A maze of trailers and motor homes lined the floor of the Sam Fulco Pavilion at the Kansas Coliseum on Wednesday, signaling the start of the 21st annual Wichita RV show.
Eight Kansas recreation vehicle dealers from as far away as Dodge City had models on display at the show, which is expected to draw more than 8,000 people by the time it ends Sunday.
Jeff Pritchard, the show's director, said the event caters to both first-time buyers and those looking to upgrade their RVs. He described it as a show for RV purists 3/4 no motorcycles or boats are on display.
The show is the first major event of the year for retailers and gives people a good chance to research and compare models without the pressure or hassle of being on a sales floor, said Stu Atherton, general manager of RV Wichita. Although some sales are made at the show, he said most of his business comes from customers who see something they like and come to his store weeks or months later.
And while the downturn in the economy may make affording an RV, which range in price from $14,000 for a trailer to more than $100,000 for a motor home, out of reach for some, salesman Bill Hawley said sales have held up well over the past year, a trend he expects to continue.
Hawley, who works for Hawleywood RV Ranch in Dodge City, said more people are opting for smaller, lighter vehicles, something that helps save on sticker cost and gas prices.
Jerry Galemore of Hutchinson was at the show looking for an RV smaller than his current model, but it wasn't for economic reasons.
"I need a shorter one because I got a bigger boat," he said. His current RV and boat setup is longer than is legally allowed on roads. "I'm way over length," he said.
Wichitans Dale and Pat Miller were also browsing the nearly 200 models on display Wednesday afternoon. Although they already own an RV, Dale Miller said they like seeing what's new.
Miller said he and his wife like taking their vehicle to lakes and on vacations around the country. Although traveling by RV seems expensive, he said it's cheaper and more convenient than staying in hotels and constantly eating at restaurants.
"It's your own. You can fix your meals, you can sit out at night and barbecue, ... you can sleep in your own bed and you have your clothes handy," he said.