Friday, July 23, 2021
Friday, July 23, 2021

The FMCA – Convention recap

As I write this I’m sitting in a conference room at the FMCA’s 103rd International Convention & RV Expo. Someone asked me what I thought of the FMCA and if I thought they were worth the membership fee and if they should join. 

So many of these decisions can be evaluated the same way you’d evaluate a gym membership. Should you join the gym? Not if you’re not going to go. Should you join the beer of the month club? Not if you’re not going to drink the beers. The answer of whether or not to join the FMCA or any RV club really lies in whether or not you’re going to be able to use the membership. 

At the FMCA Convention

If you look closely you can see our tiny 16′ travel trailer among the ocean of large rigs as we all boondock on the Cam-Plex grounds at the 103rd annual FMCA Convention.

From what we were told at the 103rd Convention, there were close to 1400 RVs in attendance with about 1250 of those belonging to members. The rest were vendors and such. The RV down the line from us had five people in it and most of the RVs had at least two. So you figure there were 2,500-3,000 attendees of the human variety. 

There were more than 100 seminars along with doughnut-and-coffee breakfasts where the Frustrated Maestros (more on them later) performed, ice cream socials, contests, concerts and more. Lots of attendees came because there were vendors there that would perform upgrades and repairs on their rigs. 

Girard Systems awnings, Cummins, Spartan chassis and ProTeng Fire Protection were among the vendors there. You could also have your RV professionally weighed. The folks at that concession noted that more than half of the RVs they weighed were overweight – some dangerously so. 

There were also all sorts of other vendors from flag pole salespeople to the InLine RV Tank Sanitizer, Venture Wipes, Jackery, clothing, stickers, and just about anything you could imagine for your RV or to put into or on your RV. 

In fact, my wife and I bought collapsing bowls, Venture Wipes, a GasStop, and other things you’ll soon be reading about in my gadget reviews. 

The people

Three Dog Night performs for a packed house and absolutely were in great form sharing their old favorites plus a new tune from their forthcoming album.

One of the highlights of the Convention was the performance by Three Dog Night, who were just absolutely on their game. 

Before that concert we found that the average age of attendees was 71. 

To a person, everybody was exceptionally friendly. All you had to do was hold the door for someone or just turn around while waiting for a seminar and ask about RVs and suddenly you have someone you’re going to meet at a campground in the future. If you miss the camaraderie that has been lacking in our lives due to COVID, know that it’s at these Conventions in abundance. 

I don’t think I can thoroughly share just how friendly these attendees are. It was only a few years ago that the FMCA began allowing travel trailers into the organization. But there was no looking down on those of us who attended with one. 

Yes, I came to learn and shake hands with some folks I’ve only spoken to in Zoom meetings. But I came away with some new friends. Well, and I joined the Frustrated Maestros. 

Frustrated Maestros

Frustrated Maestros
The Frustrated Maestros perform at one of several gatherings that featured snacks, this one doughnuts and coffee.

The Frustrated Maestros is one of a tremendous number of chapters of the FMCA that cater to all sorts of special interests and geographical realities. There are chapters available to you depending on where you live or like to travel, some for specific brands of RVs, some for special interests and others for religious or personal preferences. 

The Frustrated Maestros are an interesting bunch in that they are people of all levels of musical talent who gather at these functions to provide musical entertainment to the audience. They usually perform at the social events such as the doughnut breakfasts or ice cream socials. 

While some members are truly professional musicians, some are people who haven’t picked up their instruments since high school and now are finding they haven’t forgotten as much as they had assumed. That’s me. 

I took years and years of private clarinet and sax lessons but gave up once I realized that I wasn’t attracting the opposite sex with my clarinet. Surprising, isn’t it? 

So, now I’ve joined the Frustrated Maestros and will have my off-key debut at the FMCA’s regional gathering in Indio in 2022. 

Why join an organization like the FMCA

One of the large gatherings where folks poured in to hear from the FMCA’s leadership about the health and status of the organization.

I think the tendency to join any organization or social club, as it were, is dwindling. Local service clubs are begging for members and the FMCA has been hit by a declining membership as well. But there is still a lot of value here. 

Outgoing FMCA President Jon Walker shares how the organization is doing and plans for the future.

There are indeed discount programs where you can save more than multiple years of FMCA membership, including a tire discount. There is a program that will help you get your RV home in the event of an emergency on the road. The FMCA has a huge library of resources including video and articles. 

But traveling with other RVers and learning through interacting is still the biggest reason that would make this organization worth joining. 

There are also plenty of people who join around the time to put new tires on their rigs and see the discounts on tires, or those who wish to sign-up for the organization’s roadside assistance program, which allows vintage RVs in. There is also a program called Tech Connect which offers unlimited WiFi on the road through a partnership with T-Mobile/Sprint. 

My suggestion

RV reviewers Matt and Will from General RV plus your RVTravel.com RV reviewer in full volunteer garb.

The organization started in the 1960s with folks who had converted old interstate buses to motorhomes. Over time it grew, partially because these rigs needed a support group and the FMCA was there. 

Now many members drive big, lavish Class A diesel pushers and some others have large fifth wheels. But that’s not the growth area in the RV space. 

The growth area is family travels including full-time family travels. There are also lots and lots of working-age people who could easily benefit from the web-based training information on the FMCA’s website. 

I think a growing focus on these individuals and programs and resources for them is the area where the FMCA could find a lot of new members. They’re aware of that. They are also member-owned and utilize a lot of volunteers to provide services and resources. 

So, back to the parallel of joining a gym. You get out of it what you put into it. 

This is an organization of literally the friendliest people I’ve ever seen assembled into one space. But I hope that newer members will want to join the group and be willing to put in a bit of time to help it reach and serve those new areas of growth in the RV space. 

I know I plan to do a bit more and not just playing a musical instrument that has seen several years of neglect.

Tony comes to RVtravel.com having worked at an RV dealership and been a lifelong RV enthusiast. You can find his writing here and at StressLessCamping, where he also has a podcast with his wife about the RV life.

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Roger Marble
4 days ago

I was one of those in attendance. While “Boondocking” was an option, many selected the electric (30 & 50A) and the water hook up as an option. Had many couples trying to decide which partner would attend which seminar. With sometimes seven to choose from in a given time slot the choice can be a challenge. Some seminars might have only had 25 in attendance while others easily exceeded 100. Next March in Tucson is already on my calendar.

Vanessa
1 day ago
Reply to  Roger Marble

Really enjoyed your presentation on genealogy. A cousin traced my dads family to Wales in the 1600s. Kicked me into gear to really start looking at my moms side of the family. Can’t wait to attend more in Tucson.

Nick
4 days ago

I have been an FMCA member for over three years. The group does many things very well (and some things not so well). For me, it’s an easy decision. The membership is very much worth its costs and we enjoy the annual conventions. We have also purchased many repairs and upgrades at these events!

The biggest advantage to FMCA is the unlimited Mifi from Sprint for only $50/month. This alone makes my membership worth its cost. I have gotten several campers to join FMCA just alone for this benefit!

Vanessa
1 day ago
Reply to  Tony Barthel

I have had mine for three years and the only places I’ve had trouble are where there isn’t Verizon service either (or in Gillette where there were an extra 3000 people trying to access the limited towers). Just got the upgraded 5g model of the mifi and it is great.

bull
5 days ago

One thing for sure is that it is EASY to know what everyone’s favorite color is at the FMCA rally.

GREY!!!

All you have to do is look at the top of their Head and their Beard!!!

Drew
5 days ago
Reply to  bull

What’s wrong with that?

Don
5 days ago

Good piece, but you understate the “get you home” part of the FMCA program. It’s not an extra-cost add-on, it’s included in your (very reasonable) annual dues. And THAT makes the organization a drop-dead bargain regardless of your interest in the other bennies. If you don’t just OWN an RV, but actually TRAVEL in it, this is one membership that should be on your must-have list!

Russell
5 days ago

Hi, I have been a FMCA member for over 30 years. Would not leave home with out it. We were at the Gillette WY rally and had a great time. Had my shades replace by Shade Pro in 2 hours. The fellowship, education and entertainment was great. We will be back!!!

Bob p
5 days ago

I heard so much about FMCA from other members of our Good Sam chapter when FMCA was exclusively motorhomes that when I bought a motorhome in 2016 I joined them. I was with them for 3 years and never saw that much in benefits, the rally’s were always on the other side of the country and usually boondocks. I was use to the Good Sam state rally’s (of course that’s gone thanks to Marcus Lemonis) but they were held in large campgrounds with at least water/electric hookups. We had everything FMCA has and more, when they’re prices went up for less service I dropped out. Then we sold our motorhome in 2019, we are now back into RVing with a 23’ travel trailer and have no immediate plans to join anybody, especially a group that offers less for more!

Don
5 days ago
Reply to  Bob p

Before you conclude this is a “less for more” organization, go try to buy an insurance policy that will get you, your rig, your family and your pets home in case of an emergency on the road, anywhere, anytime. I think you’re missing something here…

Roger Marble
4 days ago
Reply to  Bob p

“Other side of the country”? I have attended International Conventions in Mass, Ohio, WI, GA, OR, WY, MN, IN, ND and future in AZ and NB are on the schedule

Vanessa
1 day ago
Reply to  Bob p

I don’t know what information you have been looking at! Boondocks…having electric only, electric and water, or full hookup is not boondocking. Of course if you wanted to use your generator or solar you also have that option. Yes, the sites are close together but try to get 1300 to 2600 rvs in one location. I joined with my TT as soon as they started letting them in…I had contacted them for three years in a row asking why I couldn’t join.

Membership is $50/yr. Even at the $75 rate it was still a bargain. I saved $70 a tire on my tow vehicle (used it twice so far on different vehicles)…that pays for more than 5 years (each time!).

Being of a certain age and traveling solo the FMCAssist which is included in the $50 membership is invaluable.

I use the mifi hot spot ALL THE TIME all over the country. Quit subscribing to my DISH at $125+/mo saving $75/mo when on the road plus cancelled my verizon mifi at another $50/mo. I even use it at home when my internet goes out.

Tom
5 days ago

We have belonged to FMCA for years. We volunteer at the Spring Rallies, always on the parking group. Looking forward to Tucson in 2022.
Tech/Connect provides more reliable service than MediaCom in our area.

Tom
5 days ago

I have been a member of FMCA, and most likely will never attend a meet. I do use the campground, and get my insurance through FMCA. Large group meeting are not a activity I like, give me a COE campground.

Jody Phillips
18 hours ago
Reply to  Tom

When you say that you “use” the campground, what does this mean? Do they have a campground?

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