Monday, November 10, 2008

RV Builders BBQ - AirVenture 2009

I've been waiting for my enthusiasm to return to bring back the annual BBQ at Oshkosh for RV builders, pilots and their families. After spending the weekend putting together the latest RV Builder's Hotline, and then spending most of last evening working on the RVator index and reading old issues, I think it has. I'm ready to start planning. (Here's a slideshow of the last BBQ)

Right off the bat, though, we've got significant challenges. First, we have no donors. A few years ago Stein Bruch of SteinAir was kind enough to solicit some of the RV-related companies (or is the phrase "shake down") and surprised me with enough cash to keep the prices down, add a big tent (we'd always held our breath that our $3,000 investment in food and drink wouldn't get washed out, since we didn't do tickets in advance), but in this economy, I'm not sure that's a realistic expectation.

Last year, Van's Aircraft wanted to combine their homebuilder's dinner with the BBQ and we were on our way to doing that, but then that Kitplanes article appeared, there was some pushback at the YahooGroup when I objected to it, and I realized that a few people who had eaten my food, sat on my campsite, drunk my beer decided that there was "friendship line" that I didn't care for. These BBQs consume hundreds of hours of my time before Oshkosh and most of my time during Oshkosh (that picture above is me cleaning up the grounds the next day, which took most of the day), and it seemed like an ungrateful exercise which sapped my enthusiasm. And I'm not sure Van's would want to cast their lot with me again, anyway.

Add to that the fact that a lot of my BBQ friends weren't going to be at Oshkosh in 2008 and, well, it just didn't seem worth doing again.

So we -- I -- have some things to think about before committing to it.

  • Where do we get a grill? Stein, bless his heart, purchased a Coleman Event Grill for us, hauled it over to Oshkosh and back. No charge. That grill has now been donated to EAA Chapter 25 and even if I was allowed to use, I have no way of getting it to Oshkosh. Stein and his gang now rent their luxury waterfront villa. AndI have a Subaru with no tow hitch and no trailer.
  • How do we solve the problem of too many people attending? I think we had over 500 people last time and I don't think it was too many people (except for that one who came referenced earlier; you're not invited this time, fella!), but that's about as far as we want to go and that was with something like $5,000 in donations. We don't have that this time and I no longer have the cash to front thing (actually, I never did, but I have even less of it now).
  • Can the BBQ compete with AirVenture's new strategy of providing night events? Do we have enough people to give up an evening with Jeff Dunham? Or the concert with whatever over-the-hill rock group Ford can rope into coming?
  • Can we round up the old gang of cooks and volunteers?
  • Will the rennnovations at the AirVenture grounds disrupt the ability of people to get out to the campground? It's not like it was easy for them previously.

These aren't exactly the things that keep me up at night, but they are the things that need to be answered before the end of 2008. It really does take that long to put this together.

I'm open to any suggestions. If if you're a big company that wants to write a check for nothing more than a "thank you" (we had already agreed after 2007 that we wouldn't do door prizes; we want people to come because they want to come, not just for the chance to win something), I'm all ears.

I don't post much to the bulletin boards anymore so if you'd like to circulate this, please be my guest.

Update 11/17 - In kicking this around on the YGroup, it seems what we need are some co-chairs. Specifically, the most important would be someone to solicit sponsorships from some in the RV business community as Stein has done in the past. We would need about $3,000 total to accommodate tent and campsite as well as cost of ticketing etc., and that would give us the downpayment for food.

We also need a "facilities" person to help round up grilling equipment, propane tanks, coolers and ice. And maybe find an in-kind sponsor to donate generators for the evening only.


  1. I would think we could drum up the upfront cash on VAF to help with getting this but together.

    I have not been to the event, as I just recently became a builder. But, I have heard great things about what you have put together.

    I would be glad to chip in, and help out with cooking/cleaning.

  2. Sort of weird in a good way that I read this post tonight...I'm wearing my 'RV Family Reunion VOLUNTEER' bright florescent green T-shirt...I'm up for helping however I can Bob! Count me in as a volunteer for '09!


  3. Bob, one thought would be to set up a PayPal account and take advance tickets up to a given date. At least you have funds on hand in advance.

  4. Yes, that's what we did in '07. It worked fine and provides funds. But at the heart of the BBQ is the fact that the ticket costs, for the most part, don't cover the cost of food and booze. Remember, it's all you can eat or drink. So there's usually about $500 or so that is over and above tickets (plus people who show up and don't pay; not much we can do about them), the tent is $1200 and the the camping spots are another $800-$1,000. So you can see where the need for sponsorships comes from.

    Like I said, in the past I'd just spring for it. Stein did a great job of getting sponsorships in '07. So basically what we need to decide first is: would someone like to see sponsorships/underwriting. Once we know that, we'll have a better idea whether it's doable. If "no" then we don't have a tent, and we don't have extra campsites (space), which would then dictate how many people we can accommodate.