Attending an FMCA International Convention
Continued from How the FMCA Magazine Led Us On Our Next Big RV Adventure
Arriving At The Convention
We didn’t know what to expect once we arrived at the Minot County Fairgrounds, but we expected that parking would take an exercise in patience. We were prepared for long lines and grumpy people since heavy rain impacted the parking procedures the day before our scheduled arrival. Like most attendees, we followed along with the current events on the event app, and let’s just say that before the convention even started, the app was lighting up like a Lite-Brite, and the comments did not create a pretty picture. Because of all of the negative posts, we took our role in the parking procedures seriously. When we got to our assigned gate, we had already disconnected our Jeep from the motorhome, a step that got us through the parking process two hours faster than the couple behind us. While the FMCA staff and team of volunteers can’t control the weather conditions, they can control the way people get parked if the attendees follow parking protocols. My advice for parking is to trust the process, and follow the directions even if you don’t want to. Arrive in a pleasant mood, and thank every volunteer who helps you. If you go into the entry knowing it might take longer than you’d expect, when it doesn’t, you will be pleasantly surprised. Check any oversized-vehicle parking instructions for attending a large event. Do you think it’s a quick process to park your RV at Burning Man? It’s not, and it never will be. Pack your patience, and your entry will be easy-peasy.
First Timers As first-timers, our name badges, which we wore the entire week, displayed a special ribbon at the bottom that indicated this was our first convention. It’s fun to be a first-timer! When you attend your first convention, plan to go to the first-timers meeting on the first night. While FMCA does a great job publishing the event’s information out to the attendees via the FamilyRVing Magazine, the registration packets, the event app, and the website, there is still something special to be said about the warm welcome you’ll receive the first night as a first-timer. Throughout the week, people will welcome you to the convention in many different ways, so be prepared for all of the friendliness from veteran attendees.
Seminars, Activities, and Entertainment FMCA International Conventions are full of seminars, activities, and entertainment sessions that begin as early as coffee and donuts in the morning and run as late as a concert or special speaker. You can choose to fill your day with as many or as little events as you want. For me, I worked through the entire week of the convention, so I planned my classes and events around the time I needed back at my RV working and taking care of my dogs. I had enough planned that I had a little downtime, and that was totally ok! I took classes on technology on the road, genealogy, writing, RV tours, RV gear and gadgets, full-time RVing, and much more. Pat likes more technical classes, so his seminars taught him about tires, air and heating systems, fire safety, and other technical aspects of RVing.
The Expo I am an RV geek extraordinaire. I love wandering around RV expos to see the latest gadgets and gear for RVers. The Expo was one of my favorite non-social activities at Minot Magic. I went back to the expo and wandered around in between seminars more than once. I also spent a lot of time walking in and out of the RVs on display, and it is during the convention that I found my dream diesel-pusher, the Newmar New Aire. I probably walked through that rig at least eight times, and since then, I’ve visited an RV show and another dealer to walk through the New Aire again. If you can’t stay onsite, and you live close to a city hosting an FMCA International Rally, I highly recommend that you purchase a day ticket, attend some classes, and spend a few hours at the Expo.
Transportation Even though the event planning materials suggest that people bring bikes or golf carts along with them, we decided that we could either walk back and forth to the event center, or we could catch a ride on the shuttles or volunteer-driven golf carts. Since it was our first convention, we didn’t realize that we’d want to go back and forth between the event center and our RV as much as we did, and it wasn’t always easy to catch a ride, especially during peak travel times. We were parked in one of the far-away lots, and sometimes it was faster to walk the .60-mile route (one way) than wait for a ride. While I loved all of the steps, there were days when I wanted to let my dogs out for a quick walk and get back to another seminar, and 30 minutes wasn’t enough time to get back and forth. So, for Sunsets and Saguaros 2020 in Tucson, we will bring our bikes with us and cruise back and forth to the venue. Our fat-tire bikes are perfect for the event!
New Friends Making new friends and socializing is the number one reason why people attend RV rallies and conventions. RVers are social, and what better way is there to connect with like-minded, social individuals than to share the love of the open road by visiting, chatting, and attending activities with other people who like the same things as you do? One of my favorite things about Minot Magic was getting paired with Pat and Steve during Bingo. Since my Pat and I didn’t know anyone, the event staff put us with another couple who didn’t have a team of four. We ended up chatting with them the whole night, and we met up for drinks at a Minot Brewery another night. We’d never have made these friends if we didn’t play Bingo the first night, and now, we hope to see them again at another convention down the road. Step outside of your rig and your social circle and make new friends with the people around you. You will be glad you did.