Updates: 2020 Elkhart Open House Canceled, Expected to Resume in 2021

A photo of exhibitors showing RV units at the 2019 Elkhart open house and expo

The 2020 Elkhart Open House/Product Expo will not happen this year, organizers said Tuesday.

The major RV manufacturers that host the annual event moved to cancel the 2020 Open House due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Forest River and Thor Industries told industry partners Tuesday evening they would not hold the event this year.

The 2020 Open House was to take place Sept. 21-25 in Elkhart, Indiana. Thor Industries President and CEO Bob Martin said the rapidly changing news about the pandemic and general uncertainty in many areas of the country threatened the OE’s ability to host an effective open house.

“We did a survey last week of our dealer body and got a mixed reaction,” Martin said. “Really, more than anything, it showed us that it was going to be tough to do, keep everybody safe and have a good time. Open house is in large part a social event, and to encourage social distancing makes that event hard to do.”

Martin also pointed to the potential extended closure of the U.S./Canada border as another challenge to hosting the event. He said he met with Thor group managers and other partners this past week who agreed that it was best to cancel the 2020 Elkhart Open House/Product Expo in light of recent coronavirus spikes.

A photo showing attendees gathered inside during the 2019 Elkhart open house and expo

“(The event) would have looked different anyways, and now it’s one more thing people don’t have to be nervous about,” Martin said. “This year there is so much anxiety over unknowns, and this is something that the folks who were going to come don’t have to be worried about getting to, and the people who weren’t coming don’t have the fear of missing out. Everyone is on an even playing field.”

In a statement, Forest River notified dealers on Tuesday that its 2020 Expo had been canceled due to coronavirus concerns. The OEM announced it will work with dealers to create alternative programming, such as videos and images of new products, in lieu of the in-person event.

“Forest River deeply values the safety of their employees and dealer partners,” the company announced. “After reviewing a survey sent to their dealers and analyzing potential modifications to the event, they felt they could not safely maintain CDC guidelines while at the same time host an event that would be worthwhile for their dealers.”

OEMs remain optimistic the event, which draws thousands of dealers from across North America to Elkhart each year, will be held as normal next year. The decision to cancel the 2020 Elkhart Open House/Product Expo comes two weeks after the PRVCA moved to cancel its own 2020 Hershey RV Show due to the coronavirus pandemic, and after many other RV industry event cancellations or postponements across the country.

“Forest River looks forward to a bright future ahead and plans to host a fantastic Expo in 2021,” Forest River announced Tuesday afternoon.

Click here to read more RV News coverage of the effect of COVID-19 on the RV industry.

A source close to the process said Thor Industries also confirmed the company’s cancellation of its 2020 Open House events late Tuesday night. Thor Industries leaders cited concerns regarding the recent spike in coronavirus numbers in their decision to cancel.

According to other media reports, Winnebago leaders also canceled the company’s planned events for the 2020 Open House on Tuesday.

RV News will continue to report on this story.


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