MANKATO — Dreaming of an escape from the cold winter weather was a common theme among the Saturday visitors to the ninth annual RV and Outdoor Sport Show at the Verizon Wireless Civic Center. The event also drew numerous buyers motivated by larger changes in the improving economy and ongoing trends in family sizes.
The event featured 11 different venders and over 45 recreational vehicles on display around the Civic Center. Event organizers said they expect up to 7,000 people to attend the show this weekend.
Several of the visitors interviewed at the event said they decided to check out the show as either an excuse to "get out of the house" or view possible upgrades for their summer outings. The sentiment seemed reasonable given that Saturday's high was only 30 degrees and below-zero temperatures are projected for next week.
"We're definitely getting stir crazy. We can't wait for warmer weather," said Andy Paulson, a Mankato resident.
Kim Kroubetz, an organizer with the event, said she believes people enjoy purchasing camping equipment in the winter because it gives them something to look forward to in the summer. She said they helped emphasize this fact by selecting a luau theme for the show.
Other visitors, such as Mark Lachmiller of Mankato, were forgoing the wait for summer months and seeking a vehicle to become "snow birds." Lachmiller said it was much cheaper to take an RV down to warmer states than to purchase a winter home. He said the approach helped avoid taxes in other states and provided more options for summer.
Another theme among the visitor at the event was older couples seeking to replace their family-sized camping vehicles with smaller models. Joe William of Elysian, who described himself and his wife as "empty nesters," said they were looking to swap their RV for something aimed toward couples.
Kroubetz said that shifting family sizes are an increasingly common motive for people to purchase new RVs and other vehicles. She said that many families were seeing some or all of their children move out, resulting in a change in their recreational needs.
Finally, Kroubetz said that both factors were also tied to the improving economy and people's improved ability to spend on recreation.
"They are finally able to consider going out," said Kroubetz. "Or, for example, they may now own a truck that can haul (an RV)."
The RV and Outdoor Sport show continues today from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Civic Center.