The 2023 LTV Fall Rally was one for the books, and what an amazing event to be a part of. September 6-9, 2023, saw rigs from all over North America converge at the Winkler Bible Camp to participate in Leisure Travel Van’s highly anticipated owners Rally. Being the largest Rally to date, imagine what it was like seeing 116 rigs of all shapes, colors, and floorplans together in one location!
We were treated to an action-packed event filled with information sessions, factory tours, cooking events, local business encounters, rig tours, music, bonfires, live music, and some great food. Mix this with the intimate and constant contact of a large portion of LTV’s top brass, and you can imagine the amazing atmosphere we were immersed in. Follow along as I take you through life at the 2023 Annual LTV Fall Rally.
Day 1 – Let the Fun Begin
Being the largest rally in LTV history meant coming up with a way to handle arrival day. There were five different parking zones at this rally, and each owner was sent a personalized email before the event, providing their parking zone and space number and a printable handbook for the three days. They were also given a specific time to show up at Winkler Bible Camp to minimize wait times and road congestion.
Having been selected as a Navigator Customer Council participant, my arrival time was 8:00 am so I could be parked and ready for the first of two meetings I participated in during the rally (more on this later). Zones were filled by location, and the last section was the most central zone 1, which provided the stunning backdrop for the group photo. Every rig was given an escort to their site and aided in positioning their rig if needed. It took most of the day to get rigs positioned, and it was an amazing site to behold. Everyone had a 15 amp service connection, and yes, there were indeed many furry friends brought by owner participants. The only restrictions for the dogs and cats were they could not go into any of the buildings on the site nor onto the beautiful beach.
Registration started in the afternoon at the beautiful Crossview Hall, where we received our official name tags and swag bags filled with some wonderful surprises from sponsors and participating businesses. What that bag was filled with was a colorful, cross-body bag from Cotopaxi, BeeFehr Honey made by Cornie Fehr, an LTV employee, a coffee sample from Other Brother Rosters, who did the coffee roasting session, a sauce and recipe cards from Gourmet Inspirations and founder Peter Fehr also did the cooking demo, craft soda from Dead Horse Cider Company who hosted the cookoff and opened their cidery to tours, and a useful three-in-one kitchen spoon donated by Corian®. My favorite little item was the official Rally sticker that is now proudly displayed inside my rig, along with my LTV Explorers badge!
Our first dinner on campus was hamburgers, fries, and refreshments. The staff at Winkler Bible Camp were a very happy lot of people who not only made most of the food we ate but also proudly served our large group three meals a day. I was impressed at the efficiency with which they did this and the smiles they always wore. Dietary needs were also met throughout the Rally as long as you let them know in advance and I would also like to mention here that there is a very generous but anonymous worker at Triple E who donated deserts, sheet cakes, and assorted food for us campers to enjoy throughout the event. This alone should give you an idea of how special Triple E as a company is.
The event kicked off with opening remarks from Phillip Vallelly. One of the things I like most about my LTV is that it is made by a family company that not only takes great pride in their workmanship but also in how they treat their employees. This was brought into sharp focus when the current President and General Manager, Ryan Elias, next spoke about his family and the extended LTV family by sharing some wonderful family and work stories.
The evening then shifted outside to the beautiful beach bonfires, and we enjoyed some yummy frozen treats supplied by Popbar and lovely music by Amber Epp. This was a great way to mingle meet new friends and interact directly with all the LTV employees that were part of the event. What a great way to finish our first day.
Day 2 – Education Ramp Up
Each morning started with a hearty breakfast, and today was small quiches, bacon, and an assortment of yogurts topped with fresh berries and granola. Shania Ginter also provided us with any announcements during this time that pertained to the daily activities.
This day was filled with factory tours and seminars held by the different LTV partners, and there was so much incredible information to be had you had to plan your time wisely. Factory tours were filled on a first-come, first-served basis, but with four offered over the whole event, everyone who wanted to could go and see the factory. Owners were led through all aspects of production by LTV employees, and some lucky campers even had Dean Corrigal as their guide.
Those not on the first tour could listen to the LTV technical seminar, Mercedes-Benz, Ford, and Truma. Below is a small summation of things touched on in the different informational sessions.
LTV Technical Seminar
The LTV technical seminar was facilitated by Brian Hiebert, Mike Duclos, and Ryan Wieler, where they spoke about many aspects of our LTVs, focusing on regular maintenance, use, and programming of systems inside our coaches. This was a helpful session that included a large question-and-answer period driven by the owners who attended. A great maintenance checklist was handed out at the end of the session.
The Truma seminars were led by Johannes Manns and the COO of Truma, who delved into the proper use and maintenance of the truma hot water system and included error code discussions and winterizing tips. We then dived into the new air conditioning systems being installed on the new coaches starting in 2024 and spent a good deal of time learning why most older rigs cannot upgrade to the new system.
These seminars were led by company representatives Michael Engeldahl and Pete Demayo and covered the new engine coming to the Mercedes chassis in 2024, an excellent discussion of the different fuel types available, and what you should and shouldn’t put in our rigs. Roadside assistance was also touched on, and an extensive question-and-answer period was provided.
Led by company representative John Bodenmiller, we covered how to use Ford Pass, how to get service when your dealer does not take in RVs, oil change frequency, and a good question-and-answer period.
Activities for the Rest of the Day
We broke for lunch mid-day and enjoyed a selection of deli sandwiches made by King’s Deli, two soup choices, and a salad. Before lunch was the fun and games of herding 200 LTVers for the infamous group photo shoot in front of Zone One. The afternoon looked much like the morning had, with the second factory tour available and a repeat of the same info sessions held in the morning for those who had been on the first factory tour.
Dinner was a selection of pasta and Caesar or fresh lettuce salad. I am pretty sure the brownies were amazing, but what was even better was the brand-new event that provided our evening entertainment.
The first annual LTV cookoff was held in a tent canopy near the beach and featured LTV’s Ryan Elias, Josiah Wiebe, and Rick Stewart teaming up with sous chefs selected from our camper pool. The goal was to see which team could develop the best dishes from a list of locally sourced food items and augmented from a specialty item the campers provided from their rigs. Matthew hosted the event from Dead Horse Cidery, who also provided a selection of craft soda products. A selection of 20 LTV owners formed the judging panel, and points were given for various things, much like current cooking shows. It was a fun-filled event, and Ryan Elias’ team was crowned the first-ever LTV cooking champions! Bonfires followed on the beach and brought the first full day of events to a close.
Day 3 – Fun and Games
Bright and early breakfast on day three was French toast and breakfast sausages served with various fresh fruit topping options and a cream cheese sauce. After morning announcements, we split into groups and headed off for a day of fun events. The third factory tour took even more owners to the factory, and the rest of us were treated to several fun events.
Other Brothers Coffee Seminar
This informative session explored the ins and outs of coffee making. Participants were educated on the different types of coffee beans, where they come from, and the climate and geological differences that influence the flavors of the coffee. Sourcing beans from sustainable farmers was the next topic of discussion, followed by a blind taste test of three types of coffee where all participants were asked to guess things like strength, caffeine content, and flavor. A lively question-and-answer session followed demonstrations on properly brewing coffee.
Camp Barnyard Tour
Owners were welcomed by Winkler Bible Camp staff and explored the animals housed in the barns and stables inside the Bible Camp. A cow, chickens, roosters, beautiful barn cats, and much more were part of this “close to home” setup.
Lunch broke up the day, and crunchy taco bowls filled with yummy proteins and veggies and topped with sour cream and beans were not only beautifully presented but my very favorite meal of the event. It was always nice to connect with all the participants and even share a meal with one of the always present LTV staff. The afternoon continued on with even more fun experiences for everyone. The fourth and final factory tour led off the afternoon as well as the following events.
Cooking Demo by Gourmet Inspirations
Gourmet Inspirations aims to help home cooks who are bored of the same old discover new spices and sauces to create tantalizing meals and feel like chefs in their own kitchens.
Owner Peter Fehr cooked up three tasty treats for which we received the recipe cards in our swag bags at registration. Each recipe featured a sauce or spice from Gourmet Inspirations, all of which can be found on their website. He offered tips for peeling vegetables and shared about his upbringing in the little community of Hochfeld in Manitoba. Attendees enjoyed each recipe and ended the demo with cold brew coffee and a choice of syrup.
Dead Horse Creek Cidery Tours
The shuttle ran continuously, ferrying people back and forth to the Dead Horse Cidery, where we were greeted and then moved on to the back patio of the cidery and had samples of their peach cider. An explanation of how and why the cidery was established and how it has grown over the years was given. Also discussed was the unique relationship with the people of the local area, bringing in their excess fruit to be either made into cider for the family or to be bought and used by the cidery to make the cidery’s signature products offered to the public.
Manitoba can be a challenging area to grow fruit, and the owner touched on how they tried experimenting with new varieties. A tour of the facilities explained the pressing procedures and how peels and fruit waste was sent to local farmers for animal feed. Aging, pasteurizing, and bottling were last on the list. The cidery had a lounge where you could sit, and sample, and a small store was ready to take people’s orders.
Owners who wanted to share the upgrades or decorating tips of their LTVs opened up their rigs for display to anyone who wanted a peak. Several rigs and floorplans were represented during this time. As a participant rig, I can attest that I had a steady stream of visitors, resulting in some great information and story exchanges. LTV also had some new models on site for people to check out, the most popular being the new Unity Murphy Bed Lounge.
Rounding out the afternoon’s events was the LTV pop-up shop where owners could purchase rally shirts, LTV dishware, and other LTV products that are usually only available in the online store.
Our last dinner of this year’s rally was BBQed by the LTV employees. There were beef skewers grilled to perfection, potatoes, a cucumber salad, and raspberry bars. During announcements, Shania gave away several other prizes. By early evening, we were gathering in the chapel to enjoy a coffee house hosted by Other Brother Roasters and to hear Phillip Vallelly sum up the great time we had over the Rally. The Rally video was shared for the first time, and it was fun to look back over everything we had participated in.
The final event was a live performance by the Super Sonic Hearts Band, who had us dancing and singing some great songs. Their unique style entertained us for a good while before Mike Elias stood up and thanked all the owners participating and the staff at LTV for working so hard to put on such an incredible event. After that, we said goodbye, thanked some staff that would not return to the Rally Saturday morning, and retired to the bonfires on the beach again.
Navigators Customer Council
At the start of this story, I promised to speak further about the Navigators Customer Council and how I was selected to be on it. A few months before the Rally, every person attending the 2023 LTV Rally received an email inviting them to apply to be on the Navigators Customer Council during the Rally. They asked about your upgrades, travel experience, and why you want to be on the council. Around 30 people were chosen to form the council from the applications sent in.
I will say this now: being on the Navigators was the best thing I participated in at the Rally. We had two two-hour meetings we had to attend over the three days, and both sessions involved interacting with some of the most senior people at LTV. They asked us the reasons why we bought an LTV, what we liked and didn’t like about our rigs, what were the things that would make our rig everything we wanted, how our dealer experience was, our delivery experience was, and how they could be better. I almost fell over when they asked us to design our perfect LTV.
We had to work separately, and as groups, we were asked to dig deep and step up to the plate to voice our opinions. They wanted the bad and the good. They also explained the Triple Diamond Dealer program to us in more detail. For our efforts, we received a stately Navigators journal with a pen and a beautiful Navigators jacket that will live in my Bee forever. If you do get selected for a future Rally, I highly recommend applying to participate. It will be another one of those cool moments where you realize how special LTV is and why its products are made so well.
Day 4 – Fond Farewells
Our last breakfast with the folks at Winkler was one we had all heard about since day one. The highly coveted Mennonite cinnamon rolls came hot and gooey fresh, with lots of bacon! I am sure they had other items to supplement this, but the cinnamon rolls and bacon were filling my plate.
Every good thing in life has to end, but while we were busy taking pictures with new friends and exchanging phone numbers and travel cards, we were also gearing up for what new adventures were about to happen. Take down and move day is always a flurry of action, and to have 116 rigs ready to roll was a tornado! Happily, we left one by one, enriched by the experience, grateful for the incredible community that comes with choosing to purchase and lovingly owning a beautiful Leisure Travel Van.
For those of you reading this who have never experienced an LTV Rally, I highly recommend attending one. While the Winkler Fall Rally is certainly their grandfather, your local Travelers Club also hosts wonderful events, and I promise you it will be a good time with great people!
Please enjoy this video recapping our week together.