Newmar Kountry Klub to hold open house today

ESCANABA – Imagine an entire country club going mobile cross country. That’s just what the Newmar Kountry Klub does much of the year. This week the recreational vehicle group is visiting Escanaba for its 29th annual international rally.

“It’s fabulous. The people here have been great,” said the club’s international director, Jim Weeks, commenting on Escanaba’s hospitality. “We’ve gotten excellent cooperation and support.”

A total of 365 RV’s have set up home at the U.P. State Fairgrounds, explained Weeks. An open house takes place today from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. when the public can tour 10 new RV’s.

This week’s caravan brought about 800 people into the community including campers, accompanying vendors, mechanics, and other support personnel. They are using local catering services, eating out, and shopping locally, he added.

Weeks said the Newmar Kountry Klub begins planning its international rally 18 months in advance. Last year’s event took place in Illinois. Next year’s rally will be in West Virginia.

Newmar is a luxury line of motor homes which includes gas-driven models and “diesel pushers” which are as long as 45 feet. “Diesel pushers” mean the diesel engines are in the rear of the vehicle.

Costs for the RV’s range from $120,000 to $925,000 for the top-of-the-line “King Aire” model.

One factory in Nappanee, Ind., manufactures all the Newmar motor coaches which are made as ordered by customers or its 63 company dealers, explained Weeks. The corporation started in 1964 and is headed by the sole stockholder, Mahlon Miller, who is Amish.

Miller developed the Kountry Klub and made it a part of the corporation, said Weeks. There are nine regions of the organization including two in Canada.

Regions are broken down into states and provinces which have their own chapters, he explained. The club is made up of 2,400 member units representing about 5,000 people.

Chapter, state and regional rallies take place throughout the year along with the annual international gathering. Members are also invited to attend club rallies overseas such as cruises to Bermuda and Europe.

When the group leaves Escanaba on Saturday, they’ll take a 17-day caravan around the Great Lakes.

“Our motto is ‘Food, Fun and Fellowship,'” Weeks noted.

In additional to enjoying what the local area has to offer, members took bus tours to Marquette, Iron Mountain, and the Pictured Rocks area, he said.

They’ve also been active in the many activities the club planned at the fairgrounds including crafts, a live auction, game night, a jam session, an ice cream social, a pet show, Bingo, and trivia night.

Members can also attend more than 50 seminars, many hosted by manufacturers of parts and supplies such as engines, satellite dishes, tow bars, and other RV accessories.

Also on the club’s agenda this week have been a ladies style show, a poker run, show and tell of crafts, and worship services. The U.P. Gas and Steam Engine Village at the fairgrounds has been open for the group.

“People in our organization have all kinds of interests so we want something available for everybody,” said Weeks, adding the events rely on volunteers who are members of the club.

A variety of vendors who travel with the group are set up under the fairgrounds grandstand. The members also have a parts store, a club store, and Newmar technicians available to them.

Weeks said the club is renting the fairgrounds for the week. The parking and camping areas, buildings, and available utilities meet the needs of the group which seeks about 65,000 square feet in building space for the annual event.

Weeks said he and his wife, Wilma, consider their Newmar as their home. They travel most of the year with the Kountry Klub and spend a few months in Texas during the winter. They also go to other recreational vehicle events nationwide.

“We actually live in our motor home full time,” said the international director. “We came out of 12 years of retirement to do this. I don’t consider this a job. It’s a fun experience.”

Weeks added, “The best thing is the people. The Newmar family – we are very closely knit.”

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Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143,