Teetering On The Edge

 Posted by at 12:02 am  Nick's Blog
Aug 312012

We are running into one frustrating snag after another with our Arizona Gypsy Journal Rally and we are teetering on the edge of whether or not to even hold it, so I’m going to vent a little bit here, if you will allow me.

Two years ago the fairgrounds changed the starting time for our Early Bird day from first thing Sunday morning to noon, and this year they moved us back to 1 p.m. I got a phone call the other day telling me that they had booked another event before us and at our rally scheduled for next February we would not be able to start parking people until 3 p.m. That gives us about 2½ hours of daylight. We normally park in excess of 120 RVs on Early Bird day. Can you see a logistics problem here?

Our original agreement allowed us to bring in two other RVs with us for our advance crew, a week ahead of time, and for us to be able stay over on the fairgrounds for about three days to get all of our after-rally paperwork caught up. This year we had to leave by 1 PM on Friday because they had booked another event.

There has been no consideration for the cuts that have been imposed upon us, we have just had to suck it up and deal with it. But we’re done giving in. The fairgrounds manager is out of town this week, but I plan to call him next week and try to get things back on track as originally agreed upon. I will know more after that conversation takes place.

Meanwhile, the cost of everything, from fairgrounds rental to insurance, to morning coffee and donuts, paper cups and plates, etc. has all gone up. Some over 400%. But we have kept our price the same, which is the lowest by far of any rally around, and we offer more seminars than most.

We have lost money, a lot of money, on our last three or four rallies, and finally (reluctantly) decided that for the Arizona rally, we had to raise the price by $25, to $150 for the four days of camping, over sixty seminars on everything from RV driving to RV fire safety, computers, internet access, boondocking, RV electrical systems, solar power and a lot more. Not to mention our evening entertainment and tons of door prizes.

Suddenly we started getting e-mails complaining and telling us we were getting too greedy, that four days of camping at a fairgrounds without full hookups is not worth $37.50 a day no matter how many seminars we offer, and such.

I have to be honest. We are asking ourselves if it is really worth it? We love the camaraderie of our rallies and we try very hard to make them the best events we possibly can. But it takes months to plan a successful rally; the Ohio rally has not even begun yet, but I’m working on the Arizona rally. For the weeks leading up to a rally, we both work 10 or 12 hours a day, and even more during rally week. Not to mention the work put in by all of our volunteers. After a rally we are physically worn out and this year after the Yuma rally Terry became very sick.

So again, is it worth it? We are burned out and cannot continue at this pace. Our options are to stop holding rallies altogether or to go down to one rally a year, possibly in different parts of the country. Either way, the cost has to go up, because even with the $25 price increase we won’t do much more than break even.

I am interested to know what you folks think. Especially those who actually come to our rallies and know what kind of event we put on. Should we cancel Arizona for 2013? Should we hold it and then go to a reduced schedule? Or should we get out of the rally business altogether? If we do continue, how much are you willing to pay? What’s fair?

Thought For The Day – Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.

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Nick Russell

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  63 Responses to “Teetering On The Edge”

  1. If I were in your shoes, I’d be tempted to skip the Arizona rally this time and look for a new venue. The fairgrounds management is completely out of line. Your emailing complainers are also out of line. The knee-jerk snivelfest that commences when a businessperson has to keep pace with their own costs really struck a nerve with me.* You and Terry need to take care of each other’s health and finances. If people miss the fun and camaraderie, next time they’ll suck it up, swallow hard, and shell out the extra six bucks a day that means the difference between you breaking even or losing money.

    *I owned a video arcade, and here’s my speech to customers whining about a price increase: “Your grandpa paid 29 cents for a gallon of gas in the 70’s, and 25 cents to play Pong. The game cost $800 and was paid off in 3,200 plays. This used Street Fighter IV cost $12,000. It would be paid off in 48,000 plays at a quarter a play. Not happening. This isn’t the 70’s, this isn’t Pong, and you’re not your grandpa. There’s no 11th commandment that says ‘Thou shalt never pay more than a quarter to play an arcade game.’ By the way, what did you pay for gas this week?” I sold the business and it’s still up and running because I spent so much time and effort educating the regulars in Econ 101. “If I don’t make a profit, I have to shut my doors. It’s up to you guys.”

    (I won’t be offended if you delete this long response!)

  2. Are the people nuts . Even at $200 it would be one Hell of a deal . Nancy and I have been to the last two rallies and had a great time. You and Tery have to do what is best for you and not worry abou how the rest us fill.

    We would really miss the rally but would totally understand.

    the Cactus Queen of 2011

  3. Nick-

    Hold one rally a year and vary locations. Make sure to hold a future rally here in MN!

  4. You have wonderful rallies! But you can’t be in business and lose money on them and affect your healths negatively at the same time. There are always complainers with price increases. I say, dump AZ rally and hold only 1 in the future at higher prices. Then when you get tired of doing it, stop altogether. I
    think you need to give yourselves a permanent break from rallies. They are too
    much work even with all your wonderful volunteers. Why continue to pursue something that can’t even break even?

  5. Don’t worry Nick, we will still like you and buy your Big Lake books even if you don’t run a money losing Western rally. You don’t have to buy our support.

  6. I would like to see you hold the rally, raise your prices, and let the whiners stay home. If your attendance falls too low to allow you to make a profit it’s time to get out of the business.

  7. Nick and Terry

    Although I have never been to your rally’s (only because of logistics so far) I don’t feel $25 price increase is out of line at all. Everything has went up and the naysayers need to remember that. On the other hand, you two have given an awful lot to the RV community over the yrs, and just maybe it’s time to relax a little and let someone else do the job. Between the Gypsy journal and all the articles it has, the book writing etc. it may just be time to slow down a bit and look out for your health and enjoy a slower paced life. JMHO


  8. Nick, We love your rallies. But, you can’t continue to work yourselves to death and lose money. Other obligations prevent us from being at Celina and Yuma but we will be with you in spirit and read your blog every morning.
    Whatever your decision, we will be with you and support you and we hope to cross paths somewhere down the road and hope to go to a future Gypsy Gathering.
    Bernie & Carole Patton

  9. Nick, I’ve never been to one of your rallies so take my thought with the grain of salt it deserves. But, life is short, don’t blow it on things you don’t enjoy! Bob

  10. CANCEL ARIZONA, TAKE A MUCH NEEDED BREAK and if you hold any future rallies, charge enough to make a good profit. Who needs the whiners anyway? Let them go elsewhere.

    Susie C had an excellent response.

  11. We have not been able to attend one of your rallys, but the cost is certainly not the reason. Looks like a bargain to me. Looks like most rallys cost much more. My only suggestion is to schedule one in western Kentucky. We really need the rain that seems to follow your rallys. Just saying…

  12. Nick and Terry, We attended your Yuma Rally this year, our first rally ever, and it was wonderful and we are selfishly hoping to see you again next year. The education and fun we had is certainly worth another $25. But, we could see how exhausting it was for you two and I agree with the others, you need to look after you. We are sorry to be missing Ohio but live in Alaska and unable to leave here until this weekend. I wonder if those whinning stop buying food and gas because of high prices, they should realize that the cost of things of value are unfortunately rising. You deserve to make a profit, simple truth. I hope your problems in Yuma can be worked out. Patty and Doug

  13. Nick and Terry
    I vote with the previous responses,if you can’t make aprofit don’t do it. The WHINNERS CAN SIT ON A POLE AND ROTATE. well maybe that might be a little strong so let’m whine and stay home and miss all the fun and learning that is at your rallys. You guys are to nice of people to screw up your health and financial well being over a Rally.

  14. Terry and Nick,- Take a break, you are no longer 21 years old. Suggestion, reduce the number of activities at your rallies to help increase your comfort zone, Sometimes we just want to get together with friends, including YOU, have spare time and enjoy the feeling of family that you are able to portray. Another $25 will not deter us.We are only able to attend the Yuma rallies, being Canadians our time is limited in the US. We spend the winters in Tempe AZ at our daughters. We are on your side. Roger

  15. I agree. You should look for a new venue, but vary the locations!

  16. As others have suggested maybe only have one rally a year that is paid. You could still have an AZ. rally, but hold it at Quartzsite and make it a free one…..no seminars, no vendors, no meals, no work, no loss of money. Just an informal dry camping get together like many of the groups do up there. Use your winter stay in Yuma to just relax and recharge your health batteries. :>)

  17. We’ve only been to one of your rallies and have wanted to return to another, however, our schedules have conflicted but, $150 is more than a reasonable price. “$37.50 a day for a campsite with no hook-ups?” Yeah, that would be a little steep but, there’s a whole lot more to it than just a site. The rally itself is worth the hundred and fifty bucks without the inclusion of a site.

    You’re a businessman, you know what you need to make off a rally to “stay in business”. If you’re not making the money, then don’t do it. You have provided a top “quality product” and are entitled to reep the rewards. We attended the Escapade in Elkhart a couple years ago and would rate your Celina rallies far superior to that one.

    Hopefully you’ll be able to work out the details in AZ, however, you’re not getting any younger and will need to start cutting back at some point. Is this the point? Only you and Terry can determine that.

  18. I’m sorry we have only attended one of your rallies – but it is always a logistics issue, NOT a price issue. You guys did an excellent job! I agree with most here….do what is profitable and fun for you! I think that the whiners are in a minority, and most of us are willing to pay a fair $$ for an excellent event (and that fair $$ INCLUDES profit for you….)

    byw, finished Crazy Days in Big Lake – the best so far!

    Keep in mind YOUR priorities….yes, you need to make a living – but you need to take time nuture your relationships and your health (both mental & physical).

    Best of luck whatever you decide to do! Your friends & followers will still LOVE you. We will anxiously await each issue of Gypsy Journal, and, of course, the next Big Lake book!

  19. Basically there are 3 choices-#1 is to change nothing ie keep 2 rallies; your posting already rules that out; #2. Eliminate both–I think that’d be too drastic and you’d suffer “acute withdrawal” and have regrets..It’d leave too big a void…#3 is to have 1 rally/ year….it’d either be successful with less stress, some profit, still
    Giving you the fullfilment you must feel and deserve from a successful rally—- or it won’t…if it doesn’t, you can then stop them altogether without regret and you’ll have weaned yourselves off the rally circuit…my prediction is that you ( and your friends and followers) will like 1 successful rally/ reunion per year!

  20. I hate to throw a wet blanket on this thread, but there are some of us who just cannot afford ANY price increases for anything nonessential. And an RV rally is a nonessential. That $150 rally fee can buy a lot of fuel or a couple of weeks in a budget campground. We are not getting any younger and while we have a comfortable income level we can only maintain what we have now and not spend any money on frills.

  21. Hey Nick,
    I’ve never been able to attend one of your rallies, logistical reasons, and work, but would love to and would consider paying $150.00 JUST for your rally a bargain..without the campsite thrown in the price! If you’re going to think about changing venues, how about Florida for the winter ;-)? Then Al and I could even be volunteers for you!

  22. Nick, as you can see from all of the comments above (and I’m thinking the vast majority of the ones to follow), no one wants you to have the same calamities as what happened after the Yuma rally last year with Terry getting sick, as well as your rallies getting bigger bangs for the buck even if ya charge $25 more. I suggest ya don’t do the Yuma rally and take a year off from a rally in that part of the country. Then take another look at it next year to see if it’s gonna be feasible there or anywhere else. Above all, realize that many people support and appreciate a bunch what you and Terry do, and that the whiners are in a very small minority.

  23. Have the next one in Bugle Meadow or Dogpatch 😉

  24. You and Terry are what is important here. Both of you need to decide what is best for both of you. If the two rallies are causing you lack of sleep, health issues and loss of money then you have to do what is best for both of you.

    Downsizing to one rally a year in different locations (with people willing to work with you) and raising the price to receive a profit for all the work you do would be one way of starting to slow down and make life more pleasant.

    What everyone else thinks may only help you feel better about what you decide.
    We hope that you lose the rain issue though no matter where you go!

    All the best
    Rick & Kathy

  25. If you keep up this schedule you won’t have to worry about Arizona because you both will be in the hospital, or worse. Health is what matters first! Don’t do anything you don’t feel comfortable doing. I always say the heck with what other people say and want. It is what the two of you want. It is not selfish to do what you want and when you want to do it. We do whatever we want and when we want to and let the other people make comments about us. It is our life and not theirs. So, yes , do away with the Arizona rally. It will free up some time for the two of you to do what you want to do. Let those people who complain that they want the rally to do what you guys do…..I think they will sing a different tune.

  26. Nick, I don’t think you started the rallies for the money. You started it because it would be a fun way to meet all your GJ readers and for them to meet each other and share experiences and learn from each other and have a good time. Something you could look forward to. Things change. We change. We evolve. All the time. In little ways and big ways. What makes you happy? What do you look forward to? Now, how can you make enough money at it to enjoy yourself ? Just you and Terry. When you are happy and having fun together everyone you know will be happy for you and if they are not it is not your problem.

  27. I have been to the last 4 rallys in AZ. They are a lot of fun and I look forward to it every year. I would hate to see you do away with them. Paying an extra $25 is not that big of deal for all the fun we have. It looked like all the previous posts saying cancel the Yuma rally are from people back east, and they don’t even come to it.

    Carole T

  28. I agree with many others here, your health and well being is more important than doing a rally. The aggravation of dealing with fairgrounds management and unhappy people is taking too much out of you.

  29. No matter what decision you reach…there will always be someone who complains about something. They do wear you out though don’t they? I think you and Terry should put your health first. That can never be replaced. Why not try one rally a year and see how you feel about that. Set the prices you need to make some money on it. You’ve got your books coming out at a fairly good pace, along with the newspaper, give yourselves a break. Oh, and if you decide to do just one rally a year, we’d love to see you in Texas:)

  30. We are new to RV’ing and are looking to attending your event in Yuma. Certainly you should not lose money in doing an event, especially for all the efforts required.

  31. I can not believe people are bitching about the price. Go to another Rally and pay 2 to 3 times more and get a lot less. You two make it very personal and down to earth, we need more rally’s like this. If you go to just one “Rally” a year I know you will have great people at them as always. Pick the places that you want to hold the rallys people will follow you any where. We have been to two of your Rallys in the past, once as guest and once as a vendor. I know we would pay twice what we did for a rally of your quality. Keep up the good work, but your health comes first. May our paths cross soon!!!!

  32. I think you should raise your price to $200 and cut back to one rally. We were at the AZ rally in 2010 when everyone was parking in the rain and had a ball. I don’t know anything about the book business, but wouldn’t it be the case that your writing could replace the rallies as an income stream? Just do whatever it takes to keep good health.

    Jerry & Gloria Criswell

  33. One of the biggest problems business have is changing with the times. What worked for them 10 years ago will not work for them now. They try to keep things the same and end up going bankrupt. You need to see that works and what doesn’t. Your books are bringing in money and people are buying them. Your rallies are not making money and the attendance is down. It seems like that is answering your question for you.

  34. You may want to consider alternating one year east, the next year west. That way people from both sides of the country can attend a rally and have a year in between to save up. The people that complain about the price will most likely attend no matter what you charge.

  35. I follow your Journal and have not been to one of your rallys only because I never seem to be able to be in that part of the country at the right time. I certainly seems to be a rare bargain to me … I can’t imagine that price is the issue. I agree with so many of the previous posters on this subject. If you love the work of staging a rally and don’t mind paying out of pocket for the costs that are not covered, then continue. If you are tired of the hassle and don’t care to lose money on folks that only want to wail and complain that you are a highway robber … back off on the Yuma event and tell the Fairgrounds guy you are taking a pass. Perhaps, after a hiatus, folks will remember that they loved your event and miss it. When the economy allows costs to get back in line (wait for the next Blue Moon?) you may reconsider. And when you get an especially insulting message from someone, allow yourself the luxury of telling them to “go s**t in their hat”.

  36. Nick ,

    Why not look at larger campgrounds that can handle your event . When you give your customers a great deal on a full hook up site and limit the number of attendees that are comfortable for you and your volunteers , the event will sell out quickly .
    The fair grounds obviously does not care about your rally , why put yourself and your customers through the nonsense !
    Focus on Quality – Not Quantity !
    High quality seminars and products by vendors that care and back up what they sell is more important than volume .
    Look at the ” Big Name ” rally’s around the country that have turned into a circus ! That is NOT what you and the GJ are all about .

  37. You already know how Butch and I feel about you and Terry working too hard and not making enough money. No matter what you do, someone isn’t going to like it, so you might as well do what you like.

    Furthermore, on the attitudes of both the fairgrounds and the stingy whiners, consult Bad Nick.

  38. I’ve written before and again I add: I think that only rally a year would be great and that you should charge between $150-$200 each on top of the camping fees. I do realize that some cannot afford everything, but unfortunately, that happens with all businesses. No more free pizza or donuts and a small charge for coffee should help. A very big and great campground to look at, in mid country is in Iowa – the Amana Colonies RV park. It is very, very large and is set up to hold rallies. Very reasonable prices and wonderful management. I believe they are an Escapees listed park and also are PA.

  39. I winter in AZ (Phx area) because of family and I still say forget Yuma if you can’t be treated fairly and make $$$. Give the Mgr one chance to honor the contract or bail out for 2013.
    We all have our price breaking points and what some think is too much others think is ok.
    I think you’ve been to the fairgrounds in Sedalia, MO and that might be worth considering for a one time spot. Move to other areas and maybe meet new followers.
    Regardless what you decide keep in mind….health is first! Also, consider charging for coffee and donuts. If folks aren’t willing to ante up fifty cents each let them make their own or go to the Circle K!

  40. Another thought that comes to mind is that your rallies are more than just a combination of the seminars, entertainment, hookups, pizza party, coffee and donuts, vendors, etc. They are a unique product that no one else offers, because of the special people you and Terry are. I think all would agree that no other rally gives such an experience. 🙂

    You are entitled to charge appropriately. What you are considering is very modest, IMO. Not everyone can afford the Rolls Royce of rallies.

  41. Our travels usually have us at opposite ends of the country from your rally but we did make it to the Ohio rally a couple of years ago. It was well worth the money. That aside, first & foremost is your health & well being. If it makes you guys sick &/or have stopped enjoying it take a break from the rally business. People will realize what they are missing & maybe you will feel like starting up again. Someone suggested 1 rally per year, alternating between east & west, which I think would be a good compromise. It all really depends on you, but remember to put the health of you & Terry first. You are the most important people each of you have in your life! Good luck & safe travels.

  42. Your health (physical, mental, & financial) needs to be your number one priority.

    I love your rallies. They are more fun plus more educational than any others I have ever attended anywhere. If you can still do them while meeting priority number one that would be great. But, priority number one has to take precedence.

    If you decide to keep doing them, please, do boost the prices. Your rallies are worth a lot more than you have been charging. Look at how much money people are willing to drop in the bucket for your evening entertainers. I suspect they make way more than you do. Does that give you an idea as to what we are willing to spend for the fun you provide? Why should the emcee of the cactus queen and Hoosier honey contests make any less?

  43. We’re headed for Celina for our first Rallie. My 2 cents… Have one rallie per year and vary the location. Charge enough so you don’t lose money.

    Life’s too short!

  44. Nick,

    I don’t blame you for having second (or third) thoughts about the Yuma Rally. I for one would be sorry if you cancelled as I was planning on attending, but I support you, and certainly won’t hold it against you, if you decide not to hold it.

    You and Terry give so much of yourselves putting on these rallies, and that is when everything goes right (especially with fairground management), that it’s not worth risking your energy and health if you don’t get the cooperation from all parties involved, including prospective attendees who complain about the cost.

    Wishing you a successful rally in Ohio and sufficient downtime following the rally to fully recover.

  45. Everyone has budgets, I have to decide what bills to pay, Bill Gates has to decide what company or country to buy.

    There are many things that I would like to have or do, but cannot afford. That doesn’t obligate the manufacturers, suppliers or vendors to reduce their pricing to below cost, JUST SO I CAN AFFORD IT.

    To some folks $1000.00 isn’t a problem, some folks couldn’t afford the fuel to go ta a FREE rally, I would guess that most (interested) folks are somewhere in between.

    One problem that I can foresee about moving to different locations constantly is, each time you must “reinvent the wheel”, so to speak. It introduces a whole lot more work, finding a suitable (& affordable) location, negotiating contracts from a “new start”, finding new providers of pizzas, donuts and door prizes etc.

    With repetitive locations, you develop somewhat of a relationship to build upon. An example is Celina, which seems to welcome you with open arms.

    Just my idle thoughts from my idle mind.


  46. Does the town near this fairgrounds NOT appreciate ALL that extra business you bring in?? Hmmmmm, wonder if a different town/county/fairgrounds might make you a better deal?? Seems it should be free to you…just for the added business to the local economy. We were hoping to attend these once we are in a rig, but you really need to do whatever is best for your health and your marriage, whatever that is!! You will always get criticism in life. Just have some kids! Heh…not to speak of others. If you can please GOD and your wife, you are doing great!! Ignore the complainers. So let them stay home. It might make it nicer for those who do come. Besides…can they not boondock or rent space nearby and just drive to the event?

  47. We loved your rally in Yuma and sure don’t blame you for either not having it at all or moving the location. As you said, you are working on it now so you will have to make a decision soon. We just paid $35 a night for water and 30 am service and no sewer in a very noisy campground overrun with screaming children until past midnight, so I think that what you are charging is more than fair. You and Terry need to protect your health and the stress of these changes must be huge. If you do have more rallys I suggest you do raise your fee. It is still the best value around and I personally will never attend another Good Sam Rally. Too unorganzied and way more money.

  48. Hi Nick & Terry,
    …just my 2 cents.
    I will quit my job mid January 2013, start my new life on the road, hitting your rally in Yuma was going to be one of my first priorities… but if not in Yuma, well I’ll figure that out when you post the new rally schedule.

    You both need to do what is best for you… as everyone else has said.
    Charge what you have to charge… they will come! I’d pay more, I’d pay for pizza, lunches, dinners & coffee too.

    Forget about the whiners (weiners!).
    Stress is not good for anyone, at any age.
    Suggestion… one rally… one meet up somewhere. Maybe less stress.

    Sounds like whatever you decide, we’ll support you!

  49. We’ve been to two GJ Yuma rallys + other rallys at the Yuma Fairgrounds. In a nutshell, it really isn’t a very nice place. The noise from the Yuma Air Station & rotten & unreliable power aren’t exactly big positives.

    If you can’t get them to abide with their contract find another venue. Then charge what you must to make it worthwhile for you & T to do.

    We’re with you whatever you decide to do.

  50. We have very much enjoyed three of your rallies; two in Yuma and one in Elkhart. I was very surprised at the prices that you charge. I was expecting about double that! I don’t know anywhere else that you can get the information that we got at those rallies, let alone for your cost. The 2010 Elkhart rally was the beginning of our retirement which was just a month earlier. It brought us a wealth of information on our new (to us) trailer and the many aspects of RVing. If you do decide to stop the rallies we will certainly miss them as we particularly look forward to Yuma. However, there is at least one campground in Yuma that one can utilize if they want to spend time there. As most of the others have said, your well being COMES FIRST! I haven’t mentioned the many other things that I like about the rallies but you have to do what you have to do. Don’t sacrifice your physical, mental and financial health to please a bunch of whiners!! Which, I really wonder how many of the whiners have actually attended. God Bless and we will be praying for your decision.

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