The Felbers’ latest honor, the Regional Camp Resort of the Year Award, was presented to them in November by Leisure Systems, Inc., (LSI), the Milford, Ohio-based company that franchises 80 Jellystone Parks across the U.S. and Canada.
The Regional Camp-Resort of the Year Award is LSI’s highest honor at the regional level. It is given to Camp-Resorts whose facilities and operations exceed all Jellystone Park standards. Recipients must be Pinnacle Club members, meaning they rate 95 percent or higher on the annual LSI assessment of their facilities and operations. Award recipients also must have achieved strong growth in business, implemented sustained improvements and be leaders in the industry.
“We were very pleased and honored to receive this recognition,” said, Nancy Felber, who runs the 202-site campground with her husband, Richard, their daughter, Sara, and son-in-law, Nick.
She added that their park continues to grow, having achieved a 22 percent increase in revenue this year.
The Felbers previously won LSI’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award for having achieved the most significant year-over-year sales and occupancy growth in 2016 of any Jellystone Park™ in their revenue category.
In 2015, the Felbers won LSI’s Operator of the Year Award in recognition of their excellence in management as well as their improvements in their assessment ratings. Even during 2014, their first year as Jellystone Park operators, the Felbers stood out from their peers, winning LSI’s Rookie of the Year Award.
The Felbers previously operated a successful custom cabinet business in Florida before purchasing the former Dogwood Valley Campground in 2010. They spent three years making improvements to the campground before they joined the Jellystone Park franchise network in 2014.
Joining the Jellystone Park network was a worthwhile move, Nancy Felber said, because it put the park on the radar of families in Ohio and across the Midwest.
But the Felbers have also made numerous improvements to their campground to improve their business base, including a 2,000-square foot store and office; and two new swimming pools, complete with a 250-foot water slide and a 75-foot tubular slide. Last year, the Felbers added three more cabins so the park now has a total of 10 rental units. They also added several floating play structures on their lake and new activities, including wood burning and ceramics.
This year, the Felbers paved all of the park’s main roads. They also added new activities, including archery and leather tooling, which enabled park guests to make their own bracelets and belts.
Even more improvements are planned for 2018, including a new “bear’s playground” with climbing structures, slides, a rope bridge and a fort on the top.
The Felbers have also purchased a trackless train, which can carry 24 people, including adults and children. “We bought the engine and four cars,” Felber said. “We have been looking at this train for four years. I think it will be fun.”
All of these investments entice more campers and translate into increased occupancies and revenue for the Felbers as well as more business for grocery stores and restaurants in Mt. Gilead. “Our campers visit the little restaurants and grocery stores in town,” Felber said.
Jellystone Park’s growth has been so strong, in fact, that the Felbers are planning to expand some of their buildings in the not-to-distant future. “We have grown so much that we have outgrown our buildings,” Felber said. “This is going to be a year for us to regroup a little bit and get our plans in order.”
Of course, beyond the Felbers’ attention to detail is the magic of a Jellystone Park itself. Only Jellystone Parks have Yogi Bear™ and Boo Boo™, and Jellystone Parks are famous for providing fun, family activities and themed weekends, such as Hawaiian weekends, which often include limbo contests, sand castle building, and luaus. Mardi Gras themed weekends include parades, cookouts and dances, while Christmas in July weekends include campsite decorating contests, campsite caroling, cookie and ornament making activities. The increasingly popular Halloween themed weekends include costume and campsite decorating contests and trick or treating activities.
“Joining the Jellystone Park network is one of the best decisions we’ve made,” Felber said, adding that she will start taking reservations for the 2018 camping season in January. The park opens April 27.
“The phone will be ringing off the hook,” Felber said. “It’s kind of overwhelming how busy we are starting in the New Year. I think people really look forward to their camping vacation.”
But even though Jellystone Parks are famous for Yogi Bear and Boo Boo and the organized family activities, Felber said her park also offers plenty of areas to relax and enjoy nature.
“We try to keep our trails manicured for people to be able to go out and walk and have their campfires and enjoy starry nights,” she said. “Ohio is a wonderful state. I love the weather in summer. To me, it’s perfect.”
The Jellystone Park in Mt. Gilead is open from the end of April through mid-October. For more information, please visit www.columbusjellystone.com.