Ken and Tammy Westrich were in San Diego attending their son’s graduation from Marine Corps training last fall when they received a panicked phone call at 2 a.m. from two of their children.
The family’s campground, the Beaver Trails Jellystone Park near Austin, Minn., which they jointly own with Tammy’s parents, Don and Laura Tolner, was in flames.
“It was total devastation,” Tammy Westrich recalled. “My daughter and son were filming it and sending it back to us via cellphone. They are 13 and 15. You could hear them crying in the background.”
The fire, apparently caused by an electrical short, burned down the 8,000-square-foot ranger station, which included Yogi Bear’s house, the campground office and store, a restaurant, a game room, a multipurpose room, a laundry and showers as well as the storage rooms where the Westriches stored the costumes and other supplies they used for themed weekends and other special events throughout the year.
But despite the horror of literally seeing the heart of their business go up in smoke, the Westriches have rebounded and replaced their former ranger station with an even larger 9,000-square-foot facility, according to a news release.
They didn’t stop there.
They also built a separate 2,200-square-foot shower and laundry facility as well as a separate 2,400-square-foot outdoor pavilion, which is built with doors that go up and down so that it can be used during inclement weather.
They are also installing four more site-built cabins and are upgrading sewer and electrical service in about a third of their campsites.
“It’s going to be even better than before,” Westrich said.
This is good news to park campers, including Erica Tweeten of Austin, who has already stopped by to check on the park with her three children, who are eager to go camping there this summer.
Westrich said she and her family are grateful to their campers and to the people who live in Austin. “We have a great community,” she said. “Everybody has offered to help get us back our feet.”
The Westriches are also thankful for their employees, whose exemplary customer service has helped Beaver Trails Jellystone earn the highest possible ratings in Woodall’s and Trailer Life campground directories.
The park has three man-made ponds and one creek, the latter of which guests often use for swimming and tubing. It also has a jumping pillow, which was installed last year.
“The jumping pillow is one of the best investments we’ve ever made,” Westrich said, adding that the trampoline like attraction has become so popular that she’s had to schedule separate bouncing times, not only for young children and teens, but for adults.
“The women are out there bouncing and laughing and the men are out there being competitive,” she said.
The park also installed a miniature race-car track, which is drawing miniature car-racing enthusiasts from other cities.
Looking ahead, Westrich said her park has themed weekends planned throughout late spring, summer and early fall, with events ranging from Christmas in July to Mardi Gras- and Halloween-themed weekends. One of the park’s most popular events is a chocolate-themed weekend, when the park sets up an area for chocolate pudding wrestling.
Westrich said she is also looking forward to the park’s Wacky Wild West weekend, when kids get a chance to put their parents in jail. When the kids decide their parents have had enough jail time, they can get them out by donating a can of food. The canned food is donated to a local food bank.
The Wild West Weekend will also have a Western Ho Down with line dancing and a Western-style shootout in which park guests get a chance to participate using special marshmallow guns that Ken Westrich built. “Two-year-olds to 60-year-olds are out there shooting marshmallows,” Tammy Westrich said. “You can imagine the marshmallows I have to pick up in the park.”
For a complete schedule of upcoming events, visit www.BeaverTrails.com.
About Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts
Launched in 1969, the Jellystone Park system is the second largest chain of campgrounds in the United States, boasting 78 campgrounds with more than 15,000 campsites in 30 states and Canada. Its Camp-Resorts are among the best campgrounds in the industry with a quality reputation for being fun, friendly, clean and service-oriented parks. Additionally, each Jellystone Park is themed with Yogi Bear elements providing instant recognition and consumer appeal. It is truly a place “Where You Camp With Friends.” Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts are franchised through Leisure Systems Inc. (LSI), a wholly owned subsidiary of The Park River Corp., Cincinnati, Ohio. For more information, visit www.campjellystone.com.