Who Is Camp Jellystone?
Camp Jellystone (CJS) was originally formed in 1969 for the purpose of developing a chain of high quality, franchised resort-type campgrounds utilizing Yogi Bear™ and related characters as key advertising and theming elements. In 1985, CJS was purchased by a Pennsylvania company, Ahnert Enterprises. Then in July 1989, Great American Broadcasting Company, which owned Hanna-Barbera Productions at that time, acquired CJS and moved the operation to its present location in Cincinnati, Ohio. CJS was then owned by Park River Corporation, a privately held Cincinnati company. In 2022, the franchising company was purchased by Sun Communities and the franchisor was renamed Camp Jellystone. The management team has revitalized, reorganized and improved the franchise operations to become a network of thriving and successful campgrounds.
While CJS still seeks newly constructed campgrounds, the franchise sales emphasis is to convert existing privately held campgrounds to the Jellystone Park™ system. The franchise offer provides a turn-key conversion package to facilitate an easy transition to a Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park™ Camp-Resort.
Camp Jellystone (CJS) was originally formed as Jellystone Campgrounds Ltd. in March 1969 for the purpose of developing a chain of high-quality, franchised, resort-style campgrounds utilizing Yogi Bear™ and related characters as key advertising and themeing elements.
The Big Idea
Like many business ventures, Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park™ began with one man, an idea and enough gumption to take a risk. Doug Haag, of Manitowoc, Wisconsin, was already a successful advertising executive in the summer of 1968 when a drive down the local highway changed his future.
As he whizzed past numerous cars packed with families and pulling pop-ups and trailers, the concept struck him. All these campers needed a place to stay and might want something better than a campground along a busy highway. What if there was a “destination” campground, where families could spend their vacations swimming, playing, and enjoying nature?
What’s in a Name?
Haag decided to make the idea a reality and partnered with a friend and local contractor. Together they purchased 30 wooded acres in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin for about $3000 ($100 per acre)! The next step was to decide on a name. From his advertising experience Haag knew, “In order to draw campers, we needed a clever and recognized name for our campground. My partner and I and our families had many discussions about names. Paul Bunyan, Lewis & Clark, Hiawatha, Pocahontas, Robin Hood, sports stars, and historical figures. We went through them all, but nothing seemed to fit.”
Then on a cold Saturday morning in January of 1969, Haag’s three young kids were watching cartoons in another room and he heard these words coming from the TV, “OK Boo Boo, let’s get our pic-a-nic baskets ready, the campers are coming!” A beloved cartoon character, Yogi Bear™, living in a campground called Jellystone Park™… what a great fit for a family vacation spot!
The Bear Rights
Considering Yogi Bear™ was a famous and well-protected copyright, Haag had more work to do. He made an appointment with the Vice President of Screen Gems, then licensor of the Yogi Bear™ and Jellystone Park™ names. He traveled to their New York City office and presented his campground concept with a few hand-drawn sketches and a lot of enthusiasm. With some persuasion, Screen Gems saw the value of Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park and approved the license.
A Grand Opening
The rest of the winter was spent making signs, building a Yogi Bear™ statue (out of chicken wire and plaster), and creating park literature. Haag met with the president of Hardees, a fast food chain, and purchased left-over Yogi Bear™ merchandise that was used for a chicken promotion.
Construction on the park began in April 1969, and only three months later the pilot Jellystone Park™ in Sturgeon Bay opened to much fanfare. “There was no way we could have imagined the chaos that was to happen that opening weekend. Three times as many people as we had sites for came to camp! We allowed them to set up in the field nearby, in the playground, etc. – anywhere they could find room!” It was $3.50 to camp and included all the amenities – swimming pool (Yogi’s Old Swimming Hole), fishing pond and playground.
Expansion & Hollywood Takes Notice
Two more parks opened in 1969 and 1970, one in Orlando and one in California. Others followed quickly, in Orlando, Wisconsin Dells, Apple Valley (near Los Angelas), Apopka, Florida and Glenbeula, Wisconsin. The demand kept increasing and even Hollywood wanted to get involved.
“Because of the powerful Yogi Bear™ name, I met with movie stars and their agents about them owning one or more franchises. Business lunches with John Wayne, Andy Williams, Jack Lemon, The Smothers Brothers, Don Wilson, and many more!” said Haag.
By the end of 1971, there were 10 franchised Jellystone Park locations in operation. In 1974, Haag decided to move onto other business ventures and left Campgrounds Ltd. in the hands of Jim Webb. In the ensuing decades the number of Jellystone Park locations grew to more than 75 (with locations in Canada as well as in the United States) and the brand’s annual revenues skyrocketed. During that time, the company that franchised the Jellystone Park locations changed ownership hands several times. In 2022, the franchising company was purchased by Sun Communities and the franchisor was renamed Camp Jellystone.