Van enthusiasts travel to Dillon for second annual Adventure Van Expo

Adventure Van Expo attendees shop for new van parts and learn about the van lifestyle on Saturday, Aug. 22, 2020.
Photo by Libby Stanford /

DILLON — It’s hard to find a lifestyle more suited to a pandemic than van life, a phenomenon in which avid campers convert cargo vans into livable homes. 

Vanlifers, curious adventurers and community members made their way to Dillon Amphitheater on Saturday, Aug. 22, for the Adventure Van Expo, a farmers market-style event with vendors and vans from all across the country. 

Organizer Neil Morse was worried the second annual expo might not happen when he first started hearing about the novel coronavirus pandemic. 

“We’re so grateful (to still have the event),” Morse said. “I worked with the town and the town was so great. They’ve been so awesome to make sure we have this.”

The event, which blocked off a portion of Lodgepole Street, was outfitted with social distancing protocols. All vendors and attendees were required to wear masks, hand sanitizer stations were placed along the street, traffic flow measures were in place and the number of people at the event was limited, causing attendees to line up for their chance to see the vans.

“We’re basically following the farmers market plan,” Morse said. “This has been approved by Summit County. It’s all about having a safe event within those guidelines.” 

A dog named Roxy sits in the passenger seat of her owners van during the Adventure Van Expo on Saturday, Aug. 22.

Morse, who is from Lake Tahoe, California, organizes van expos across America for van enthusiasts. The Dillon event was the second of five across the country. The expo will also be in Lake Tahoe, Big Bear Lake, California and Ridgefield, Washington, through September and into October . 

The vans featured at the expo were primarily Mercedes Sprinters which have been converted to be livable spaces for camping trips in the winter and summer. Morse said many of the vans use heaters that run off diesel fuel, allowing them to be warm in the winter without keeping the van running. 

“For a roadtrip machine, it’s awesome,” said Morse, who has taken his van on trips across Wyoming and Utah. 

During the pandemic, the vans have allowed people to get out into the world without putting themselves at risk of catching the virus. 

“You can cook and sleep in your van without having to go to a restaurant or a hotel, that really limits the exposure you have to other people,” Morse said. “They’re a self-containing environment.”

Laurel Hollen-Forbes, who visited the expo with her wife, Cat, said they have been considering buying a van for sometime and the virus might just be the right excuse. 

“We’ve always talked about campers, vans, whatever, but now that (COVID-19) is a thing and it could be for a while, it’s more top of mind,” Laurel said. 

Around 20 vendors attended the event this year, half of what the event saw in 2019, Morse said. 

For many of the vendors, the opportunity to sell their products was much needed. 

“It’s incredible,” Elliot Cason, a vendor with Nomadic Cooling, said about the ability to sell his off-grid air conditioner. “They did a great job of cornering everything off and making sure there was plenty of space between every vendor and plenty of space for guests to walk around. I think it’s awesome that we get to have these kind of things even during times like this.” 

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