Anyone watching the national news over the past 24 hours had to see the reports of an epic 10-inch rainfall around Harrisburg, Pa. And anyone in this industry had to realize that this torrential downpour was occurring on the doorstep of the nation’s largest annual recreational vehicle retail show – the 43rd Annual Pennsylvania RV & Camping Show, Sept. 12-18 at the Giant Center in Hershey, Pa.
That’s just east of the state capital of Harrisburg, where vestiges of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee have inundated the area.
But if you think that’s stopping the onsite setup crews of the sponsoring Pennsylvania RV & Camping Association (PRVCA), you’ve got another thing coming, according to PRVCA Executive Director Becky Lennington, who was onsite today (Sept. 8) overseeing wet – yet functional – setup operations amid drizzling rain at the Giant Center.
This year’s Hershey Show is slated to include 1,029 outdoor display units – up 7.4% from last year – a high water mark, no pun intended, over the past three years for the 700,000-square-foot exhibition. And indoor display space is up nearly 40%.
“We’re doing what needs to be done,” says Lennington, who was in pretty good humor, considering the obstacles she and the electrical and wash crews have faced since the rain started coming down Sunday evening. “We’re finding alternate routes for product to get in here, and we’re working with transport companies, but we’re still setting (units in place). We’re still – well, I can’t say dry – but we’re high.”
What’s it look like? “It’s just down to a drizzle,” she added. “Today is probably the best weather that we’ve had. The problem is that little creeks around here have flooded, so they (transport people) need to find alternate routes in until everything recedes. We expect things to crest on Saturday. We’re in good shape here, I’m told. Product is still able to get in. Drivers are still able to get out, although at a slower pace – you know, steady as it goes. Usually, we’re done setting by Friday. But we’ll be setting the show Saturday and Sunday as well.”
The good news is that the bulk of the show area is above the flood plain. “Yeah, we’re fine here,” she added. “We’re not having any problems here. The lower part of Hersheypark down near the creek to the southeast of the Giant Center has issues. They have a zoo way down in those low lying parts, and yesterday they had to evacuate the animals.”
Much to the dismay of many in the local community, in fact, ZooAmerica reportedly had to euthanize two waterlogged bison. “Yes, they lost two bison down there. They had to evacuate the rest of the animals. They said they brought them to the Giant Center, but we don’t have any animals up here. We’ve just got RVs.”
Suffice to say that Lennington is optimistic for the show week ahead. “We understand that it’s supposed to start to dry up by tomorrow and that it looks to be good by the beginning of the week,” she said. “As long as the rain is just a drizzle, we’re functioning. As I said, today’s the best day we’ve had so far.”