MC Fireside Chats - Episode 71

This week on MC Fireside Chats, we’re wrapping up 2021 with a look back at some of the most important stories.

Plus, we’ll chat with a park manager about their Christmas activities, an owner who expanded their park, and speculate about what 2022 has in store for the industry.



[00:00:51] Hey everybody, how you doing? Welcome to another episode of MC Fireside Chats. My name is Brian Searl with Insider Perks and Modern Campground with my giant campfire behind me and my Christmas tree. I’m getting a little bit into the Christmas spirit here trying to do anyway here as always with Cara Csizmadia from the Canadian Camping & RV Council and Angela Hilton, the editor in chief of Modern Campground.

[00:01:10] So we’re gonna do a couple things today. We’ve got a park manager on here. Who’s going to talk a little bit about some of the Christmas festivities that goes on at their campground that they’ve planned here. We’ve got the, another park owners going to talk about some of the expansion that they’ve done throughout the year.

[00:01:24] And then we’re going to dive into some of the different things that happened in 2021 kind of a year in review type deal. So super excited to get this going here. As a reminder, if you have comments, if you want to jump in on the discussion if you’re following us on one of the Facebook pages, you can comment, we put your chat up on the screen.

[00:01:38] We can’t pull those in from groups, but we’ll pay attention to those and try to monitor those throughout. And then we are also available as a podcast to listen to later on Google, Facebook, Spotify, those kinds of places. We’re going to start with Angela. Oh why don’t we go ahead and let our guests introduce themselves and then we can dive in and Janie, if you’re okay with it, we’ll start with you with talking about your property, but why don’t we have both of them introduce themselves.

[00:02:04] Hi everybody. I’m Janie Rowe. Mine. I’m in Oklahoma with Marville resort. We are actually in the middle. It’s the last weekend of our Christmas festival and I think that’s why we’re here to talk about. It’s been exciting, fun, and a big change for us. Awesome. Welcome Janie. Thank you. Thank you so much for joining us.

[00:02:34] Hi, I am Caitlin Anderson. I am in Michigan. We own Kibby Creek campground. I am one of seven owners. We own it together as a family. We’re a multi-generational family and we we run the place together. We live here together and our season is April 15th to October 15th. So we’ve been close for a little bit.

[00:02:55] But we have an expansion going on. So we’ve got a lot that we’re working on with that right now in our off season. So exciting.

[00:03:06] What do you want to start with Angela? Why don’t we go ahead and get the direction here? I would love to hear from Janie. So a little bit of an, I won’t do justice what she has to share, but just a little bit of background Janie works with a property and they’ve implemented a new a new event this year.

[00:03:27] And so I would just love to hear more about what that event is how you guys have gone about facilitating that, what to include. And then also what you’ve seen in terms of occupancy and the kind of the feedback you’ve gotten from guests. It has been a great asset to our park.

[00:03:46] Normally in December, we don’t see anybody, we don’t see anybody for days. And all of a sudden we come up with this great idea list. We have a big a big festival type thing in October with Halloween. So that brings in, even past our normal time we’re working through till October.

[00:04:09] And then I got to thinking we’ll just mimic and mirror what we do in October and we’ll try it for Christmas. We did the first three weekends, of course, cause Christmas falls on, the weekend. So I thought we’ll do it the first three. And it has been wonderful. We. Started when I first started, I thought, oh decorate the parking lights and we’ll have a drive-through and we’ll start there.

[00:04:33] And then it just started building from there. And in October we do a magic pumpkin where, the kids buy pumpkin seed and then they go down, they ride a hay, a little hay ride down to the pumpkin patch and then they come back and there’s a pumpkin there. So we did that same concept with a Christmas tree.

[00:04:54] We got an idea out of a Christmas tree farm out of California. They sent us the trees and we sold seeds and. It’s called a living Christmas tree. They’re really nice. And that this is what they get when they come with the seed and then they get it in a little tube. So the kids go and plant their seed and then they get this little tree and it’s a live Christmas tree.

[00:05:19] And that has been so fun. That is one activity. We do. We have a hot cocoa bar. We have Santa, we have the Grinch, we have Elsa, we have painting ceramics. We just, you know what, we’re just trying to keep up with the times. And what appeals to the customers. And I tell you like the live tree, just to, just before you go to the live tree, really appeals to me.

[00:05:46] Like I intended to get alive tree. I have a fake one behind me now, but I intended to get alive when I just didn’t have enough time to go cut it down. But I think there’s some nostalgia there. That’s missing that. You’re bringing back by doing. Definitely. And not only the kids, the adults, the parents are, we, they get to, they get to take it home and plant their own tree.

[00:06:05] And that just makes it to a whole nother level to the fun. And we also, like I said, we’re trying to just keep up with the times and do different, fun things. I have different ideas for next year. We’ll just keep growing. No, no guys decorate the cause we do the magic pumpkin seeds too. And then but ours instead of a trip around, they do, they get their pumpkin seeds Friday night and then they come pick them up Saturday morning and we decorate.

[00:06:33] But that would be so much fun to have little ornaments or something to decorate their Christmas trees the next day or something. Yeah. That is, you know what that is. We do it like, at nine we do nine to 11 and then they come back in the afternoon and pick their, we do it all on the same day.

[00:06:50] We usually have a big days on Saturdays and okay. And then that evening is when we’ll have pictures with Santa. We have a train, a small train here. So we do like train rides. We put lights all over the train. We’ll do train rides around the park. And that, that’s another big hit with that. Like I said, we’re just trying to appeal to customers, make it a little Christmas town because when you go and drive through lights, which, I did that with my children and people do that.

[00:07:19] You, you just drive through lights, but now we’re just, we’re offering activities. You can drive to the lights. We also give, hot chocolate to do that. So it’s just really fun. It’s a lot of different things we’re trying to, offer. Yeah. And it’s something you and I were discussing yesterday too.

[00:07:36] There’s such a desire for. Fun family activities that are relatively low costs. If it’s something that’s open to the public that they can come through and enjoy, or if they’re staying on the property as well, maybe that’s an experiential Christmas gift, ahead of Christmas for a family to do together, but there is such a hunger for these fun family activities in the winter, especially in cooler states where there isn’t really a ton to do outside.

[00:08:01] It’s really nice that you guys have that to be able to offer. What are some things that maybe you’ve done this year that you thought would be. A huge hit and maybe they didn’t work out so well. And you probably won’t try it next year. I don’t know if I’ll tell you this. The thing I learned this year, I will probably do it again this year, but I had no idea.

[00:08:23] I thought my dream was okay. I’m going to deck my parked out in lights. We’ll have a drive through, and that will be, we’ll charge for that and we’ll go, we got into it. And with the amount of lights, we have a lot of trays here where my campground is down in the middle of you just treat, almost trees touching, right?

[00:08:44] We got just the front done and that we were, I was like we’re not able to decorate the whole park. So we’ve got the front this year, just the front with the main two buildings, the activity building. And then the, what we call the reunion hall, where Santa is. We just made the front area, the focus.

[00:09:07] But like I said, I learned real quick. I wasn’t decorating the whole park. I have a, I do have a question Janie, cause I’ve been thinking I’ve been to your property before, because we currently do marketing for you. And I’ve been, I worked for the previous owner for years and years is the giant fish till they’re in decorated.

[00:09:24] The giant fish actually has reindeer ears and

[00:09:33] yes, it’s here and it is decked out for Christmas as well. That’s awesome. I love that. I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to cut you off. And to your point of, getting into it and you think you have all these thousands of lights and then you get going with them. You’re like, oh, this didn’t go. As far as I thought they would.

[00:09:53] I think that’s one of those things. When it’s an inaugural event, I see that a lot with other things, there were drive-thru events when I was a kid and every year they took proceeds and they would reinvest it. And so they would make it a point to highlight, look at these new light displays or look at these new activities that we’re offering.

[00:10:09] And they just continue to build and grow each year, which I think is also part of the appeal to get people to come back because they can’t say, oh, been there, seen that, done it before. It’s a one-time thing. So I think that’s awesome. What’s something that you didn’t, that you didn’t try this year, but you’re really looking forward to trying next year.

[00:10:30] I’d have to adjust the 20, 22 budgets for that, right? Oh my goodness. I carriage rides. I want to offer, maybe, live carriage rides around the park because it’s just we’re. We are actually back here in the country and just having a horse and carriage and looking at lights and even just having that experience, I think would be a plus we, in October we are booked like there’s people waiting to come to October.

[00:11:00] So I also have seen people are here this year for our Christmas festival and they’re like, we can never get in to your October. So we’re here for the Christmas and that has worked out great because that will give them an another experience maybe that they have, been left out of. Yeah, absolutely.

[00:11:20] We hear a lot of people that are looking for new ways to generate reservations and revenue for their property. What kind of an increase have you seen in both reservations, but also just activity on social media and things like that as you’ve been sharing the things that you’ve been doing, what kind of response have you gotten?

[00:11:39] I have gotten overwhelming. I really had no idea. I knew it would be, popular. I thought this first year, we’ll just try it, see who we got, but we’ve winterized some of our cabins for winter and we’ve had to open them back up. We’ve had to find ways to, to make sure that they were ready for the winter when usually they’re closed down.

[00:12:01] I think our increase was like 40 up to 42 to 45% when it was nothing. It was just so we are, we’re excited and we’re also, looking forward to next year to what we could bring, what could happen. I think each year, like I said, our October, our whole Halloween, we offer like a scary trail and then the magic come gins.

[00:12:23] And so this just we’ll go right in we’ll tail right in, into Christmas. I think your park is very uniquely positioned to take advantage of it too. Again, having like I’ve actually been there during the winter when it’s super cold and the snow is all over the ground, but those cabins that are right by the river that have that great view.

[00:12:39] But also just because you’re in gore and I feel like on two hands, like the first being that this is the first year you’ve started it. And I don’t feel and again, I haven’t researched this in depth, but there’s a ton of major Christmas things that happen around gore or really that 45 minute radius around your park.

[00:12:57] Because a lot of the stuff like Tenkiller dam is probably too closed interview for the season. But then also as you grow this right year over year, I think there’s an opportunity if you get big enough to bring people from Tulsa. That, that is true. I had a lady that is from up around the Tulsa area and Tulsa used to have a big church up there, used to do what they call a dry Goltz Christmas.

[00:13:19] And it’s pretty much, they just turn it into a little Christmas down and they had a train and it had shut down. And she said, Janie, I can see this going in to be in one of Oklahoma’s premier spots to go in the Christmas time, in Christmas time, because there’s nothing in this area that offers that.

[00:13:39] And and when she said that, I thought, oh, and then after I’m saying, we’re basically filling up what we, what we had here for the winter. I thought, oh, that would be. And you’re right across the border to, from, I can’t, I’m not geographically inclined is it’s Illinois or is it Arkansas?

[00:13:58] Is it? It’s the Illinois river and it’s, it’s beautiful. It’s nice down here. It’s just so you know, there’s leaves and you just feel like you’re just back in a nice little nestled, a warm little spot back here. The river you’ve got, but you’re talking about being the destination in Oklahoma, like you’re right.

[00:14:15] You’re not far from the border of Arkansas, Illinois. It’s Arkansas, right? Yeah. Yeah. We’re not far from the Arkansas border. It’s it’s what they call Oklahoma Arkansas, resort, but the Illinois river is what runs right by us. Yeah. Yeah. But you can bring people like, I don’t know, I think little rocks too far, but my point is there’s a whole empty space of Arkansas.

[00:14:41] So do you do it now? We’ve talked about some of your family activities and now obviously you’re a family friendly park and focus on that stuff. Do you do anything for adults? That’s Christmas-y we have a ugly sweater contest. Yeah, that is fun. We’ve had the adults having fun. We actually had a family that was here last weekend and they all came to take pictures with Santa and they all had their pajamas on and their pajamas.

[00:15:07] There was like a three, there was like a daughter, there was three sisters and then they had their kids. And so everybody had their pajamas on and they were, they wanted to be in the ugly Christmas sweater contest with their silly pajamas. Like it’s just endless it’s a really, a lot of fun and our hot cocoa bar, you can offer, that’s another endless you could offer, different toppings.

[00:15:30] We do. We have, Carmel, we have hot, marshmallows, the sprinkles different and everybody is really loving that and cookies. How come nobody ever missed like an eggnog making class and then you mixing alcohol with it and all kinds of stuff. That’s gotta be, that’d be like the, I see these.

[00:15:49] And I see that kind of jokingly, right? Cause obviously you’re family friendly and people have to watch their kids, but I’m up here in Calgary and I was just on a trip to Seattle and I see these pop-up Christmas bars with lines out the door where they’re charging double for some of these cocktails.

[00:16:07] Yeah, I had some of my girls, they had some of the little camping, the younger, they had, they were trying to get their little snaps and she never like Janie D you don’t see as this is, the campers were going to bite the hot chocolate. And I’m like you girls travel. Yeah. So for adult activities for Christmas, we cause we do weekly themed weeks or every week we have a theme.

[00:16:32] And so we do Christmas in July. Definitely much smaller scale, but one of the things like for adult activities that we have found is super awesome. One is contest. So the ugly sweater contest is great. But we do crafts now for most of our theme weeks. So we have a local gal who she that’s what she does.

[00:16:52] She has a crafting business. And so she does canvas painting. We’ve done chunky knit blankets that sort of thing. So we offer like a mommy. During the time we have a kids activity so that like dad can take the kids to the activity and mom can come do something fun for herself. So this year we did a reversible sign that was like a snowman on one side and a scarecrow on another.

[00:17:14] And it like is so adult love it. I bet. That’s great. What about like a Christmas market, like partnering with your local people and having a European style Christmas market where vendors come in and they browse and shop. That’s another idea that is amazing art, our town. We were in the Christmas pride in our small town.

[00:17:37] They’re not used to, because in the summer we they’ll tell us, you, dollar store, the restaurants, everything here is, increased because of people coming here, to come to Marvell. And they told us, they’re like what are you guys doing out there? Like we’re having, like what we’re doing at Christmas.

[00:17:55] And so they’re starting to get the, even the local people are like we’re, let’s check this out. Do you have this event open to the public, to, for people to come through the lights and participate in activities? Even if they are, yes, it’s a day pass, you get a $5 day pass and they can come and join in and join with us, whatever they would like with the, they can even do the Christmas, the magic Christmas.

[00:18:21] Now are you charging additional for the, there’s the day pass? Are you charging additional for the activities throughout the day or is it you get to participate in all of it for the $5? There’s just different. If you ride the train that’s, that is that’s part of it. That’s free. If you want to ride the train around the park, it just depends on which activity you want to do.

[00:18:43] Like the ceramics it’s, it’s another chart. Okay. Nice. I love that. That it’s open to the public. That’s great. Now what about the kids who don’t behave? Do you have a Krampus? We have the Grinch and he’s the one that comes to party and they, these kids are like, oh my goodness. No yeah, the reaction, see, usually not great.

[00:19:11] When the kids see a Grinch roll up in a costume it’s kids on the train and it was scaring them. He was like, actually acted like he was running behind the train and they kept looking at the driver, go faster. I feel like you could not use that in your tagline or slogan for a trial. I was going to say, probably don’t want to use that in your promotional materials, probably so funny. Okay. I would love to hear from Caitlin and hear about all of the things that they’ve had going on at Kibby Creek and hear about their expansion and what that’s looked like.

[00:19:51] And in this kind of semi-new climate with labor shortages and delays on materials and all those kinds of things. For sure. Yeah. It’s been let’s just say that for the last two years, it’s been pretty crazy. So the expansion is something we’ve been planning on it for about five or six years now.

[00:20:13] We bought the property, I think six, six years ago. It was 28. In total, our park will be about the size of, I think it’s 382 sites after we’re done. So it’s definitely crazy now. My, so I married into the family. My father-in-law bought the place. He’s been working here since I think 1981, and then he bought the place in the nineties.

[00:20:41] And and back then the original park was just oh, I’d say it’s probably, oh, I don’t know exact numbers. I want to say somewhere between 120 to 150 sites. And then he added another hundred and seven. In 2001, and he said, if I ever think I’m going to do this again, somebody slapped me. So we didn’t.

[00:21:01] And so here we are, but yeah, so it’s been a long time in the making and we’ve tried to plan well, ahead of time. We wanted to like, know that this is where we wanted things. This is how many sites, this is what we were going to include. But then it all just even though it’s been building up for so long, it all just hit right at once.

[00:21:22] It was like, all of a sudden the construction team was ready and we were rearing to go and we’re like, oh, okay. Here we go. When they came, when they started getting the sites ready, it was about January of last year. And they told us that it was going to probably be, I don’t know, three months, total time to get it done.

[00:21:47] That’s funny. It ended up that our sites were not actually really ready until the end of our camping season this year. In fact, they didn’t lay the final asphalt for the roads until. After we closed in October. So it, in general, so we like my husband and I personally we have been waiting on a house as well.

[00:22:13] And it has taken, it was supposed to be done in August. It’s not done yet. So just in general, the industry of expanding and building, and that is definitely slow. I know it always is. I think that even before things had changed contractors, like it always ends up taking longer than you expect.

[00:22:31] There’s always hiccups. There’s always, this there’s always that but even more so right now, for sure. Like the lead time of ordering things makes us really nervous. We our sites are basically ready. The only thing is we are hard-wiring internet into every other. And so that is mostly finished.

[00:22:52] They have a one thing to finish off in the spring, but everything’s been hydro seeded. This meant we have pads and patios on this section. The most of our park is not that way, but this section has pads and patios. That’s all done. So it’s ready. But we have a bath house to build yet. We’re also going to be putting in a new lodge and this isn’t like a lodge to stay in it’s more so like a store.

[00:23:16] So we’re going to have, we’re going to move our merchandise over there. We sell a lot of merchandise like sweatshirts and beanies and sweat pants. And t-shirts like, we go through more than that than I would have ever imagined doing as a camp. So we’re going to have a big section for that. We’d love to expand because honestly, the only reason we don’t sell more is because we haven’t had enough space in our store.

[00:23:40] We’re excited to sell things like toys and stuff like that because we started selling like the T Y toys two years ago, I believe now. And that went crazy. So we’ve, we want to expand on that as well, and then we’re gonna have a full cafe. So we ha we currently do ice cream and stuff. But on a pretty small scale but we’re going to do both soft serve and hard serve ice cream.

[00:24:05] And then we’re going to have a cafe we’re going to do things like pizza and that sort of thing. That’s going to be in the lodge originally. We were going to have an indoor and outdoor pool. We’ve decided against the indoor pool. This, we are still going for the outdoor pool, so this will be our third pool and it’s going to be much bigger.

[00:24:25] It’s probably going to be twice the size of our current pools. It’ll be a zero entry walk-in pool with splash pad features, that sort of thing with a hot tub in the middle. So that’ll be pretty cool. What, or, excuse me, what are some of the factors that you consider when you’re trying to determine, okay.

[00:24:44] We wanted to do indoor and outdoor pool. Now we’re going to do outdoor. We also want a splash pad. We also want the hot tub expanding your excuse, the cafe offerings. Is it things that you guys desire as owners or is it things feedback that you’re getting from guests of what they really want to see?

[00:25:01] Sure. I’d say it’s a little bit of both. We believe here for sure. Especially with seven owners and everything. We believe that doing things that we’re passionate about actually serves our customers best. So if we are passionate and excited about about doing pizzas or, whatever, like if we love to cook or we love to bake, our customers, like we’re going to do it well, so our customers are going to love it.

[00:25:27] So we believe in general, like you can pretty much incorporate anything that you can dream of in a campground that you would offer. By loving what you do. So that’s for sure something that we definitely take into consideration my brother-in-law, he loves to cook. He makes these awesome would like he wants to do a woodstove like fire pizza, like that sort of thing.

[00:25:49] He loves it. And so it will be a top notch kind of thing that people will love. But then also, we take into consideration, every time we go on vacation as a family, which is all of us, so that’s 14 people every time and it’s a little crazy. But every time we go somewhere we’re paying attention to what’s popular.

[00:26:07] What did our kids love? We have children. So from seven to newborn, we have children right now and we pay attention to what did they love? What did we love as parents that they could go do while we enjoyed it? Or, those sorts of things. We pay attention to that. And our experience and we’re like, I just didn’t appreciate this, or, oh, I loved that.

[00:26:28] I want to have that at our park. We do reach out, we talk to our seasonals probably more than our transient campers about what they would like and those sorts of things. But even there’s a, we have a big group of foster care families that love to come camp here and they just want a swing set really bad.

[00:26:49] And it’s not, we have a playground, actually, we have two playgrounds, but we don’t have a swing set. So we heard that we heard you are loyal to us. You’re our customer. And you love being here, but you could really use a swing set here. So we’re going to make that happen for you kind of thing. So it’s definitely a combination.

[00:27:05] We want to hear what our campers want, but sometimes it’s like hard to get that feedback. So then we just try to pay attention to. Even like other amenities. So as far as washing machines go, so we have laundry here. But we just do quarter laundry. And while we went on vacation with our young kids and work camping and we’re realizing, oh my goodness, I hate having to figure out quarters.

[00:27:30] I need a car. I need to be able to use my credit card. I don’t care what I’m paying for it because I just need to be able to do this. And it needs to be convenient for me. So we recognize that and then we take it and go, that’s what we need to do at our campground. Yeah. That’s leaning into again, what you’re saying you love, right?

[00:27:46] Number one. I remember going to a campground and natural bridge, Virginia since switched owners, but they had a brother-in-law who lived on property, who loved doing the survival stuff and was in like the army or something. And so he would teach survival classes and how to cook in the wild and do all kinds of things, but he loved it.

[00:28:03] And his passion came through and thus, the guest experience followed that. And you’re talking about just looking at technology to agree. There’s a discussion. One of the groups about QR codes on laundry machines to, I think it’s really important to just touch on the fact that Caitlin is visiting other properties and going to other campgrounds.

[00:28:23] And I think a lot of operators tend to. By the time our season is over, we’re ready to not be in the campground, but there’s a ton of value that I’m learning from what other folks are doing around you and how valuable it is to take the time to, to visit other parks. And absolutely, we definitely prefer to camp when we go on vacation and mostly because of that, like we can enjoy it and we can learn.

[00:28:51] And then even sometimes, like we go to places like great Wolf lodge and those sorts of things. There’s even things there that we can learn, even though that’s not a campground, we can just say, I really appreciated this about vacation. And so I think that’s so smart.

[00:29:08] Yeah. All right. What else we got? I and I’ll say to you this is a treat to have Caitlin on here. A fun little story is I grew up actually camping at Kibby Creek and my parents still camp there. And they’re going to be, there’s never been a seasonal before, but they decided they’re going to give it a try.

[00:29:25] And so they are looking forward to being a seasonal. My mom was excited. She called she’s like we got our site assignment. So I’m really looking forward to coming and seeing the actual expansion this summer and visiting with my parents and seeing it’s been a while since I’ve been there, but I love the Luddington area.

[00:29:43] It’s such a cute town and I have lake Michigan lake shore, which is always beautiful. It, yeah. We love our location. Cause we’re right in between Luddington and pent water, which are both tourist towns here. Yeah. They’re both on lake Michigan. We’re seven minutes from downtown, one way to the other. And so it’s really nice cause we’re like we’re in it all, but we’re not we’re off the beaten path in a way still.

[00:30:09] So you get to offer patient. Yeah. Yeah. Silverlake. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. You guys are not too far from silver lake. No, sorry. Yeah, we are not, I think we are probably 20 minutes from silver lake, so we do have some people who come camp here to go take advantage of the dunes for sure. Yeah. And then when you come for like the, so we’re feeling nervous right now, this is, there’s so much for us to be figuring out because we’re going from, we’re adding 130 some sites right now.

[00:30:50] So like it’s going to be a whole new adventure for us. We’re going to need more staff and we’re going to have to readjust what our like our management tier looks like, we’re as a family of seven, we’re in the nitty gritty of every day, much like every other campground owner. And so we do all of this stuff, but we’re going to have to probably step back a little bit now.

[00:31:11] And in higher management positions and trust people. And that’s a hard thing, when you take so much pride in your park to trust somebody else to do it to your standards. And we’ve been really fortunate. We’ve actually never advertised for help. We’ve never had to like search for her.

[00:31:29] We’ve always had people recommended to us family, we have two families where a mother and daughter work and then a mother and her two daughters work for us. So it’s a cool thing. And this year, luckily we weren’t hit by the staff shortage and that sort of stuff.

[00:31:46] We were really fortunate. But we have now reached out as we’re trying to figure out our new dynamics for management and and how many more staff we’re going to need to cover. I don’t think that our lodge is going to be done yet. I’d love to think so it’s possible, but knowing how things have gone, I expect it won’t be ready until end of.

[00:32:06] But anyway, staffing, that sort of thing, we started reaching out to our staff, are you coming back? What’s your plans? And we’re hearing a lot of actually I’m working here or actually this end. So we’re starting to feel the nerves for that for sure. But, yeah know when you come back for camping, it may, you may experience like all the new stuff that’s coming, like all of our w the lodge and that sort of stuff, but you might not, and it’s hard for us to be in that middle point to tell our new seasonals what to expect.

[00:32:39] Yeah. I didn’t have growing pains are really tough. I always used to joke about my campground being like my third baby, where just, it’s like another kid where you just have all this pride and stuff. It’s really hard to let go of some of the the reigns a little bit and find somebody you trust to hand that stuff over to.

[00:32:58] I would argue in terms of expansion and growing your business and stuff more than all the other hurdles, that’s the hardest hurdle is just like finding the people and giving up a bit of the trust that stuff’s really tough. I definitely think that’s the part that we’re most nervous about and there’s personal personable stuff that you might lose too, like we are there.

[00:33:22] So like my brother-in-law, for example, he’s there, when everybody checks in, he’s the one that handles everybody’s tabs, he knows you when you come to order your ice cream, like those sorts of things. And you lose a little bit of that, like very personable touch and expanding is important and it’s necessary for us as a big family.

[00:33:39] But man, it’s hard cause you take pride in those personable things. Absolutely agree. Yeah. I completely relate stuff.

[00:33:50] All right. Do we want to jump into a year in review here? Angela? Do we have more that we want to cover with Caitlin or Jane? I think we can jump into a year and review and I would love for them to, to chime in and contribute. I think that we can all speak to all the different things that we’ve seen throughout the industry this year, okay, good. Where do you want to start at? Okay then the other suggestion, or I know I was supposed to skim this list and I admittedly skimmed it really fast before. Yeah. It’s okay. I had a feeling that might happen, so really saying is I dropped the ball and so please pick it up and run with it.

[00:34:28] So I don’t work terrible on the show. You know what? I got it. I got it. I would love to just touch on, I think a big thing this year is that conferences are back. A lot of them are. In a person, which I think is exciting. I think that there’s been a desire for that, especially since this is an industry that’s very much get out of your house, get outdoors and that sort of thing.

[00:34:51] It’s been nice to see all of the conferences back. Some are back, most are back in person. There are some that are a hybrid or a virtual, which I think is awesome too. I think it’s great that so many people are trying to innovate to still be able to provide that valuable education to their membership, even though maybe regulations or logistics or something are preventing them from being able to in person.

[00:35:16] Yeah, you bring up a good point. And actually I don’t know if Angela, you can screen share real quick. We can just cover this, but the campground owners expo starts today and Branson I don’t know if we want to take a peek at your website or you would just want to skip that for now. But you can, if you want to pull it up starts today.

[00:35:30] It’s the first one ever that’s being held. And I think it’s a conglomeration of, I want to say 12 or 13 states. I can’t remember exactly, but Laurie Sieverson is organizing it along with bud Stier. And if you obviously have her talented staff but she does a Wisconsin convention every year in March, just a huge success as a bunch of vendors and stuff like that.

[00:35:48] So that’s going on today. We try to get somebody on the show with it, but it’s just like bad timing because the show, starts really tonight. And so everybody’s either busy prepping for it or they’re driving to it. And so it was just really hard to get somebody on the show on a Wednesday at two o’clock.

[00:36:03] Do you want to share it or no, Angela? Yeah. I am way ahead of you at least. I hope everybody can see it. Yeah, I’ve got it up. I pulled up the exhibitor and sponsor page. I don’t know if it lists who’s actually attending. I don’t think so. Cause they usually, she usually sends a PDF separately that updates, all that kind of stuff.

[00:36:23] But yeah, I th I’m excited to hear how it goes. Something that I would have liked to have attended this year, just because it’s the inaugural year, but it’s really difficult. Being that it’s the week before Christmas definitely makes it a little more challenging, but but yeah, I’m excited to hear feedback from vendors and attendings as well.

[00:36:45] One of the interesting things that, that I had heard, and I know. I’ve heard it from multiple people now is that everybody says that these dates are unusual. And I think it’s a week later than it normally was. And let me explain that by saying that I’ve heard from multiple people that prior to Arvik having their conference in November, our VIX conference actually used to be in December.

[00:37:05] And that was for a number of different reasons, including travel schedules and not conflicting with other events and stuff like that. And I don’t remember, it’s been 8, 9, 10 years, I think, since they moved to November. But from some of the older industry, people that have been in the industry, I’ve heard that it was more well attended in December than it is in November.

[00:37:23] And obviously that’s year over year and there are differences and things like that. And I don’t, I’m not sure that it’s a huge gap, but it’s interesting that the main industry event used to be in December when we talk about these dates. And so I just, I think people aren’t used to it, but I’ve seen, I’ve heard a lot of people going in the groups and stuff.

[00:37:40] So yeah I really, I can’t, I really am looking forward to seeing what the. Feedback is on the new expo. I hope it’s a huge success for them, or he puts on a great conference in Wisconsin every year, Laurie and code Lori and team. So I’m confident that she’s going to do a great job with this too.

[00:38:00] Sounds yeah. I’m excited to see where it builds too. Cause again I’m sure it’s going to be well attended great this year, but I can only imagine year 2, 3, 4, 5 as it really gets going. And I, and who knows if it’s in Branson every year, but sure. So I also, I want to touch on. The virtual conferences, sorry, lost my train of thought for second.

[00:38:19] I wanted to touch on virtual conferences starting 2021. CCRC had a really successful conference with a ton of great education. And I know that ECC also had a virtual conference that went really well. And I am not going to steal the thunder from Cara. So Karen, do you want to announce the exciting news?

[00:38:39] Yeah, sure. I we are in the very early standard planning stages. Pardon me of a virtual Canadian outdoor hospitality conference and expo, which will be happening March 8th to the 10th, 2022. We are super excited to hopefully see a lot of return attendees and lots of new folks, new faces too. We’ve got a great agenda coming together.

[00:39:05] With what I’m hoping will be a really awesome roster of speakers and stuff. Again I know a lot of our members we’re really hoping to see a personal in-person, connected event this year. And just with the way things are going up here still, we are unfortunately really limited to, to be able to do that.

[00:39:25] So we are opting for virtual. Again, we have lots of great feedback about that, but accessible to everyone across a broader spectrum of demographic members. I think overall it’s going to be another really great educational, valuable couple of days for members. And non-members like to learn and network and all of those things.

[00:39:45] So I’m super excited. If it’s anything like last year, it will be another really successful, fun time. Can’t we. Yeah I am super excited to continue with the planning of it all. It’s going to be, it’s going to be a great show. I’m competent. I think what we’ve learned. And we had a great show last year.

[00:40:05] Obviously it was well received, attended. I think it was almost universal or as universal as you can get right. With anything. There’s never a way to please everybody. But I think we all heard from vendors and attendees that they really liked the networking and the engagement and the fact that it’s not a static zoom meeting.

[00:40:19] And I think we can make virtual really. I know we can make virtual really exciting. And then when we get back to being in person to whether that’s a hybrid or whatever in 2023 that I think there’s just a lot of room to do all kinds of amazing things up here. Yeah, I really foresee it ending up in a hybrid format.

[00:40:37] Moving forward. We did have a lot of response from individuals who said I wouldn’t make the time to attend the pers an in-person conference, but I definitely. Love that I can this kind of on my own schedule and fit the days in, but not be away from my business and those kinds of things.

[00:40:55] I think a hybrid would be the best way to appeal to the broadest range of members. And so I’m excited to see that happen in 2023. Sending out all the good vibes for that. I definitely agree that hybrid would definitely appeal to most people because I love going, but we hardly ever get to manage it.

[00:41:16] With having all the littles and then running the business and. It’s basically impossible for us right now, but we could really use the information. So yeah, no, I completely agree. I think hybrid’s the way to go. So we’ll do one more, one more round virtual and if anybody has any questions for what they’d like to see during that conference in March, please reach out to me.

[00:41:37] I’m we’re happy to get that stuff in the books. We’re planning as we speak, literally, as we speak planning all kinds of cool, fun things to happen over those three days. So super excited. Yeah, I think it’s really fascinating. Like as, as negative as some of the things during the pandemic have been, or most of the things, there are little nuggets of things that have come out that have really helped us improve services and things that we offer and the customer service and different aspects too.

[00:42:05] And I think virtual is one of those ways, where we still want to be in-person and eventually we want to do these hybrids, but offering the best of both worlds to people who can’t travel, who are too busy or who have kids like Katelyn said or whatever. And then the continuing education throughout the year that you’re able to offer by not always having to rent the building and provide catering and have people fly in and all those kinds of things.

[00:42:24] Yeah. Yeah. It’s incredible member value for sure. I completely. Another exciting thing that’s back coming up in 20, 20, 22 or the RV shows, it’s been a little bit since we’ve had those just because of proximity and, cramming people into units to tour them and that sort of thing.

[00:42:41] So that’s very exciting too. There’s a lot of really great new units on the market and, we’ve seen. Let’s see sales, RV sales just increase exponentially over the last year and a half or so. It’s yeah that’s a great advantage for people that are in the market. We have a lot of the RV shows listed on the Modern Campground website.

[00:43:04] We have events feature. You can share the calendar that I have it right here. I got a toggle the little button, I forgot I had to do that last time. She can’t just screen share. So right here, raring to go look at that. It’s a beaut. I have an important role here. I don’t actually contribute, but I toggle this.

[00:43:30] Yeah, I have to say in here in Canada, we have had a couple of our RV shows get canceled recently. So that’s really disappointing. We do have a few still in the calendar and so we’re holding out hope that those will stay stay on the calendar. But yeah, right now, we had the Manitoba RV show was just recently canceled.

[00:43:50] And I think a couple of jurisdictions are choosing to not yet go down the RV show road. But here in Alberta, Calgary and Edmonton RV shows are announced and planning for those are well underway. I actually just had a shipment of brochures delivered for the Alberta Kemper nurses association.

[00:44:07] We’re prepping materials and stuff to hand out during those shows. I think some dealers are struggling a little bit on the inventory front, having their hands on new models to display and stuff has been a bit more of a hurdle this year than I think in the past. But overall, planning is going well in, in the events that are definitely moving forward.

[00:44:29] Definitely. I say definitely. I shouldn’t say definitely. We only know it’s recorded now. It’s live stream backtrack that I wish I could say definitely. But at this point as we speak today those shows are definitely happening. I know Shane and Shannon and the team at CVA is working on the Toronto spring, camping and RV show in March.

[00:44:55] Our fingers and toes and everything are across and planning is how do you crush your, you can, you literally crush your toes? I’m looking here trying, I’m trying to do it. And I can’t, I don’t know that’s a relevant topic of discussion for today’s show. I don’t think that, but I was just wondering if my toes are fat or whether it’s the thing that only,

[00:45:17] so if we could just not talk about them, that would be okay, fine. Whatever. I’m Googling it after the show. I want to know. So Google is your business, so I don’t need to know about it. One of the other things that I want to touch on is we’ve seen a lot of natural disasters and things like that affecting people.

[00:45:39] Seasons from the consumer side of making the decision, whether or not they want to travel to those areas and risk and not actually being able to camp. And also from the park owner side of having to limit the number of sites or, potentially close their properties. I’ve seen a lot of wildfires and different flooding and things like that too.

[00:45:58] So I think that’s something really important to note this year and all of the properties that have overcome those struggles, there was a really large There was also a really large fire in Abbotsford, their RV facility that we saw that I think was triggered by flooding in the area. Is that correct?

[00:46:15] Yeah. We have several campgrounds in that area in BC buffs who still have a bit of water on their on their property which is tough for this time of the year when things are freezing and they’ll have highway. Several highways, several highway taxes for wiped right out by that flood. But yet that flood did spark that fire at Fraser way RV in Abbotsford, which is terrible.

[00:46:42] I know they had significant loss there and that entire region is still under state of emergency, which was expanded to just after Christmas now the other day. And they continue to remediate probably there’s estimates that those roadways won’t probably be open before the spring.

[00:47:01] That’s having impacts on again, supply chain stuff, moving construction and shipping materials. And all of those things is all being impacted. Lots of domino effect from that, for sure. Jamie. Do you have any Janie? Do you have any experience at Marvel with the flooding that I know? I don’t know if that was pre you arriving.

[00:47:18] I know some of it was, but have you had any issues with that during your time as a manager yet? No. Oh, I have not. I saw the pictures and it was pretty bad. They had to use a drone video. That’s really a yes. Yes. That’s what I saw. Not since I’ve been here. I came from a small town.

[00:47:39] The job I had before was at like you follow and it was a big and so I’ve experienced, and been through that you fall a flooded and it flooded that with Jellystone. I worked for jelly stone. That was set up on the shores of lake. And I’ve been through, a flood there. And that was a, a couple of years ago and it was horrible.

[00:47:59] And everybody’s, I was like, okay, I’m going to Marvell. I’m going to a new campground and I will have to worry about that. But I guess it, it does, it has flooded here two or three really bad times to where it, they had to literally all of our seasonal people had to move out. And I haven’t had, I haven’t had to deal with that here yet.

[00:48:20] I hope not. We’re crossing our fingers for you. Did you see that drone video? Yeah. Yeah, we were, yeah, it was the previous owner before they recently sold. But yeah, it was bad. Yes. We we don’t have to face too much as far as natural disasters go, but this year we did get our biggest wind storm ever.

[00:48:42] It took out the most amount of trees. Damaged a couple of cars and in one particular case, one of our seasonals had walked out to see what was going on. And one of our giant like giant Pines fell and pinned him between himself and his camper. Oh man. Fortunately, all he ended up with was a couple of broken ribs.

[00:49:05] And actually had he not opened the door at that time. His wife and daughter would have been trapped in the camper. So that was a bit intense for us. And at the time we had just sent my mother-in-law and father-in-law to Alaska for vacation. So it was a bit crazy. And we had the most, yeah, most damaged we’ve ever had in our park from anything like that.

[00:49:26] We had lots of trees up rooted and just everywhere, but honestly, like it was hard, but it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. We had transient seasonals, all of them, just what can I do to help we help? And we just fed everybody and everybody picked up a rake and we pulled out the trailer and it was quite amazing to see.

[00:49:48] I think my parents were, I think my parents may have been. At the property when that happened or if they, I know that they were camping or that time, I think they were, I think they were in there because it had tore, it had gone through wasn’t it a tornado or something through Baldwin. Oh yeah. Like it was that whole huge storm and yeah, they were just talking my brother, I has a tornado, but it was, yeah, Baldwin got hit really bad.

[00:50:14] And we were really fortunate because lots of places like Baldwin were out of power for a long time, but we got, we had just were out power for about 24 hours. Yeah, see, this is something I think the industry can help with more. And I know that good people like that and foundations exist like the Arik foundation and I’m sure Koa has something for that.

[00:50:35] And I just don’t know the name of it. And I know other organizations do as well. I’m sure CCRC does in some capacity, do they care or resources to direct people to help? I know that they’re helping, we do make sure to provide any sort of support or services and the last several, I can only speak for the years.

[00:50:56] I’ve been involved with CCRC, but every time there’s going to be an, a disaster or an issue they have offered support in various ways financially and with advocacy work and all of those things. It’s tough for sure. To fuel or try to plan for anything like this and have a plan, have plans in place, but certainly valuable.

[00:51:17] And I think and necessity, it seems like the. I want to explore more of that in 2022, not just on the show and Modern Campground, but just the ways that the industry can maybe come together and figure out ways to help parks who are impacted by natural disasters. I was looking at these tornadoes in Kentucky and seeing some of the damage that came through some of others.

[00:51:36] There’s somebody in mark group who was posting all the pictures of the damage. And they said something like only 50 out of their 130 or some site 13 sites or whatever were undamaged. And there’s a really big thing. And I think that, yes, there’s a. Caitlin saying there’s a bank there’s interest in all kinds of people instantly boots on the ground, helping wherever they can, obviously there’s insurance that comes into play for some of this stuff.

[00:52:00] Although some of it isn’t covered. I remember reading the posts from that same campground where like they were saying, unless the tree fell on a building, it wasn’t covered by their insurance for removal or something like that. So it’s just but I think there’s ways that like, companies.

[00:52:13] Just using myself as an example for Insider Perks, where I volunteered to help with marketing, to help them send press releases and to communicate with the media, and to, whatever they need. And so I think there’s opportunities, not just for suppliers like me, but other people who can maybe generate, generate, or lend their expertise.

[00:52:30] I saw, I think it was wild energy was talking about like maybe donating some of their meters if they already had meters. So I think there’s just ways that we can maybe band together and help even greater than we already are. Yeah, absolutely. One of the other things that I want, I know we’re running out of time, but one of the other things that I think is really big for the industry that happened this year, The US and Canada border reopened for everyone.

[00:52:56] And so that’s been, I think, a great is it still is it’s still open. I know Trudeau is going to talk about something today oh, really? Oh, okay. I think it’s going to stay there. I think there was rumors that they were going to do some more travel restrictions to the last I knew it was open. And so that’s really exciting too.

[00:53:14] So yes, let’s be excited. Yeah. So it’s currently open to fully vaccinated citizens. They there’s been some travel announcements regarding rapid testing cause they’re going to probably re require we’re up in testing at order entries of everybody. And they’re doing that now, right? Just the United States is current.

[00:53:39] Accepted from that. If you’re coming from the United States, you don’t have to be tested the airport, but think every other country already does. Yeah. I, yeah, I would have to look closer because I did see an announcement this morning about a landlord. Crossing requiring a rapid testing for entry.

[00:53:58] Oh, I don’t know about that. Yeah. I just remember reading about airports, so many rolling changes. I know there was announcements in Alberta this morning, but I haven’t heard the federal announcement. I think it’s later this afternoon yet. I don’t think he’s made it yet. So well, all of that to say that at some point this year, even if it’s closed again, the border reopened, some of the kidney snowbirds could go south again, which I know there was a really huge desire for that.

[00:54:28] A lot of people really missed out on being able to take their vacations that they look forward to every year or so. And, vice versa people from the states being able to go and take their trucks in Canada and that sort of thing. That’s definitely an exciting thing for the industry and, hopefully we can continue to navigating that and keep it as open as possible.

[00:54:46] So that was. Enjoy each other’s outdoor hospitality industry. That, yeah, all the borders really. And I know we’re running out of time. He’ll wrap it up in a second with closing thoughts, but just all the borders, right? The European travelers that used to come to Carrie’s campground all those, we want all of it open.

[00:55:01] Canada’s great and us scrape, but we want everybody to be able to travel and experience outdoors wherever they want to. And they can. All right. We have any closing thoughts. Caitlin Janie here, our two guests here today. So anything you guys want to wrap up with, talk about things you’re excited for 2022.

[00:55:16] I am nervous and excited for our expansion personally. But I think just in general, I want a time to be a campground owner. Exactly. It’s just the industry is so booming and it’s like hard to wrap my head around. Like we really, if we would have had those sites open in the beginning of spring, they would have all been full.

[00:55:37] Like we are turning people away, left and right now. And it’s just it’s a, it’s difficult, but what a beautiful problem to have, right? Yeah, absolutely. I think basically the same thing, it’s just in the last couple of years, it’s just, been so busy and just the different people that getting out, wanting to be outdoors, wanting to in our industry is just blown up.

[00:56:05] And I love seeing it and I love working in it. And it’s just, it’s a great time. Like you said, it’s a great time to do. To be working in this industry right now. Angela, what are you looking forward to in 2022 for the industry? I am just looking forward to seeing everything continuing to expand so quickly.

[00:56:26] So quickly. Yes, because that’s great. But also I know campgrounds are, overwhelmed and staffing shortages and those kinds of things too. But yeah, just looking forward to watching everything continue to just really explode and see what kinds of new things come up out of all of this, to new products from suppliers and new styles of units, as a, as more people enter the industry that have a different idea of what camping and glamping looks like.

[00:56:52] So all of that. Yeah. It’s what a time to be in the industry. Like Caitlin. Yeah, it’s it’s really changing right now. I feel like as well, like w what used to be the industry of just like offering a spot for them to come stay. Like we have, we had to turn into basically this destination spot.

[00:57:13] Like you come here to enjoy your time here. Not just stay here and enjoying the town. Yeah. It’s completely different. And it’s, the dynamic has facilitated guys being raising the bar in your properties, better compete with each other. And so that’s resulting in this really enhanced level of experience for guests.

[00:57:38] And then that has this snowball effect of making more people want to camp, because it’s so great. And they want to get involved in the experience too. And so that demand drive is making you guys a bit competitive and that’s having such great results in the industry for sure. What are you looking forward to in 2022?

[00:57:56] What I’d really like to see are a shift. We’ve focused so much recently in the last couple of years on this short-term recovery planning stuff. And I would like to see us start to address some bigger problems around things like staffing and and some fundamental kind of industry barrier regulatory things.

[00:58:15] So I guess just taking our recovery stuff to the next step and addressing some of the bigger problems that have maybe not, maybe weren’t born out of this the last couple of years drama, but certainly have been exacerbated by them and starting to address those to help both of the industry.

[00:58:35] Awesome. Thank you everybody. Appreciate you joining us. Did we lose somebody? I think we made a last Janie had she had something she had to run to in the next hour, okay, cool. Thank you all for joining us. Really appreciate it again. Are we Angela or are we doing a show next week?

[00:58:51] Have we like, I’m going to put you on the spot here. That’s the hope I am. I’m diligently working on it. Anybody that’s watching, if you have any really awesome Christmas offerings, holiday offerings at your property we’re trying to put together an evening show to celebrate Christmas. People are busy, having a hard time, getting people to respond and 90% of parks are closed, or something like that. 90% of it is significant. We’ll just plug, you know where to find me. I think what we’re going to do, I think we’re going to do is we’re just going to say we’re going to do a show. I think we’ve got one at least confirmed. And a couple of others that are probably in, so let’s just say, we’re going to do a show.

[00:59:33] Can we do that? Angela? Can we just be brave? I like to be brave. Yes. We’re having a show. We’re going to do a show. It’s going to have Christmas lights and maybe some blow up inflatables and different things that are going to be planned that are secret now. So that will be next Wednesday. I know next Wednesday at nine Eastern seven mountain 9:00 PM, Eastern seven mountain, six Pacific.

[01:00:01] And we’re doing it that way because it’ll be dark and people can show their lights, but also, so the Pacific coast west coast can be done with their dinners and stuff like that. We will see you for a show then we’ll have. I’m feeling very festive. That’s past my bedtime in the C-store and time zone.

[01:00:15] Just say, it’s past my mountain time. 7:00 PM. Spike on cocoa or eggnog will be on the venue that egg, not egg mugs on the menu. We’re going to have the eggnog. We’re going to have some liquor and mixing classes that we might do. And I don’t know how it’s going to come out. So got to keep it family friendly here.

[01:00:37] It’s at nine o’clock. The kids are in bed or they should be anyway. I wasn’t when I was a bad kid, but all right. Anyway, we got to wrap this up. Everybody’s got to go So thank you. I really appreciate you guys joining us for another episode of MC Fireside Chats. Maitland. Really appreciate it.

[01:00:53] I’m sure we’ll have you guys back on the shows in the future. Angela and Cara, as always as a reminder, we’re available as a podcast, you can watch this episode at MC Fireside Chats as soon as I get it up which will hopefully be later this afternoon and we will see you next week for our Christmas episode.

[01:01:07] So take care guys. Thanks.



MC Fireside Chats
Hosted By

Brian Searl
Cara Braeutigam