July '20

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118 • RV PRO • July 2020 rv-pro.com RV PRO: Those were some dark days coming out of the economic crisis a decade ago. How did the Hall come out from under all of that debt? Searer: We were debt-free as of March 25, 2019. We're really pleased to be in this position and the Hall is in great shape for the future. I have to say a huge 'thank you' to the board and staff and people who supported us in that effort. Kevin Clayton allowed us to use is name in that challenge to raise $1 million over a five-year program, and we ended up raising that $1 million in only four years. Now we have several CDs in the bank, so we are in great shape financially. When it comes to our expansions, we would only do that when we had the money in the bank to pay it off. RV PRO: Last year, the Peter Orth- wein Pavilion was added to the grounds. What other projects are in the works? Searer: We just completed Phase 2. In Phase 3, we'll be adding a 60,000-square- foot events center. The basic layout of that is done. It's all leveled and filled, but we're not quite ready to do that yet. For now, we're able to use the new pavilion and this is our first year to be able to host events there. The Phase 3 events center will be east of the Hall itself (for those who attended Open House in 2019, it will be where the large stage was set up for the concert). That will be 60,000 square feet, which is an acre and a half. Once that is completed, the 40 acres that we own here will be completely built out. RV PRO: You mentioned using the new pavilion for events. What are some of the benefits you've seen from that already? Searer: Of course, THOR was the first to hold an event there at last year's Open House. We held several events there in January and toward the end of February. We had a home and garden show. The last event we had there was we had a gun show at the beginning of March before everything got shut down. Since then, most of the people who had been booked for March and April have chosen another date this year. We've been able to move them forward between the pavilion and inside the Hall. There's been a couple that said if they couldn't hold it in the spring they would have to wait until the next year. One was a small boat show, and we had to refund some money there. Another was a guy with a fireworks show who cancelled because he has to hold his event a couple of months before the Fourth of July, but he rolled his payment into next year. RV PRO: What can you share regarding plans for the RV/MH Hall of Fame Class of 2020 induction ceremony? Searer: We've already had 100 people sign up for the induction dinner (editor's note: as of mid-April) and we have a couple of sponsors already for that. We got started on that in late February, early March before all of this stuff hit. We've had a few sign up since then, but some people are wondering if we're going to be able to hold it as planned on Aug. 3. But based on everything I'm seeing now, we should be in pretty good shape before the end of June, which gives us all of July to figure it out. We've got a lot of room in there, so we could spread people out a little bit and may go with only four to a table instead of eight or 10. We could do things like that, but it's really too early to make that decision. We'll wait to see what the new normal is and talk to the health advisors. We've got a great class on both the RV and the MH sides. I believe we're going to see 500 people or more come out and help celebrate. (Editor's note: Subsequent to this interview, in mid-May, Searer announced the Hall of Fame would host the induction ceremony on Aug. 3, as originally planned.) RV PRO: The event the industry can't wait for is Open House. Last year, you hosted a supplier event at the Hall that proved to be a great success. What plans do you have for this year's event? Searer: We have added 40 more booths inside and 23 outside. The ones on the inside are not only sold, but they are already paid for. On the outside, we still have 10 that are available, and probably would have been gone by now – and probably will be gone pretty quickly – once we start getting back to whatever normal looks like. With all of those changes, that's almost doubled our income from last year. We plan to make the show bigger and better than last year as it relates to the people coming. We'll be doing quite a bit of advertising ahead of the event, and so will the suppliers. I think by the time this show comes around, the pent-up demand is going to be gangbusters for this show. We want to get more of the manufacturers to send their designers. We want to get the purchasing Located just off of Interstate 80 on the north side of Elkhart, Ind., the RV/MH Hall of Fame has added the Peter Orthwein Pavilion where the large tent stands in this file photo and soon will add an events center just east of the main building.

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