WEST SPRINGFIELD For anyone who loves the great outdoors, a visit to the Springfield RV, Camping and Outdoor Show will provide new ideas and inspiration even to the seasoned enthusiast.
Michelle and Brian LaValley of Chicopee, this year's co-chairs of the show, spoke at length with Reminder Publications recently about the intricacies of the event and what visitors can expect to experience.
This year's 44th annual four-day event is planned Feb. 17-20 at the Eastern States Exposition. More than 230 exhibitors will fill the Better Living Center, the Young Building and the Mallary Building. Exhibitors from across New England will range from campgrounds and RV businesses to camping related suppliers, publications and organizations.
Many of the exhibitors have participated in the show in previous years, and the LaValleys said they also have signed up some businesses new to the show. They emphasized that eventgoers can expect row upon row of RV's in all shapes and sizes and in all price ranges.
Of course, the LaValleys could not tackle this mammoth event alone especially since this is an all-volunteer endeavor.
"As chairs we live and breathe the show for a year," said Brian LaValley, adding that more than 500 volunteers from Pioneer Valley Chapter 8 (PV8) of the North American Family Campers Association who work the show are instrumental in ensuring a successful event. PV8 started in Springfield and Chicopee in 1960 and has grown over the years as a family camping club with more than 220 family memberships.
A core committee also worked closely with the LaValleys throughout the year and include Mike and Carol DiMauro, presidents; Ron and Dale Benard, assistant chairs; Irv and Jessie Williams and Chris and Denise Houle, prizes and entertainment; Phil and Joan Nadeau, David and Debbie Merk, Susan Gross and Alicia Duquette, publicity and treasurers, and Ron and Sue Lychwala, Matt and Renee Wroth and Chris and Trudi Adams, printing and volunteers. Show volunteers also include members of the building committee, Dave and Sue Ann Beckman, Earl and Elsie McClain, Bob and Carole Barclay, Daniel and Maureen Pelletier, Scott and Debra Skelton and Donald and Jody Ulasewich. Stephen Duquette is serving as teen president, Dan and Sherri Langevin and Angelo and Karen Zeni are teen advisors, and Nicholas Zeni, Timothy Clarke and Emma Beckman, are teen chairmen.
"This is strictly a volunteer-based operation and everyone in the club pitches in to make our show a success," said Michelle LaValley.
The purpose of the show is to promote the world of family camping and outdoor activities, according to the LaValleys. They added that by using members to staff the show, they are able to keep the cost down for everyone the public and vendors and make it the largest show of its kind in New England.
For anyone who is considering a future RV purchase, the LaValleys who are seasoned RVers recommend taking one's time since it is a big purchase. They added that before purchasing an RV, know what you can tow with your present vehicle, how much you can afford, and how often you will be able to use it.
"If you don't have an RV, this is the time to buy," said Brian LaValley. "There are many show specials for the new purchaser or person considering trading in an old one."
The LaValleys have been "RVing" for 22 years and love every minute of it especially since their children (now young adults) also enjoy the open road experience. They both agreed that meeting new people on the road is a bonus.
"All the people we meet in our travels have been very friendly and helpful whenever we needed them," said Michelle LaValley.
Informative seminars are also planned each day of the show, including "RV Safety" by Bob Pierro on Feb. 17 at 7 p.m. and Feb. 20 at 2 p.m. Dave and Rachel MacPhee will present "How Do I Take Care of My RV?" on Feb. 18 at 12:45 p.m. and 4:45 p.m., and on Feb. 19 at 12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.
In addition to informative seminars, an entertainment schedule for all ages includes the following:
11:30 a.m., Mad Science; 2 p.m., Orbitech Satelite LLC;
3:15 p.m., Mad Science;
6 p.m., Orbitech Satelite LLC,
7:30 p.m., JC and Wanda Cote (as Elvis and Patsy Cline).
11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., Wingmasters;
6 p.m., JC and Wanda Cote (as Elvis and Reba McEntire).
Noon, Shriners Clowns.
The Mallary Building will be the site for all seminars and performers.
A host of prizes for adults and children are also a favorite part of the show. Adult prizes will include a Viking pop-up camper, bicycles and an outdoor package. Prizes for children range from hiking and camping packages to bicycles.
"No matter what your interests are, there is plenty for you at our show," said Brian LaValley.
The LaValleys expect close to 40,000 eventgoers to pass through the gates during its four-day run.
Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for seniors and disabled American veterans; children age 12 and younger accompanied by an adult are admitted free. A two-day adult ticket is $10 per person. A parking fee of $5 is also observed.
A printable coupon for a reduced admission is available at www.springfieldrvcampingshow.com.
Show hours are Feb. 17, 4 to 9 p.m.; Feb. 18, 10 a.m. To 9 p.m.; Feb. 19, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Feb. 20 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For more information, visit the show's website or call the LaValleys at (413) 781-2267.