FROG Rally, Goshen, Indiana (Chapter 1)
August 7 thru August 17, 2018
We left our home on Tuesday, August 7 to begin this road trip to the 2018 FROG Annual Rally (Forest River Owners Group) held at the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds in Goshen, Indiana. This will be our first to attend, although Bill has attempted to get signed up for this annual event over the past few years. With only 800 spots, they sell out very quickly within the first few hours of opening up for registration, except this year it did not sell out and we secured our spot.
As with most of our road trips, we begin planning with a destination and build around that destination for our departure and our return trip home. Due to this trip’s designated arrival date, we did not plan any interesting stops on our initial outbound travel to FROG. We did however, plan for many exciting over-night stays for the stops after we depart from Goshen.
This trip blog will be divided up by chapters starting with Goshen and then additional chapters will cover the visits below. So please follow us through the entire road trip as we discover:
On our out-bound trip to Goshen we made two over-night stays after driving long days, approximately 500 miles per day. August 7, the first night’s stay, was at a Good Sam park located conveniently off Highway I-44 in St. Robert, MO http://flwrvpark.com/. This park was selected only as a convenient over-night stay, no amenities, not many sites, in back of a Motel 6 where you pay for your stay. The next morning as we were preparing to leave the campground, Bill noticed that someone had attempted to steal our bicycles off the back of our RV which we travel with securely strapped and covered. Fortunately, someone must have scared them away because they were only a strap away from being able to take them down and ride away.
The second night’s stay was after a long drive to Ft. Wayne, Indiana, leaving only a short drive (approximately 57 miles) to our destination in Goshen. Because we were not able to check-in for the Rally until the next day (Thursday, August 9) we elected to spend the night close by in Ft. Wayne. Karen found the park with a quick Internet search while we were in route. Johnny Appleseed Park, located in a City Park near the Coliseum http://www.fortwayneparks.org/38-parks/park-page-links/173-johnny–appleseed–park.html. We were pleasantly surprised with this nice, shaded campground, conveniently located near a really nice dog park “Camp Canine.” Nearby were restaurants, hike/bike trails, and the St. Joseph River that runs alongside the park. If you plan on taking your dog to Camp Canine the entry gates are locked and you can only enter with a card-key provided by the campground host. We did not have sewer hook-up at our site, although the camp does offer a few full-hook up sites. Highly recommend this nice park, close to Goshen, IN.
The morning of Thursday, August 9 we arrived at the Goshen Fairgrounds. It was this first day, when we got our RV settled into our site, that we met CJ (Carol) and Al Northouse of Grand Rapids (Hudsonville), MI who were parked right next to us. It was one of those immediate connections and we soon learned they too are
Christian. What great people! We met other great people too, we just spent most of our time with CJ and Al, shared a few meals with them and relaxed outside at our campsites. CJ gave Karen one of her hand-made pot-holders as something to remember her by, not that we needed anything to remember this sweet couple and hopefully we’ll keep in touch with them. They travel to Florida every year after Christmas for a few months and we talked about meeting up with them.
Brenda and Orval (sister and brother-in-law) were in Shipshewana, IN for their KZ Annual Rally that took place the week before ours was to begin. So we were able to meet up with them on Friday. We decided to meet at the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum in Elkhart. There was a RV Show scheduled to be held at the Museum’s outdoor area, but we learned it was rescheduled to the following weekend due to heavy rains and flooding. We enjoyed walking around the museum and having lunch together. They were leaving the following day to proceed with their return home road trip.
There was no one parked behind us for a few days and Gabby was able to run off leash in the open field, but that didn’t last, as campers started filling in all the open spaces around us and behind us and almost the entire fairgrounds filled-up by Sunday. The organizers reported that there were 1,378 people in attendance and of the 800 sites, approximately 680 sites were occupied. It was amazing to see all of these RV’s lined up, row after row at the Fairgrounds!
Sunday, August 12, the Rally officially began with a dinner. Having our bicycles with us turned out to be a big plus for getting around the fairgrounds since the vendor buildings, meal pavilions and the event activities were all quite a walk away from our camp site. The event did provide free golf cart shuttles (appropriately titled “frog hops”) and tractor pulled multi-passenger shuttle wagons for transport to the action, we usually just hopped on our bicycles. The Fairgrounds were pristine and clean with landscaping that was amazingly creative and showcased planters made using jeans, boots, wine bottles, and all sorts of other creative items. Always a fan of beautiful landscaping, this made the surrounding one of Karen’s favorite things about the park.
Attendees were encouraged to sign up for coach tours over to some of Forest River’s RV manufacturing facilities. We took the Cedar Creek and the Cardinal factory tours. We were most impressed by the Cedar Creek factory tour. The rep did a really nice job going through the factory and provided explanations on their processes and interesting facts like 93% of their the Cedar Creek craftsmen are Amish with an average tenure of 17 years. Cedar Creek also had finished units open and available for us to walk through.
Back at the fairgrounds we walked the vendor booths almost every day as there were drawings for door prizes and all we needed to do was watch for our name to be posted at a vendor’s booth as a “daily winner.” For us, that never happened. There were a few seminars that Karen was able to attend, Bill however, missed most of the ones he was interested in because he was working with service people at our RV site or the seminar schedule interfered with something else we had planned.
In addition to seeing finished units on the factory tours, The Rally had a section of the fairgrounds with several brands and models of Forest River RVs on display, but had to keep ourselves from the desire to purchase a new one since our Wildcat 5th wheel is only 3-year’s old and we really like our unit. It was disappointing that there were so few Wildcats at the Rally, someone said there were only 7 Wildcats out of the hundreds of RVs in attendance.
They had an outdoor, lawn concert on Wednesday night that was fun! Everyone brought their lawn chairs out with umbrellas to combat the on again/off again light showers. The soloist sang a wide variety of genres, including most of our favorite’s including Mercy Me’s “I Can Only Imagine.”
The offsite excursion that we signed up for was at the Blue Gate Restaurant and Theatre and we thoroughly enjoyed this event. Upon arrival we were treated to lunch served family style that included large bowls of mashed potatoes, green beans, dressing, fried chicken and meatloaf passed down long tables. Lunch concluded with a serving of their magnificent homemade pies.
After lunch we went into the Theatre in the same building and watched “Stolen,” a musical based on an Amish romance novel written by an award-winning novelist and New York best-seller whose 88 books established the Amish genre. Set in Pennsylvania, the story revolves around an Amish family’s search of a baby boy who was kidnapped. Twenty-years later, it’s a cold case until a reporter publishes a story in the local news claiming “No Crime in Amish Country.” Incensed the story overlooked the year’s prior kidnapping, the family hires the previously retired investigator to reopen the cold-case and he ends up working with the reporter. The Theatre is much smaller than many musicals we’ve attended, but the performers were all very professional and talented. The production was amazing and the story was very entertaining. Highly recommend!
One of the reasons people attend the Rally is Forest River provides out-of-warranty repairs free and quick. Dozens of repair teams representing all the different Forest River brands are dispatched across the campus where fixes are done onsite at your campsite. It appeared there were almost no limits. We saw them repair an awning that wasn’t working right, a cabinet that wouldn’t close correct and even heavy duty fixes for frame or axle issues. We watched as others had replacements installed for appliances that failed like a microwave or a refrigerator. This year they set limits on the RV age (2016 or newer) and requests were limited to only 2-repairs per unit. In prior years there was no limit on the age of the RV nor on the number of repairs owner’s can request. Our unit is no longer under warranty but is still within the 2016 or newer guideline.
Interestingly, we discovered, as did many others we talked to, that once the repair team arrived at your RV you could work with the team to point out repairs beyond the “2-limit” rule. This is easy to do when the team spots those minor things like a lightbulb out, etc. The repair teams want to fix everything and they don’t want you to settle for a “that’s ok” response, they want it to be perfect for you. We were very pleased with the service we received.
This Rally encouraged us to stay with the Forest River brand if not only for the awesome Rally’s, everyone we met are very satisfied with their units and Forest River’s customer service is the best!
A BIG shout-out and appreciation to Bob & Cindy Byrne who do a magnificent job in organizing these big FROG rally’s and many other events throughout the year.
Friday, August 17 off to Mackinac Island in St. Ignace, MI . . . the next Chapter of this road trip.
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” —————-1 Corinthians 13:13