The “Big Tent” is what locals call the annual Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show in Arizona. Ask anyone in town, “Where’s the RV show?” and you’ll likely get a response akin to, ”It’s just south of Interstate 10 on Highway 95, just look for the big tent,” according to Shanana Rain Golden-Bear, who publishes the monthly local newspaper Desert Messenger News.
As it has for 40 years, the Quartzsite RV Show takes place again this year in late January, in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. The consumer-oriented event is one of the largest in the U.S., with around 300 exhibitors selling RVs, aftermarket gear, custom upgrade equipment, solar power systems, and other products and services. You can even get work done on your rig while wandering around the event.
On average, nearly 1 million people attend the show over its 8-day schedule, which runs January 21 through January 29 in 2023. Attendees can visit from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, except the last day when the show closes at 3 p.m.
“My father decided to put up the biggest tent he could find in the middle of the desert and have an RV show in 1983,” says Kimmy King, CEO of the family-run show. “I’ve been coming here since I was a little kid, and now my husband and I run it.”
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What to Expect
The show is family-friendly and dog-friendly. Parking and admission are both free. The show sprawls across more than 40 acres of desert south of Quartzsite, off I-10 exits 17 and 19. There are 550 booth spaces inside the big tent, and the offerings, including RVs for sale, are scattered across the show’s acreage.
“This year, we’ve added live seminars,” says King. “There will be critical information for RV owners. We’ve scheduled events about solar power, maintenance and restoration, internet and television, and even places to tour.”
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The seminars are presented by long-time vendors. Domenic Berardesco, a marketing coordinator for Newpowa America, took a few minutes from preparing his presentation to discuss what people are asking about when it comes to adding solar power to an RV.
“We’re getting asked what’s needed and how complicated adding solar is for a novice,” he says. “In our presentation, we walk people through the entire process. RVers are adding solar to everything from teardrop trailers to Class A RVs.”
He plans to do a short presentation and spend time answering questions from those attending the seminar. Jon Goldstein, CEO of Leisure Coachworks, an RV repair, maintenance, and restoration company, is taking a similar approach.
“We have a lot of people asking us about how they can upgrade or modernize their RVs,” he says. “I want to also teach them the importance of preventative maintenance.”
Where to Stay
The Quartzsite Sports, Vacation, & RV Show has an international flavor to it.
“We see license plates from Canada and Mexico,” King says. “Some people call this the Snowbird Show.” It makes sense, as Quartzsite fills up with snowbirds in the winter. In town, there are more than 30 RV parks and campgrounds for lodging.
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“You’ve got to get reservations in as soon as you can,” says Judy Willis, general manager of the Holiday Palms RV Park. “We have some people who stay here yearly and claim their spot for next year before they leave.”
In addition to a wide variety of RV parks, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has public land dedicated to long-term visitors. There are new vault toilets available, but no hookups, dump sites, or potable water. Fees, payable on-site or at Recreation.gov, are $40 for 2 weeks or $180 for 7 months. The 7-month permit is valid at all BLM long-term visitor areas (LTVAs). Permits are required from September 15 to April 15 each year.
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The Sports, Vacation, & RV Show is located about a mile south of I-10 on Central Boulevard, which is also known as U.S. Highway 95. Follow the signs to U.S. 95 when exiting the freeway.