If there’s a conspiracy against all things RV this summer, at least it’s being consistent.
Much like the industry as a whole, the Escapees RV Club’s recent Escapade in Lebanon, Tenn., saw a smaller-than-usual crowd this past week thanks to a combination of high gas prices, uncomfortably hot summer temperatures and an economy that has people a bit nervous.
Still, more than 1,000 people came in 489 RVs to the gathering just outside of Nashville and took advantage of the seminars, educational courses and the entertainment and nightlife that found its way to the show from nearby Nashville.
And, after a thunderstorm that hit on the day before the show officially opened, temperatures were still toasty the rest of the week.
“The seminars definitely were very well attended this year,” said Georgianne Austin, communications director for the Escapees RV Club. “We had about 80 total and the thing we added this year is that the app that we used allows people to rate things as they go through them. Based on those ratings, we had about 4,000 people attend seminars – which of course means they were attending more than one. But being able to see so many people enjoying the educational part was awesome.”
Austin said that various discussion panels also were standing-room-only in some of the biggest rooms. These sessions covered common questions for RVers and were well-attended by the club’s many first-timers who were in attendance and hoping to soak up as much information about the lifestyle and about maintaining an RV as they could.
Escapees intentionally plans a number of beginner topics because often as many as half of those in attendance are first-timers.
“We had 341 at the first-timer’s social (held Sunday afternoon after opening ceremonies), with many of them at their first Escapees event of any kind,” said Laura Kernodle, Escapade assistant director. “They were excited to be here. We saw them all week long and their happiness and excitement just continued,”
A somewhat unexpected benefit to the show was the access to entertainment provided by its proximity to Nashville.
“We had entertainment four nights, the fifth night was our annual talent show that attendees put on,” Austin said. “We were able to get a lot of really great musicians coming in from Nashville and the surrounding area to perform. Even though not everybody loved every genre that was represented, every night we had people dancing in the aisles and cheering them on and having a great time.”
Each evening offered entertainment ranging from original country music to popular ’70s-’90s covers to bluegrass music, plus the annual Escapade’s Got Talent – a highlight of every Escapade, giving attendees the opportunity to showcase their talents in musicianship, comedy, dancing and more.
Escapees Club tries to host the annual Escapade in various parts of the country but often ends up in the western half of the U.S. out of convenience.
This year brought the event within reach of many on the eastern side who had not been able to attend for a while.
“I think just the location, being out here in the east made it special,” said Duane Mathes, co-director. “We don’t get out here very often, as there aren’t many places to hold Escapade in the east. The proximity to Nashville has been great.”
For newcomers, it was an eye-opening experience that not only gave them the information they needed to get better use of their RVs, but it also gave them access to vendor booths staffed by experts who could help them understand the components of their vehicles as well as fill potential needs.
“It was our first Escapade and we did it all,” said Pete and Maureen Crisman. “From Boot Camp to the extra day of the Nashville HOP. We had a great time and learned so much. Now back to sell our home and go full time with more confidence and more friends.”
The Escapees schedule several events throughout the year for their members.
The next event will be the Xscapers Fourth of July Convergence in Salida, Colo.
Others include the Xscapers PNW Garlic Convergence in Washington state and Xscapers New Orleans Halloween Convergences.
The Escapees also host Head Out Program events as well as Hangouts, but all those scheduled are sold out through February 2023. For more information on those, visit https://escapees.com/community/escapees-hops-head-out-program/ and https://escapees.com/community/hangouts/.
The 2023 Escapade will be held March 19-24 at the Pima County Fairgrounds in Tucson, Ariz.