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Campgrounds prep for ‘wet and wild’ weekends

Some people like to camp in a quiet place in the woods.

But quiet is not on the menu at the Wisconsin campgrounds that Bud Styer owns or manages on behalf of other park owners, which include Smokey Hollow Campground in Lodi; Merry Mac’s Campground in Merrimac; Baraboo Hills Campground in Baraboo; Tilleda Falls Campground in Tilleda; Rivers Edge Campground in Stevens Point; River Bend RV Resort in Watertown; and Harbour Village Campground in Sturgeon Bay.

Styer caters to an active family crowd, the kind of people who will go through 14,000 water balloons in a weekend game of “water wars” in which everyone in the campground gets wet.

“There are three adjectives we like to hear,” Styer said. “Awesome, sweet or wow! If I get one of those out of the adults or their kids, I’m doing my job. That’s how we run our business.”

But Styer isn’t the only campground operator who is tapping into his guests’ wild side.

Growing numbers of independently owned and operated campgrounds across the country, as well as many parks in the Jellystone Park Camp-Resort and Kampgrounds of America (KOA) chains, offer a growing assortment of water-related activities, from spraygrounds and waterslides to their own “Wet and Wild” weekends.

“Camping enthusiasts always seek access to water, whether it’s in rivers, lakes, swimming pools or along the beach. But many parks find they can further enhance their appeal by offering fun, water-related activities,” said Linda Profaizer, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds.

Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resort in Williamsport, Md. is planning a “Wet and Wild Week” Aug. 2 to 8. “Wherever you are in the park and whatever you do that week, there is a very good chance you are going to get wet,” said park co-owner Vicki Vitkun.

“We have water balloon fights. We do a water balloon pitch burst. We do wet sponge ball fights, big water gun battles, volleyball in the pool, basketball in the pool. Everything is wet. We even have a guest against staff watergun fight. So even the staff knows to beware that week because they’re going to get wet, too. It’s a week filled with constant laughter, screaming and shouting.”

Several KOA parks also offer “Wet and Wild” weekends at various times during the summer, such as July 16 to 18 at the KOA in Port Huron, Mich., and July 23 to 25 at the Stockton/Delta KOA in Stockton, Calif.
Other parks are adding new water-related attractions. Pineland Camping Park in Arkdale, Wis., for example, just installed PineZilla, the world’s largest inflatable waterslide, which stands over four stories tall and features a 175-foot-long slide with a 45-degree descent at the drop zone. 

Meanwhile, the KOA in Rusk, Texas, has installed a new Frisbee skills court. “But watch out for the water hazards,” warns park owner Walter Preble. “Everyone gets wet.”

While Styer has “water wars” water balloon game stations at each of his Wisconsin parks, he said his water wars weekends are the most popular times of year at his parks. That’s when he drives throughout each park using a specially designed hay wagon that has been outfitted with four water guns that can each shoot water up to 75-feet. Of course, whenever he does this, Styer and his staff also risk coming under attack from campground guests, who arm themselves with everything from water balloons to pump action water guns.

Styer said his guests will spend an entire day filling water balloons as they prepare for a water wars weekend. “I’ve had guys fill up their pickup trucks with water balloons. It becomes a feeding frenzy,” he said.

In fact, fun family activities take place every day during the summer at the parks under Styer’s management, which include everything “water wars” water balloon games to nighttime light parades and nighttime miniature golf. He even organizes sumo-wrestling competitions.

“It’s hilarious,” Styer said. “You put on these big vinyl suits and you’re about 4-feet in diameter when you have them on. And then you try to push the other guy out of the ring. But if you fall over, you’re like a turtle. And somebody from the audience will have to step in to set you back up on your feet.”

For more information activities and amenities at private campgrounds, visit www.gocampingamerica.com.

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