Latest News

  • 10 May 2016 12:26 PM | KOA Owners Association (Administrator)

    Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge KOA Celebrates 50 Years

    Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge KOA celebrates 50 years

    PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. — LaVerne and Gladys Kelch loved little more than a good fishing trip to Douglas Lake. So much so in fact, that they’d travel there fairly often from their home in Wisconsin. In 1964, after meeting Kampgrounds of America founder Dave Drum during a road trip, which took them and their sons Dick and Rick through Billings, Montana, they made a decision that would forever change the lives of future generations.

    “They started looking for property here (in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.) with the idea of starting a campground,” says Annie, the Kelch’s daughter-in-law. “They bought the original property in August of 1965, and the first camper night was in June of 1966.”

    Annie worked at the campground while she and Dick were dating; the couple married in 1969. They eventually took over managing the property, raising son Eric and daughter Heather on the campground.

    “I had new friends all the time and returning friends each year,” says Eric as he recalls his childhood. “There was always someone to play with. I’d have my local school friends over here because we had a pool and playground and summer activities—and of course we had the river to play in. When we got old enough to drive a golf cart, we started working here.”

    After Dick passed away in 1997, Annie and Eric managed the campground while Heather attended college in Knoxville. Later, Eric managed his own real estate development company and eventually went to work for the KOA corporate office, while Heather and Annie worked together. Eric and his wife Leslie returned to the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg KOA Holiday in 2015.

    The first KOA east of the Mississippi, the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg KOA Holiday has certainly changed over the years. The original 10 acres has expanded over time and now includes spacious patio sites for even the largest big rigs, Deluxe Cabins with private bathrooms and kitchenettes, newly remodeled Camping Cabins and a large tent camping area. The Kelch family has worked hard to add the amenities campers want most, including not only RV storage, but also a Jumping Pillow, outdoor movie theater, a gem mining feature, meeting rooms and, most recently, Sweet Momma’s Café, named in honor of Annie.

    To celebrate the family’s 50 years of KOA campground ownership and to thank the local community for their support over the last five decades, the Kelches are hosting an open house on May 20 from 4 – 8 p.m. Live music, food and special events are planned. Those camping at the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg KOA Holiday that weekend will also receive a special treat—accommodation prices have been rolled back to 1966 prices.

    “Mom was able to find some of the rate cards from back then, and it cost $3 a carload to camp with us,” Eric says. “So we decided that for one night (May 21) we will do the same thing. It’s just $3 to camp with us that night, whether you’re in an RV or staying in one of our cabins.”

    Live bluegrass music, games and refreshments will be available that evening as well.

    Now open year-round, the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg KOA Holiday is located at 3122 Veterans Boulevard in Pigeon Forge.

    Source: KOA Press Release

  • 28 Apr 2016 12:36 PM | KOA Owners Association (Administrator)


    CONTACT: Shannon Brower


    Thanks to Commercial Recreation Specialists, California’s Wake Island
    Leads A New Generation of Water-Based Family Entertainment Centers

    Verona, Wis., (April, 2016) –When Noel Carter, owner of Wake Island near Sacramento, Calif. — the largest watersports park on the West Coast — realized he got what he paid for with the installation of substandard giant inflatables from a generic manufacturer in China, he needed to do something fast. So he turned to Commercial Recreation Specialists (CRS).

    The professionals at CRS in Verona, Wis., helped transform Wake Island into a more thrilling, more colorful and more memorable experience. More than 50 giant blue and green structures — slides, towers, wiggle bridges, ramps, a trampoline, a water totter, balance beams, tunnels, monkey bars, hurdles, domes, swings and more — form modular obstacle courses on the water and make for challenging floating fun, safe and exciting play, and what Carter calls a “visually intense” experience. “With the Sports Park, a picture tells a thousand words,” Carter says. “This thing advertises itself.”

    What makes Wake Island even more special is that it’s among the first of its kind in the United States to embrace the emerging trend of Water-Based Family Entertainment Centers™, or WBEFC™.  The WBFEC market will only get bigger, according to Ron Romens, president of CRS, which is pioneering the concept. Customized for each location and budget, a WBFEC can turn any location — a lake, waterfront, marina or even parcel of unused land— into a revenue-generating attraction. “This is definitely a trend,” Romens says. “People don’t forget this type of recreation, which encourages active play, social interaction and exciting but safe experiences. There’s nothing else like it in the marketplace.”

    CRS worked with Carter to understand his business goals and created a tailored plan that met his needs. The plan featured a strategy focused on creating easy entry and exits, varying degrees of challenge and integrating differing rotations of play to encourage repeat visits. Wake Island’s Sports Park was built for success using a high degree of engineering and technical know-how to create a self-directed experience that keeps guests coming back for more.

    Through a consultative approach and providing expert input every step of the way, CRS has helped customers like Carter design facilities to promote business growth. With knowledge and advice for developing and improving hours of operation, throughput, usage fees, waiver information and check-in processes, CRS offers solutions beyond the equipment.

    “We are a solutions provider,” Romens says. “Our primary objective is to help make our customers’ businesses wildly successful. We preserve what they have already created by proposing solutions to make operations more efficient and fresher, while increasing per capita revenues and minimizing owner risk, liability, downtime and staffing needs. When we are successful helping our customers be successful, we have delivered value.” Carter is certainly a believer.

    “You’ve got a professional with you from the beginning,” he says about the personalized, service-oriented experience of working with CRS. “It’s that kind of partnership that is extremely important in this type of business. You learn so much so fast. And while it might cost you more, you will save a lot in the end.”  Robert Cirjak, Wibit’s Germany-based CEO, says that many of his customers around the world have replaced what he calls substandard, unsafe and noncompliant equipment with Wibit products. “We have customers in 70 countries,” he says. “We receive a lot of calls from people in the United States saying, ‘We made the wrong decision.’ Our relationship with CRS benefits everyone.”

    “You can go to Wal-Mart and buy a toy that’s manufactured in China, and the instructions are very minimal and the quality might be questionable,” Carter says, explaining his experience with the first set of inflatables made in China that he installed in early 2015 and removed that September. “It was definitely a trial and error process.”

    With  the confusion created by imitation products from manufacturers in China and other countries, CRS is dedicated to educating the U.S. market by providing comprehensive instruction and training for facility owners who want to operate best-in-class aquatics sports parks.

    Since Wake Island’s initial upgrade, CRS has added more equipment to expand the facility’s evolving waterplay environment. Romens now points to Wake Island as an example of the right way to create and market water-based family entertainment centers that deliver unique guest experiences and maximize ROI. “Wake Island is a leader in this emerging category, and we’re proud to be part of it,” Romens says. “There a huge added value in the ease of the buying process and sharing of knowledge when you’re working with people who speak your language and operate in the same country as you do,” Carter says. “That kind of support is huge for new customers entering the market. I’d recommend CRS and the value they provide, because you need to do things right.”


    About Commercial Recreation Specialists

    CRS is headquartered in Verona, Wis., with representatives in New Jersey and Minnesota. It serves customers throughout the United States and the Caribbean. With over 40 years of combined industry experience, CRS not only supplies the highest quality equipment, it also offers design, planning, installation and operations services. It provides careful analysis of each client’s facility and business goals in order to achieve the best recreation solution possible. CRS delivers unparalleled industry knowledge and proven success in the commercial recreation market with clients including municipalities, schools, YMCAs, athletic facilities, sports venues, amusement parks, family entertainment centers, campgrounds, resorts, summer camps, zoos and other recreation venues.

  • 22 Mar 2016 10:20 AM | KOA Owners Association (Administrator)

    Meadville KOA To Host Vintage RV Rally in Northwestern PA

    MEADVILLE, PA (March 17, 2016) - The Meadville KOA Campground will host a Vintage RV Rally and Car Show this summer on June 3-4 at the campground, located at 25164 State Route 27 in Meadville. All campers with restored, vintage recreational vehicles (pre-1980) are invited to attend.  “This is the first rally of this type that we’ve hosted at our campground,” said Meadville KOA owner Tim Chilson. “We plan to make this an annual event.”  Chilson said vintage RV owners that also have a vintage tow vehicle are invited to enter the tow vehicle in the Car Show portion of the event that same day. Trophies will be awarded. The Car Show includes awards for First Place and Second Place in several categories, along with an award for Best Engine Bay and Best Sound System.

    For more information on the Vintage RV Rally, including discounts on camping, go to

    Meadville KOA Campground has a full recreation schedule each season from early May through mid-October each season.  Owners Robyn and Tim Chilson have owned and operated Meadville KOA Campground since October 1999.  They joined Kampgrounds of America (KOA) in 2011.  Meadville KOA Campground is a Founder’s and President’s Award-Winning KOA Campground.  You can reach Robyn at 814-789-3251 for more information.

  • 18 Mar 2016 1:50 PM | KOA Owners Association (Administrator)

    For Immediate Release


    MRV Connect will enable RV Travelers to Share and Catalog Road Life

    Plantation, FL - (March 15, 2016) SEPI Marketing announces the release of MRV Connect in Beta. The Beta site is configured as a form of social media for RV Travelers which enables their users to catalog their journey, share content within their network and view their friends travels and experiences via reviews.

    SEPI Marketing, a promoter of outdoor recreation, owns Southeast Publications, and their mobile app,  MobileRVing 2.0. MRV Connect is expected to expand SEPI Marketing’s viewership which will also increase their digital advertising real estate and benefits to RV Resorts and Campgrounds that partner with Southeast Publications. Some of these benefits include enabling their Preferred Properties to be served up to user’s newsfeeds based on their current location.

    MRV Connect will also be serving up local business deals to users based on their current check-in, an added benefit for the over 17,000 advertisers Southeast Publications acquires every year. Brian McGuinn, Director of Business Development states, “Right now our advertisers, and partner resorts, are realizing the power our media brings. We have numerous reports from both existing and new customers that new guests are either finding their resort through our Mobile App or the website. Our advertisers are not only buying our print at a record rate, but now they are buying our digital space which is growing in demand.”

    SEPI Marketing intends to receive feedback from their users but MRV Connect is still undergoing rigorous testing internally during the Beta phase. When asked if he feels MRV Connect is ready, CEO of SEPI Marketing Wally Warrick states, “Technology is going to be changing at a much faster clip, our goal as an organization is to remain on top of it, refine our internal processes so that we may harness its full potential. So, if you are asking me if I think its 100%, I would be complacent if I said yes. Our platforms will constantly improve, our projects will never be fully done and new platforms are in fact being developed as we speak.”

    Carlene Morris, Vice President of SEPI Marketing states, “Really our goal is not to force content down people’s throats. We want our platforms to be something that is not only known, but produces value to users and promotes an industry that I’ve loved for over 3 decades.” SEPI Marketing is no stranger to criticisms and according to statements within the company, they are actually very thankful for honest feedback. They make it a point to have a forms within all of their platforms so that their users can have a voice. Carlene further states, “When it came to, we had loads of criticisms but it was that type of feedback that made us where we are now.”

    SEPI Marketing plans to continue visiting consumer RV Shows to promote their MobileRVing community and partner publications.  They will be releasing a full campaign to promote MRV Connect once the platform has moved out of its beta phase.


    Since 1986, Southeast Publications, a division of SEPI Marketing, has been the leader in the guest guide industry, servicing approximately 1,491 accounts in 2015 and over 17,000 small businesses. Southeast Publications has the Largest Sales force which traverse throughout the United States and Canada. Beyond providing superior printed materials, Southeast Publications has expanded into comprehensive digital offerings such as, now with over 90,000 visitors monthly.  Some other products produced by Southeast Publications include Web Design, SEO, Commercial Print, Promotional Products, and Graphic Design work. For more information about Southeast Publications, contact Brian McGuinn, Business Development Director, at Southeast Publications at (800) 832-3292 or via email at

  • 07 Mar 2016 12:32 PM | KOA Owners Association (Administrator)

    Listen to Your Customers

    by Peter Pelland

    I thought it would be useful to read through random reviews of campgrounds on the TripAdvisor website in order to determine whether there were some common complaints that savvy park operators might need to address. On TripAdvisor, we are generally dealing with that all-important market of first-time campers – precisely the people who are needed to grow the industry’s markets. We all know the old adage about first impressions being lasting impressions, and an experience that fails to live up to expectations could not only ensure that a first-time guest will not return to your park; you could very well sour that first-time camper on the entire camping experience, rather than turning him into the next lifetime camper.

    I randomly chose campgrounds in four regions of the country and read through reviews. In the instance of one park, I found that every recent 5-star review was followed up with a management response, thanking the reviewer for taking the time to write the review; however, there was not a management response for even a single recent review that rated the campground as anything less than outstanding. The management of this campground is totally missing the point in its failure to address legitimate concerns or even to acknowledge those somewhat less-than-happy campers. Ironically, those unaddressed reviews are consistently flagged as “helpful” by fellow TripAdvisor users. In other words, these unaddressed complaints are being read by other potential guests who are thanking the reviewers for saving them from making the mistake of vacationing at the same park.

    The most common complaints fell into 6 categories:

    1. Extra fees. People who have customarily stayed in hotels or conventional resorts are not accustomed to paying excessive add-on fees or for paying to take a shower. I frequently encountered the term “nickeled and dimed”, and that is not good. Reviewers complained about excessive fees for everything from arts and crafts sessions to the rental of recreational equipment, but the single biggest complaint was with any park that used metered showers. One reviewer wrote, “You have to pay for your shower, and the first three minutes are cold.”
    2. Indifference on the part of staff or management. Some of the specific complaints a bad attitude when staff members visited campsites, or security staff members who turned a blind eye away from issues that needed to be addressed. There were many complaints about rude employees (bad enough), but the people who referenced rude owners are really raising red flags. One reviewer documented about requesting a credit (not a refund) due to a medical emergency, and how the park owner insultingly demanded a note from her doctor! Another wrote, “The gate guards are not that friendly – actually they are aggressive and rude – and are easily annoyed.” That surly gate guard is the first person encountered upon arrival and can set the tone for the entire camping experience.
    3. Small sites that are not big rig friendly. Unless camping in a group, campers generally do not want to feel like they are on top of the adjoining sites. If they are camping in a big rig, they want to be able to get into and out of their site easily and without risk of damage to their investment. In the short term, this may mean carefully assigning sites to the camping equipment; in the long term, this may mean re-engineering smaller adjoining sites into larger single sites.
    4. Dirty, inadequately or infrequently cleaned restrooms. There are simply no excuses here. If it is a busy weekend, your cleaning staff may need to be cleaning your restrooms on a continuous rotation throughout the day. If you are short-staffed, hire people. The photo that I am showing below is one of eight that was included in an actual review, documenting a lack of bathroom cleaning – both short-term and long-term – at one particular park. Additional photos attached to the review show fecal matter in front of toilets, dirty floors, empty paper towel dispensers, and stained shower stalls.
    5. Lack of maintenance in rentals. Be careful about overselling you’re amenities. It is probably a mistake to market aging park models as “luxury cottages”, particularly if their amenities are inconsistent with what you advertise. If a furnished park model is designed to sleep 6 people, the kitchen utensils should not be limited to 3 forks, 2 glasses and 4 chipped plates (as mentioned in one actual review). There should be a printed inventory of furnishings (that are checked and replenished by housekeeping between rentals) that will allow guests to know exactly what they should expect to find in the unit.
    6. Lax enforcement of rules. Yes, we all know that rules are a double-edged sword where some people are always going to be unhappy; however, the guests who really count are the ones who expect quiet, not those who are creating a nuisance. Within this category of complaints, the biggest issues involved unattended dogs being allowed to bark, and quiet hours that were not consistently and politely enforced.

    All in all, the people who are addressing these concerns are far from being unreasonable. If you were on a vacation – perhaps a cruise or a trip to a vacation resort – would you find these shortcomings acceptable? Of course not! Treat your guests with respect, meet their expectations, and your business will grow and prosper.

  • 09 Feb 2016 11:02 AM | KOA Owners Association (Administrator)

    RV Essentials

    KOA Owners: help your customer keep their RV stocked with basic supplies, nonperishable foods, linens and clothes, so they will be ready to go anytime, anywhere. Let them know:  'RVs give you the freedom to be spontaneous!'

    Everyone has favorites and must-haves they can't survive without, but here's a list of some stock items RVers should keep on board at all times:

       Adapters for 30 amp and 50 amp outlets



       Bottle/can opener

       Camera and memory cards

       Dishes/cooking utensils


       First-aid supplies

       Flashlights, lanterns

       Folding chairs


       Grill and fuel

       Heavy-duty extension cords

       Insect repellent


       Maps and GPS

       RV toilet paper


       Nature field guides

       Pillows, blankets, sheets

       Picnic basket

       Plastic bags (large and small)

       Pots and pans

       Road flares

       Rope and bungee cords

       Shovel (small folding type)

       Soap and toiletries

       Sports equipment


       Tool kit


       Trash bags


       Water hose (white potable water type)

    Also remind RVers to consult the weight label on their RV for more information.

  • 29 Jan 2016 1:51 PM | KOA Owners Association (Administrator)

    Free Yourself from Technology

    January 20th, 2016
    by Peter Pelland

    Yes, you read it right. Am I speaking blasphemy? Maybe not. I am currently reading an excellent book titled “Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age” by Sherry Turkle, and it is about how smartphones, texting, and social media like Twitter and Facebook have destroyed our ability to carry on emotional and intellectual conversations. In the words of the author, “Technology gives us the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship.” An entire generation of us, dominated by those under the age of 30, is uncomfortable with the unfamiliar concept of carrying on a direct conversation that involves eye contact, inflection, body language, and emotion.

    We have grown accustomed to substituting ALL CAPS for subtle inflections, acronyms like LOL for a smile or a laugh, avatars for our faces, and emoticons for our emotions. Facebook encourages us to only post comments that will be broadly “liked”, discouraging any sort of intelligent discourse or exchange of opinions with anyone who is not like-minded. The fact is that we all have much to learn, in a respectful way, from people with beliefs and opinions that differ from our own.

    In the camping experience – built upon the concept of providing people with an opportunity to get away from their routines and to commune with a more natural environment – one of the single most highly demanded amenities is high-speed Internet access. The lion’s share of my own business is the development of mobile-friendly campground websites, ensuring that campers can learn everything possible about a park using nothing but their smartphones or tablets. Camping tends to mirror society itself, and somewhere along the line society has gone astray.

    As school systems nationwide have been in a mad rush to see which of whom can install more computer classrooms faster than their peers, it may surprise some readers to learn about the growth of technology-free schools in America’s computer capital, Silicon Valley. That’s right. Back in 2011, the New York Times reported how educational alternatives like the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, in Silicon Valley, had a student body that consisted of the children of executives from eBay, Google, Apple, Yahoo, and Hewlett-Packard. It has also been widely reported how Steve Jobs limited his children’s access to technology at home, and how many of the other icons of technology follow the same course.

    In fact, one of the latest trends in summer camps (those second cousins of family campgrounds) is the development of technology-free camping, sometimes referred to as “tech detox” camps. Mind you, these summer camps are available not only for kids but for adults, hundreds of whom are willing to pay dearly for the opportunity to put aside their cell phones for a week. There is clearly a demand for device-free vacations. In fact, one of my childhood friends (with whom I am connected on Facebook, of course) just posted last week, “I wonder if there is a place on earth where there is no cell phone service, no Facebook, no TV, no computers … I would go to that place for one week and do nothing but read, write, rest, and get away (just for a while) from this maddening crowd we live within.” Is there a campground ready to step up to the plate?

    There was a recent discussion on the Campground Success LinkedIn Group that I moderate, initiated by a campground owner who wondered whether or not there might be a viable market for a pet-free campground. The general consensus was that there might be risks in suddenly implementing a pet-free policy, particularly when so many of us treat our pets like our own children; however, there is likely a demand for such an alternative. (I would consider it a far lesser risk if I was running a campground that was surrounded by 20 other parks in the immediate area, rather than a park where my nearest competitor was 50 miles away.) I believe that the time has also come for a few brave souls to experiment with running a technology-free campground, maybe testing the waters with a technology-free weekend. (Imagine the free publicity that you could garner in the press!)

    This would have to be planned well in advance, before accepting reservations from any campers with conventional expectations. Campers would agree to leave their cell phones at home or locked away and to put away their satellite dishes. The park would shut down its wi-fi routers, pull the cable on TV service, and plan an entire weekend of activities and events that will allow campers to get to know one another – and to get to know themselves – like they used to do in the “good old days”. Let’s face it: Camping is the perfect setting and environment for tech-free activities and non-activities alike! You could offer things like a book exchange, an acoustic music jam session, nightly group campfires, nature walks, parent and child activities, and a Sunday morning service with a tech-free homily.

    Sure, there are issues that would need to be addressed. What do you do about seasonal campers who do not want to participate? What do you do about people who do not easily withdraw from their technology addiction? Those are minor challenges that can be easily overcome. Think of the first restaurants years ago that toyed with the idea of going smoke-free. Today it is almost unheard of to find a restaurant in the United States that allows smoking, and we are all better off for the change.

    Who will be the first to step up to the challenge? Without explorers who risked sailing into uncharted waters, we might still believe that the world was flat. Just think of what you might accomplish. If the lessons learned at your tech-free weekend lead to just one family that returns to having dinner together each evening without the distractions of cell phones and TV, you will have just accomplished far more than you had ever intended.

    This post was written by Peter Pelland

  • 29 Jan 2016 1:39 PM | KOA Owners Association (Administrator)

    Killer Bacon-Cheese Dogs


    • 8 all-beef hot dogs
    • 8 hot dog buns
    • 8 slices Swiss cheese
    • 1/2 cup barbeque sauce, or amount to taste
    • 1 small red onion, diced


    • Preheat an outdoor grill for medium-high heat. Lightly oil grate and set 4 inches from the heat.
    • Place the bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium-high heat until evenly brown. Drain on paper towels.
    • Place hot dogs on grill; cook until browned, 5 to 8 minutes, turning once, or until done to suit your taste. Lightly grill hot dog buns.
    To assemble sandwiches, place a slice of cheese and bacon on each roll. Add a hot dog, top each with 1 tablespoon barbeque sauce, or desired amount, and red onion.

  • 29 Jan 2016 1:30 PM | KOA Owners Association (Administrator)

    November RV Shipments Hit Ten-Year High

    RV wholesale shipments tracked by RVIA continued to perform strongly in the final quarter of 2015 with November monthly totals hitting their highest level in 10 years at 27,329 units, an increase of 3.9% above November 2014.

    Year to date, total RV shipments grew to 346,221 units through November, an increase 4.9% over the same 11-month period in 2014.    Shipments of all towable RVs grew 4.8% to 302,672 units while motorhome shipments improved by six percent to 43,539 units.

    Seasonally adjusted shipments climbed to an annualized rate of more than 405,000 units in November, the second highest month in 2015.

  • 21 Jan 2016 12:59 PM | KOA Owners Association (Administrator)

    Congratulations to Kyle and Tammy Boltz of Jonestown KOA for winning the 2015 We Are Family Award! 

    Criteria for the We Are Family Award includes KOA Owners Association family member(s) who help other family members beyond the call of duty as well as/or to those who consistently show special qualities that contribute to the whole KOA system.

    Diane King, Secretary-OA Board of Directors, presenting the 2015 We Are Family Award to Tammy and Kyle Boltz of Jonestown KOA, Jonestown, Pennsylvania

    Other nominees included:

    Dave and Sue Barton, 1000 Islands/Ivy Lea KOA nominated by Mike and Kristi Kuper, Thunder Bay KOA
    Diane King, Springfield/Route 66 KOA nominated by Karen McAndrew, Cardinal/Ottawa S KOA
    Donna Fout, Great American Direct nominated by Vicki Cole, Shelby/Mansfield KOA

    Congratulations to all for outstanding work!

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