Kenny King, the longtime owner and promoter of Arizona’s annual Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show, has died after a battle with leukemia. “It is with a heavy heart that I share that my dad passed away peacefully in the comfort of his home surrounded by friends and family,” his daughter Kimmy told RVBusiness Magazine.
A year before he died, after his leukemia diagnosis, Kenny wrote a letter to the Quartzsite community. In it he traced the history of his show, which has run now for 37 years. Here is what he wrote:
“I came to Quartzsite in 1973 selling RV awnings at a small show on the east end of town named Cloud’s Jamboree. John and Dick Cloud ran the operation for the family and I was one of several hundred vendors. We did so good that first year that we paid extra to get a better location directly on the road coming in from B-10 (Main Street) and added more products. Business got better accordingly.
The east end of town was packed with customers
“At that time it was only Cloud’s & The Pow Wow and the east end of town was packed with customers. The following year, or shortly thereafter, Howard Armstrong opened The Main Event just off exit 17 at the end of B-10. This really helped all the businesses as now the people had a reason to go all the way to the other end of town for another event. Howard was quite the promoter and we became pretty close friends over the years.
“There was a very large campground off Highway 95 called Tyson Wells. Wally Byam Airstream Caravans leased the entire facility that year. Seeing an opportunity to sell lots of RV awnings, my crews immediately went in to sell. That lasted about 10 seconds before a gentleman named Lloyd Dyer proceeded to throw them all out, as he was not making anything from their sales. The next year Tyson Wells Sell-A-Rama appeared. By that time I had locations at Clouds and The Main Event. I took space in Lloyd’s show and business got even better. I can tell you Lloyd Dyer stories all day, but he was one of the most honest and straightforward individuals that I had ever met and I soon became his largest exhibitor and, I believe, a good friend.
Business got even better
“Soon I had 4 or 5 locations in Quartzsite, including at the Quartzsite Trailer Park that fronted The Pow Wow. Business got even better. But the operation was becoming too large and disorganized so I decided to concentrate solely on Tyson Wells, as that is where the action was, primarily. By that time the 4 Corners Swap Meet (the La Mesa RV property) was rolling strong and the town was busting at the seams. (BTW, I owned the 4 Corners property twice for 5 hours each time, but that’s another long and funny story.)
“Over at Tyson Wells, I decided to take my large spot on the end of K & L rows, I believe, and put up a large tent for protection. I then decided to sell the 10×10 areas on the corners (tips) of the tent to pitchmen selling pots and pans, slicer-dicers and the like. That ended up covering my entire rent at Tyson Wells. That was January of 1983.
Quartzsite RV Show promoter wonders, “If I build it, will they come?”
“My wife came out at the end of that show and on the way home, while sharing a herb that is now legal, I asked her this question, “What do you think? If I drop a huge circus tent in the middle of Quartzsite and call it an RV Show, do you think anyone will come?” She said “Are you kidding, of course!” I asked her to take notes and I just let everything spill out of my head and upon our arrival home in Huntington Beach, 3 hours and 20 minutes later, I had a business plan and went to work.
“The next year we opened the 1st Annual Quartzsite RV Show on the northeast corner of Hwy 95 and B-10. I had this fantastic idea to charge a quarter ($.25). (“EVERYONE HAS A QUARTER, RIGHT?”) Well, we turned them away by the thousands even though we had entertainment, free drawings, etc. After the first weekend of slack crowds I put my tail between my legs and opened the gates for free. The people swarmed in. Business was fantastic for all of my vendors, and the rest is history.”
Attendance at the Quartzsite RV Show
According to the Arizona Highway Department, as many as 750,000 to 1,000,000 people, mostly in RVs, converge on Quartzsite each winter season for its rock, gem and mineral shows, plus numerous flea markets and the Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show.
Kimmy King and her husband, Bryan Holtan, will take over as the new show owners and promoters. Next year’s show will run January 22 to 30. Admission, as always, is free.
Quartzsite is 20 miles east of the California border on Interstate 10 where it intersects U.S. highway 95. Free camping on government lands surrounds the town, and attracts tens of thousands of RVers each year – who often stay for months at a time.