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Malcolm and Barbara Johnson with son, Greg (L).

Editor’s Note: This story was written for Mobile RVing’s The Buzz. 

“My Tennessee Mountain Home” is one of the most famous songs by Dolly Parton. Amazingly, it isn’t just famous and loved in Tennessee, but all throughout the world, where it is sung and played in such far off places as Kenya and Papua New Guinea. Many love the song because it brings fundamental feelings of shelter — green nature, simple life and family. In a word — it brings to mind the idea of home.

Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, which are right near Dolly’s Tennessee Mountain Home, are a few of the most visited places in the country, but unfortunately don’t carry that feeling of home that the song describes, as the areas are heavily commercialized.

Turns out, you just need to look a little bit further down the road. For the second time, Big Meadow Family Campground in Townsend, Tenn., won the prestigious “2019 National Park of the Year” award (under 100 sites) awarded by the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC). To get the award, parks are evaluated by the organization, other campground owners and customers that stay in the park.

“We are thrilled to be recognized by the premier RV association in the country,” said Malcolm Johnson, co-owner at Big Meadow Family Campground, “It’s our passion and dream to provide the finest camping experience we can, and our loyal customer base supports this.”

The Buzz had the opportunity to chat with Barbara Johnson, co-owner and wife of, Malcolm, about the award and what makes Big Meadow so special. The campground is owned by Malcolm, Barbara, and their son, Greg. The year-round campground is a few miles away from the Cades Cove entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the small, quiet town of Townsend. There are seven other commercial campgrounds in the area and many of them do well, but there are a few things that set Big Meadow apart.

“Most all of our sites are pull through,” says Johnson, “And have 30- and 50-amp service, concrete pads, Wi-Fi and cable. We also store RVs, which is a big plus for customers. People also love that we are a gated park, where the only ones driving around the campground are other people that are staying here.”

One review states, “We visit the Smoky Mountains many times a year. We have stayed in several campgrounds around the area and have driven through every one of the others. Big Meadow by far surpasses all the others in every way. The entire campground is clean and well kept, the facilities are impeccable, and the staff is courteous and friendly and always ready to help accommodate their guests. They went above and beyond to make our stay enjoyable. We stayed a month, so we started to feel like family.”

The emphasis on friendliness and family goes back to the beginning of the park. The park was built from the ground up by Malcolm and Barbara in May of 1995.

“It was always a dream of my husband to have a campground,” recalls Johnson, “And our son came to work with us full-time a few years later. It is great because all of us have different skills to bring to the campground and have different managing styles.”

Johnson says she is excited as her son has twin 17-year-old boys who spend their breaks from school working at the campground, also.

“It now has three-generations working for the campground,” she says.

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