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For most Michiganders, the first signs of spring are grass poking through melting snow, robins looking for nesting material and fishing shanties breaking through thin ice. For Michigan campground owners, the first sign that spring is just around the corner is the annual Conference & Expo, hosted by the Michigan Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds (ARVC Michigan).

Set for March 18-20 at the Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort in Mt. Pleasant, the Conference & Expo is the association’s yearly get-together that offers educational seminars, trade vendors, and the fun and fellowship of longtime friends who use the event to kick-start their camping season.

Ali Gase

Ali Gase, ARVC Michigan’s board administrator, told Woodall’s Campground Management that the Conference & Expo is “shaping up really well.”

“We’re really excited. We have a great lineup of seminars on topics like ‘Spooktacular’ Halloween activities, digital security, septic maintenance, succession planning and how the new federal tax program affects your business,” Gase said, mentioning that two other seminars will update attendees on the latest developments from the state’s Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Natural Resources.

The keynote presentation is “Listening for Better Business” by Amy Wirtz, a Certified Exit Planning Advisor, collaborative lawyer, mediator, arbitrator, lecturer, consultant and teacher. As a certified collaborative lawyer for more than 13 years and a mediator for an eight-year period, Wirtz has extensive training in interest-based negotiations, listening skills, reframing and alternate dispute resolutions.

If the name sounds familiar, Gase mentoned, it’s because Wirtz was one of the presenters at the national ARVC conference in November. She has presented at similar campground owners events in California and Wisconsin.

“Some of our members saw her at national and they came back and said ‘She’s phenomenal. We have got to have this person at our conference,’” Gase said. “She gave me a little head’s up on some of what she’s doing with the keynote speech and it’s going to be a training on how to better listen to your employees as well as your customers, with the result being that you’ll improve every aspect of your business.”

Amy Wirtz

The Expo portion of the event is nearly sold out, with several new vendors joining many familiar campground suppliers. All will display their latest and greatest products, programs and services, with at least half offering show-only special pricing.

Gase said the goal is for the Conference & Expo to grow alongside the association itself, and the Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort is a perfect venue to accommodate that expansion.

“I can’t say enough about the venue,” Gase added. “It’s just the perfect setup for our conference. The size is perfect. The atmosphere is great. The hotel is wonderful. The staff is incredibly accommodating and takes really good care of us. Plus, it’s pretty much right in the center of the mitten. They have an entertainment hall that is also very accessible for vendors. It’s really nice; it’s all in one building. They take really good care of us, and the atmosphere is awesome. We were there last year, and we’re planning to be there for the next couple of years as well.”

The Michigan ARVC Conference & Expo is sponsored by the Lake Michigan Insurance Agency, Aspira/Reserve America, Wilcor International, BKC Insurance, and Leavitt Recreation & Hospitality Insurance.

In addition, the Michigan Association of Paddlesports Providers (MAPP) will host its meeting concurrently with ARVC Michigan, as a number of campground owners also operate liveries and the two groups share common resources, such as legislative consultant Scott Everett, who will be providing an update during the conference as well.

For more information or to register, visit www.michcampgrounds.com, call 989-619-2608 or email [email protected]