50 percent of business comes from doing shows.

Tom Grimm, offers a way for people to try out the RV lifestyle without making the full commitment through SWFL RV Rentals. In business for about 18 months, he said demand is growing.

"A lot of people have come to see us. This gets our name out like it gets the dealer's names out. Our rentals start at $99 a night for three nights. We offer everything," Grimm said.

It wouldn't be a show without the RVers, and about 15,000 were expected to come. Tim Bianchi, of Fort Myers, was among them.

"We're looking to see what our options are. We're possibly looking to upgrade. It's nice, you have all the vendors here want something, it's ideal," Bianchi said.

Pat Lester, who winters in Fort Myers, and her husband, Curtis, are also RVers who wanted to see what's out there.

"We've been all over the country in our RV. We're just checking things out," Pat said. "It's a great show."

"It seems like there are more units here than before. We've been looking at Class A coaches and I saw some fifth-wheel toy haulers that I'm interested in," Curtis said.

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