Behind the Scenes of the 2017 North American Heartland Owners Rally

By:  Lisa & Dan Brown

8th Sep, 17

By now, you've probably heard, read about or seen cool photos of this past year's Heartland Owners Club North American Rally. I bet those who haven't attended surely wished they had gone and those who had attended are looking forward to the next one.

During the month of June of 'odd years' (2017, 2019…), an amazing event takes place in Goshen, Indiana, where Heartland Owners Club members from all over the United States, Canada travel many miles to attend the Rally. Rally attendees all converge with one main thing in common; they all own Heartland RVs. They attend workshops and presentations, learn more about their RV's and how to care for them, forge new friendships and see old friends.

Rally attendees get to step inside the newest Heartland RV products, meet RV components manufacturing representatives, buy RV products, trade RV stuff, get RV discrepancies repaired, go on tours, clean this, weigh that; all while spending time with a fantastic group of RVers. They also get to see how they are built in the factory and ask a panel of Heartland leadership hard questions.

But, there's a lot that goes on to make it all happen...

As Heartland Owner's Club News and Rally Social Media Lead, I'd like to share what happens 'behind the scenes' so rally attendees, past and future, understand that these rallies 'don't just happen'. It takes an immeasurable amount of hours, work, and dedication to pull one of these off.

How the planning begins...

"The Big One" (North American Rally) wouldn't happen without the precise planning by, Jim Beletti, Heartland RV's Director of Owners Interests. Jim steers the club and is a resource to Heartland Owners Club leadership. He wears many hats; from his job with Heartland RVs, Heartland Owners Club President and Heartland Owners Club North American Rally Master.

Jim typically starts planning and coordinating the North American Rally a year prior to the event. He communicates extensively with Heartland RVs, the rally venue contact (Elkhart County Fairgrounds), tour guides, tour bus companies, restaurants, caterers, vendors, presenters, component manufacturers, etc. He communicates through meetings, phone calls, teleconferences, and sends tons of emails.

Once Jim gets the ball rolling with the big stuff, he puts together a group of highly dedicated Heartland Owners Club members who voluntarily serve as his 'Core Team'. Core Team members generally arrive approximately 2-3 weeks prior to prepare for the Rally. Each Core Team Member then builds their own teams of volunteers to assist in constructing, parking, organizing, packing, cooking, ordering, and putting everything into place.

Of those Core Team Members, Julie Hancock, Heartland Owner's Club Manager, works long hours all through the year with keeping up the membership roles of the club and was instrumental in keeping up with the necessary paperwork and planning. 

Also, Team Member worth mentioning is Erika Dorsey, Heartland Owner's Club Rally Graphics Designer. She works closely with Jim about nine months prior to the rally to create and design the logo for the Rally on t-shirts, rally bags and giveaways.

Erika also designed the Rally social media graphics, posters for presentations and seminars, marketplace and vendor posters, credentials badges and all things 'graphics'.

Meet the 2017 Heartland Owners Club North American Rally Core Team...

  • Club President / Rally Master (Jim Beletti)
  • Parking Coordinator (Kevin Wolbeck)
  • Club Manager / Seminar Starter / Parking (Julie Hancock and Dave Yocum)
  • Rally Wagonmaster / Rally Technical Team Lead / Seminar Starter Lead (Terry Hershberger)
  • Technical Team / Seminar Starter (Dan Mayer)
  • Foods-Catering / Decorating (Linda West)
  • Rally Bag Coordinator / T-Shirt Sales (Dave "Cookie" Hromek)
  • Vendor Coordinator (Ken and Kathy Adams)
  • Golf Cart Coordinator (Dan and Karen Halvorsen)
  • Rally Hosts / Greeting Team (Lyle and Pam Hestermann)
  • Rally Photographer / Social Media Lead / Parking Team (Dan and Lisa Brown)
  • Lifestyle Seminar Coordinator (Emily Rohrer)
  • Heartland Gives Back Coordinator (Judi Barnett)
  • Rally Graphics Designer (Erika Dorsey)

?There were also others who helped along the way and the Rally wouldn't be successful without them either.

Rally Wagon Master, Terry Hershberger, was available to guide Core Team members and attendees for questions, direction and information.

Here are this year's North American Rally Hosts and Greeting Team, Lyle and Pam Hestermann on a break between shaking hands, answering questions and kissing babies.

Dan Mayer, Technical Team Member, guided audio and set up audio visual components for our presenters and events in the Rally Hall.

Some of our Core Team and volunteers putting together information packets that will be put into each rally bag.

Over 300 T-Shirts were rolled, banded; piled into specific sizes for distribution into the rally bags.

Dave "Cookie" Hromek and his wife (Rally Bag Coordinators) posed for a smile. Dave organized and oversaw the Rally Bag operation. He also demo'd the RecTec Grill by cooking various meats and held a drawing for a give-a-way.

The Rally Bags have been packed and put into alphabetical order so they are easily dispersed when each attendee arrives.

There's so much that goes on 'behind the scenes' before the first Heartland Owner's Club Rally attendee pulls arrives.

So, you want to attend a future North American Rally…

You must first apply for a Heartland Owners Club Membership if you're not already a member. It's not a painful or expensive process; you can register online. First year only costs $35 which gets your first year membership and kit. Subsequent year renewals are only $10 a year. You will be assigned a 'membership number', which you will use on all of your Heartland Owners Club correspondence, registrations and applications.

Once you have your membership, be on the lookout for the North American Rally announcement (usually around the March prior) via which will be on the Heartland Owners Club Newsletter/Blog, various Heartland Owners Social Media pages, Heartland Owners Forums.

You will then register for the North American Rally after it's been announced.

Your Rally Fees typically include (not limited to and/or may be subject to change) campsite, pre-rally meet and greet, specified number of catered breakfast, lunch and dinners, entertainment, door prizes, rally bag with swag, t-shirt(s), credentials, technical and lifestyle presentations, Heartland RV factory tour, RV/MH Museum tour and whatever else is slated for the rally. WHEW!!! Did you get all that?

There's also 'Pre-Rally' events you can register for that include tours and dinners that you may want to take part in. These are a great way to forge friendships and bond prior to the Rally. Jim does an exceptional job coordinating cool tours of the Elkhart, Goshen, Middlebury, and other Amish countryside and area attractions. Having partaken in these for two years ourselves, we highly recommend one, two or all of them!

Once you've registered, attendees are encouraged to stay tuned for updates on the forums page(s). As time draws closer, updates will occur daily; even hourly. You definitely don't want to miss out!

About the 2017 North American Rally experience...

This past Rally was jam-packed with amazing experiences. As Core Team Members, they were incredibly busy with very little down time leading up to the Rally but once the Rally began, they got to see the fruits of their labors.

"Core Team Row" is where all of the Rally Core Team members parked. Keeping them all together allowed necessary interaction and meetings to take place at moments notice.

Below are photos taken during Pre-Rally and Rally; showing what takes place 'behind the scenes' and to put faces with the names of this past Rally's Core Team.

Rally Core Team Preparation days…

Kevin "The Mayor" Wolbeck and his team staked out the infield where the new Heartlands were displayed for viewing.

While this was done on the outside, good stuff was happening inside. Kathleen Adams, Vendor Coordinator, met with Vendors and organized the Vendor Hall. This is where vendors sold their products and wares.

Kathy also coordinated the Heartland Owner's Yard Sale table where attendees laid out their pre-owned or new RV related items they wanted to sell. Lots of good stuff CHEAP!

When Rally Attendees arrive…

Upon arrival, attendees are checked in, receive their Rally Bag and a decal is adhered to the front cap of their Heartland to show they've been checked in properly.

The Check-In Team aka 'The Pit Crew', Bette Dick (Volunteer), Nelly Wolbeck (Volunteer) and Emily Rohrer (Lifestyle Presentation Coordinator) never missed a beat. As you can see, they each had their own job to get our attendees checked in smoothly.

Once attendees have been checked in, Kevin Wolbeck, also known as 'The Mayor", and his parking team led each Heartland RV to their designated campsite.

Oftentimes, Rally Attendees were stacked behind each other patiently waiting to be checked in and escorted to their sites. Here, Kevin showed Dan Brown (Parking Team), where one of the arrivals was to be parked.

Kevin's Parking Team, Dave Yocum, Lou Dick, and Dan Brown waiting for new arrivals.

After attendees have been escorted to and set up their campsite by the Parking Team, those attendees who reserved a golf cart, met with Dan and Karen Halvorsen (Golf Cart Coordinators) to pick their's up.

By the time the first day of Pre-Rally arrived, most Heartlanders have been checked in and settled. Then the fun began for the attendees but work still needed to be done by the Core Team.

The Pre-Rally kicked off with the "Meet and Greet" Linda West (Food Catering and Decorating Coordinator) and her team put on a fabulous supper with hotdogs, chips, cookies and tons of smiles. She and her team worked all through the Pre-Rally and Rally making sure coffee was hot and ready in the mornings, tables were clean and presentable, and food was served at precise times

Every morning, Ann Mayer (Fitness and Pole Trekking Leader) met ambitious Rally attendees for a Wake-Up Workout followed by a Pole-Trekking Power Walk. She had quite a crowd every morning of Pre-Rally and Rally. They had perfect weather morning too!

We had a schedule full of Technical and Lifestyle Presentations and Workshops. Emily Rohrer, Lifestyle Presentations Coordinator, not only organized the presentations but she also tended to and announced each presenter to their audiences. As well, she volunteered as part of the Pit Crew, welcoming arrivals.

As with most any organization, they pick a worthy cause or charity to focus on contributing to. Heartland Owners Club hosts a program called 'Heartland Gives Back'. The Heartland Gives Back Initiative (HGBi) is an initiative by the Heartland Owners Club to "give back" to the communities we rally in. For each national rally, we choose one or more organizations as our HGBi beneficiaries.

This year's Heartland Gives Back Initiative (HGBi) gives us two very special opportunities for giving back to the Elkhart County community we'll be rallying in. The programs we've developed for these opportunities are Heartland Baby Blessings (HBB) and Heartland Hats and Hugs (HHH).

HOC members put their love and talents into sewing, knitting, crocheting or purchasing baby items to give to community families in need through the Elkhart County Extension Homemakers.

The second opportunity for giving back was for adult cancer patients at the Goshen Center for Cancer Care with handmade or store-bought chemo caps and shawls. Monetary donations are welcome.

This all couldn't happen with Core Team Leader Heartland Gives Back Judi Barnett who organized these wonderful giving programs. Once all the donations were received and cataloged, Judi hosted a luncheon to celebrate the generosity of so many. She and the Heartland Owners Club appreciate the many selfless and wonderful donations to make an impact on so many.

Now, there's one Volunteer who I think deserves our 'Editor's Choice Unsung Hero' recognition. Every morning before any of us opened our doors to greet the sun, Nelly Wolbeck made her famous 'Nelly Muffins' for the Core Team and Pre-Rally attendees in her Landmark Newport. Starting her mornings early, she worked tirelessly to kickstart our engines each morning. If you've never had a Nelly Muffin, you're missing out!

After all the planning and coordinating was flowing flawlessly (or so we'd admit), our fearless leader Jim Beletti finally got to enjoy meeting new members, talking with old friends, and loving on puppies.


When I wasn't taking 3000+ photos of every facet of the Rally, I was always busy tapping away on my phone, sharing the events and photos on our Club's social media pages, going 'live' on Facebook with our RecTec Grill demonstration and writing my rough draft of this blog. Through writing this, I wanted to show our Rally-Goers and those thinking of attending future rallies how much fun is to be had at these but that fun couldn't happen without the hard work of the Rally Core Team of Leaders, Coordinators, Organizers and Volunteers.

We hope you enjoyed this behind the scenes peek and meeting the Heartland Owners Club North American Rally 2018 Core Team and a few of the volunteers who made this Rally such a success!

Those who attended the North American Rally, we look forward to your return. Those who haven't yet, consider putting it in your June 2019 plans. Watch for the announcement and information on the Heartland Owners Forum Portal as time draws near.

Until then, safe travels to wherever your Heartlands take you. See ya in 2019 in Goshen!

*Lisa Brown (Always On Liberty) is a paid contributor to the Heartland Blog. All opinions expressed are her own.*

More on the 2017 North American Heartland Owners Rally

Lisa & Dan Brown

Lisa & Dan Brown

Dan & Lisa Brown are known as "Always On Liberty". They are two Coasties (30 years Retired & Veteran) who fought Mother Nature guarding our coasts and saving souls now travel between them with their two Maine Coon Cats. They have been full-time traveling since 2014 with their 2016 Heartland Landmark 365 Ashland (formerly '16 Heartland Cyclone 4100). They are avid hikers, ADV motorcycle riders, bloggers and travel enthusiasts. They enjoy visiting, hiking and riding our National Parks, Monuments, Historical Sites, Battlefields and strange places. 
Follow them!