Wasatch Front highways may be a little more clogged than usual this month as about 5,000 motor homes descend on Ogden, and Eddie and Billie Howell couldn't be happier.
The Howells don't like traffic jams. They're just excited that this new wrinkle in the traffic mix could drive an extra $15 million into the city's economy and $30 million into the state.People who love driving houses on wheels will travel from the far corners of the continent to the Golden Spike Events Center and Defense Depot Ogden for a convention of the Cincinnati-based Family Motor Coach Association, a national motor-home owners' club. The convention runs Aug. 17-20.
The Howells, who ran the Acme Fence Co. in Ogden for more than 25 years, joined the FMCA in 1985 and retired in 1991.
"We live in a motor home all summerlong," Eddie Howell said. "In October, we'll go back to Arizona and spend the winter there.
"We just enjoy traveling. We've been in every state in the union, every province in Canada and 12 states in Mexico. We didn't do Hawaii in a motor home, but for Alaska we did."
As part of their travels, the Howells have attended several motor-home conventions. One of those, in Washington state, got Eddie Howell thinking about what such an event could do for his home city of Ogden.
He said FMCA officials told him the conventions required a place to park the motor homes and a couple thousand motel rooms for all of the merchandise vendors and visitors who stop by.
When Eddie Howell talked to the Washington town's officials, they said they expected the convention to bring about $20 million to their community and $30 million to the state.
"They said the average male's age in the association is 65, and the ladies are about 62," Eddie Howell said. "Most of these people have already cooked most of their family meals. When they get in a deal like this, most will go to restaurants."
FMCA figures show that its members have a median net worth of $429,000 and drive 8,000 miles in their vehicles each year.
The Howells passed their research on to the Ogden/Weber Convention/Visitors Bureau, and now they will have the chance to show off their 40-foot Gulfstream at an event in their own backyard.
Eddie Howell said 3,000 families have pre-registered for the event. About 1,000 more will register late, and another 1,000 motor homes will be on display. That means 5,000 vehicles and 12,000 to 15,000 people in Ogden.
And with miniature rallies scheduled beforehand at locations throughout the region, Eddie Howell said he expects the event to have a $30 million impact on Utah's economy.
Billie Howell said the conventions draw people who love the motor-home lifestyle.
"We have traveled quite a bit by car and by plane, but this way you can smell the roses along the way, and you don't have to pack a suitcase," she said. "And if, while you're going down the road, you want a glass of iced tea or want to go to the bathroom, it's right there."
Convention activities in Ogden will be closed to the public, but everyone is invited to look at displays from nearly 100 motor-home manufacturers and dealers from across the country.
It costs $5 to get a look at the vehicles. Viewing hours for motor-home exhibits will be 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 18-20, and for booth displays will be 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the same days.