The Winnebago Grand National Rally is Back!

The Winnebago Grand National Rally is Back! 
A recap of the 2021 GNR, a beloved Winnebago owner event.
By: Kenny Phillips

There is an old saying that goes, ‘you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.’ I just returned from the 2021 Winnebago Grand National Rally and that perfectly describes how I felt during the entire event. 

For more than 50 years, Winnebago has been inviting owners to their rally grounds in Forest City, IA, to celebrate what it means to be a Winnebago owner. Sabrina and I bought our Winnebago in 2017, and since then we have been to four Grand National Rallies. It is a tradition we look forward to each year, and we love meeting back up with the friends we have made from past rallies as well as making new ones. 

Last year, Winnebago had to cancel the Grand National Rally due to COVID-19. It was a decision the Winnebago team made with a heavy heart to keep everyone safe – owners and employees alike. But this year, this beloved event was able to come back! 

When I heard the news that the rally was making its return this year and that I would be able to attend, I got so excited. After a year of virtual meetings, I couldn’t wait to meet back up with my friends and see them in person again. This got me thinking about what GNR meant to other attendees, as well as how the Winnebago team felt to be able to welcome everyone back. 

So, come along with me as I recap the 2021 Winnebago Grand National Rally and what it meant to everyone to be in Forest City together again.

What Did it Mean for Winnebago to Be Able to Welcome Everyone Back?

Before we get started on recapping this year’s event, I want to share what the 2021 GNR meant to Winnebago. 

I had the chance to speak with Denise Hagen, Marketing Manager at Winnebago, who plays a large role in the Grand National Rally. I feel Denise is the best person to ask how difficult that decision was to cancel last year’s GNR and what it meant to welcome everyone back this year. 

This is what she had to say:

“I remember management mentioning in March 2020 that we would need to consider canceling GNR, and my heart was heavy knowing that would be the first time in 50 years that we didn’t gather our beloved Winnebago owners together. 

We knew canceling in 2020 was the responsible thing to do. There was no question in 2021 that we would bring the rally back in some way, but the tough part was determining what activities we could safely include as we watched the country begin to open up again. 

Our team worked through the details in about three months and hoped our guests enjoyed the event with a few surprises like our pop-up Tiki Bar and small group owner meetups.”

What Does the Grand National Rally Mean to Other Owners?

I’ve already said that the rally is a big deal for me because I get to see all my friends again in one place, but it is so much more than that. 

I love taking the tours, speaking with product managers, and sharing my two cents with the Customer V.O.I.C.E Program. I enjoy the shows at night and end of row parties – which, if you have never experienced, I would describe as a little bit of Mardi Gras mixed with Polka. 

I absolutely look forward to meeting up with the Fit RV for the morning bike rides and, of course, seeing what is new in the product displays. 

While those are the things I enjoy most about the rally, I was curious to hear what other attendees had to say as well. So, I grabbed my recorder and ran around interviewing some of the guests.

What GNR Attendees Enjoy Most:

“We came the first time basically because it was on our way on a trip, so we scheduled the week to stay here and really enjoyed ourselves. Met some new friends from Minnesota and we come back year after year to meet those friends again and for the seminars, especially with Freightliner, Cummins, and all the people that build the components that go into our RV.” – John

“We love it! It’s a fun time. I love visiting the vendors and seeing what's new and I love riding through the park to see who is here. We love the entertainment; we have a great time each year with no complaints and that’s why we come back every year.” – Dave and Barb

“This is our first time here, and the reason why we did it is we have never taken a long road trip and we thought this was a good way to dip our toes in because if anything goes wrong we’ll be able to talk to the people that have been doing it for years - steal some knowledge from them and pick up some nice merchandise while we are here, too.” – Jeff and Shelly

“We like coming to Winnebago’s GNR because we like to see the new units and I love going to the seminars and learning all about the components.” – Jesse

“We like to renew old friendships and make new ones. We like the atmosphere - it’s relaxing, it’s safe. We are outdoors getting fresh air and sunshine, we eat good, we sleep good, and we're amongst people we love.” – Tina

Looking Forward to Seeing You at GNR Next Year!

You may think Winnebago would have been a bit rusty throwing an event after having the year off, but I can honestly say they outdid themselves this year. I think they are going to have a very difficult time topping this year’s Hawaiian theme. 

The atmosphere with the Hawaiian music just put everyone in a good mood and they had spontaneous pop-up Tiki Bar happy hours, a Luau dinner, and the night-time shows were spectacular with very talented musical guests, a Polynesian themed show, and even Elvis made an appearance. 

I really hope you enjoyed learning about Winnebago Grand National Rally and that it entices you to join us next year. I know I’m already counting down the days until we can all meet again.

Take care and safe travels everyone!

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