Donald Bennett Jr., president and CEO of Campground Owners of New York (CONY), reports the association held a successful and informative 49th annual Exposition for the Outdoor Hospitality Industry. The event was held Nov. 1-3 at the Six Flags Great Escape Lodge & Indoor Waterpark in Queensbury, N.Y.
Attendees represented 65 campgrounds from across New York State, with several being first-time attendees as new park operators or representing parks in development.
According to Bennett in a CONY news release, the exposition, which also featured a trade show, was jammed with many timely educational seminars and presentations. “We really covered a lot of ground in terms of topics of interest to CONY park owners, managers and staff, ranging from CPR certification to campground accounting, to tips on influencing legislators,” notes Bennett. “Some sessions were so engaging for our members, they ran over time with questions from attendees.”
One of the most highly anticipated and informative events was a general session given by Bill Botten of the U.S. Access Board, regarding the Architectural Barriers Act and Accessibilities Guidelines, as advocated by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Botten specializes in access issues related to recreation facilities and outdoor developed areas, and provides technical assistance to the building design and construction industry as well as state and federal agencies and consumers with disabilities. Botton’s talk helped shed more light on campgrounds rights and responsibilities pertaining to their pools and spas, and access barrier issues.
Wisconsin was represented at the CONY exposition, as Lori Severson, president of the Wisconsin Association of Campground Owners (WACO), and Bud Styer, a multi-park operator serving on the WACO board of directors, spoke on the topics of shoulder season occupancy and camping for the fun of it, respectively.
CONY unveiled a new session bound to be repeated, entitled, “CONY 101.” Bennett and CONY board chairman Mike Papp introduced to new, prospective and long-term members to everything they need to know about interacting with CONY and getting the most out of their membership. Topics included organization history, structure and mission, as well as CONY’s services and benefits programs and marketing opportunities.
Said Papp, “CONY 101 was our first attempt at a new campground owner education seminar, informing them about the many benefits of being CONY members. We touched on many things including all of the resources at your disposal as a member, the discounts you are afforded as a member and the wonderful network of campground owners that are at your disposal.”
Fun at the Expo
After two half-day seminars, the Exposition officially kicked off on Nov. 1 with a steak and lobster bake hosted by Evergreen USA Insurance. Lake George RV Park served as the setting, and park owner David King provided round trip transportation via special trolleys. Platinum Sponsor Evergreen’s Lucas Hartford, Guy Gagnon and Missy Bourgoin trucked in fresh lobsters that morning directly from Maine, and prepared the delicious feast on-site.
Following dinner in the park’s French Mountain Playhouse, attendees were treated to a stage show performance by Roderick Russell, sword swallower, mind reader and stage hypnotist.
Unique Roundtable Discussion Format
Friday’s schedule included seminars and a “speed dating” style round table session, with moderators at each table focused on different topics as each group of participants progressed around the room from table to table.
During the sponsor introductions at the Friday lunch, CONY singled out and honored John Wright of Wilcor International with a plaque commemorating his many years of service and dedication to the outdoor hospitality industry, on the eve of his retirement.
New Officers and Directors
The slate of officers and directors for the 2012-2013 year were elected and sworn in during the annual membership meeting on Nov. 3. Gregg Nicholls of Lake Bluff Campground moves up from third vice chairman to second vice chairman. Rob Kaiser of Medina/Wildwood Lake KOA moves up from Region 2 director to third vice chairman. Nina Latello of Sleepy Hollow Lake Campground takes over as Region 2 director.
Laurie Bulluck of Rainbow Shows Campsites & Motel steps down from her position as second vice chairwoman on the CONY board of directors.
Trade Show Highlights
Saturday was another busy day, as attendees visited with sponsors and exhibitors during an all-day trade show held off-site at the Adirondack Sports Complex featuring a range of products from retail items to insurance and web services.
Record Amount Raised for Fundraiser
Don Bennett, Jr. declared, “This was a very special night not only because we honored several worthy CONY members, but also because we announced that CONY had raised over $42,000.00 for Camp Good Days and Special Times during our first-ever statewide fundraiser. I don’t think anyone was prepared for the number we revealed, and we all just cheered.”
Honored during the awards banquet:
- Janine Paddock, Deer River Campsites: Janine was the 15th member inducted into the CONY Hall of Fame.
- Laurie Bulluck, Rainbow Shores Campsites & Motel: Recipient of the Chairman’s Award for dedicated service to CONY and its mission.
- Matt Anderson, Camp Chautauqua: Honored for his leadership in organizing the Camp Good Days fundraiser, and for his campground’s efforts to raise $11,400 for the charity.
- Copake KOA: CONY marketing award winner for best website design.
- Lake George RV Park: CONY marketing award for best simple brochure.
- Rainbow Shows Campsites & Motel: CONY marketing award for best mailer piece.
- New York State Senator Elizabeth “Betty” Little: Recognized with a plaque for her friendship and championship of the outdoor hospitality industry in her role as a legislator. Senator Little is chairperson of the Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation committee for the New York State Senate.
Disaster Fund and Response Team Formed
During the Exposition, Conference Chairperson Rosemary Curtis and CONY Chairperson Mike Papp announced that the CONY board had approved the establishment of a CONY Disaster Fund and Disaster Response Team. This had been something on the drawing board for several years, but with recent weather events last year and this year, the project has taken on a new urgency.
“I see this as a great thing for CONY members as we will provide the following once it is developed, “Papp said.” First, this will provide a financial resource for many things not covered by insurance Federal disaster relief. Second, we’ll compile a team of experienced campground owners with equipment ready to come to your aid. Third, we’ll have an education opportunity for disaster preparedness – classes at upcoming expositions teaching campground owners how to prepare for these more frequently occurring disasters.”
The CONY Disaster Relief Fund was seeded during the exposition through a duck race in the lazy river of the Lodge’s waterpark. Attendees purchased number ducks, which raced toward a finish line, with the owner of the winning duck receiving a new laptop as a prize.
At the conclusion of this Exposition, Papp is already looking forward to the next one.
“We are already planning the extra special events and activities for our 50th Anniversary Exposition at the Kaatskill Mountain Club in Hunter Mountain, N.Y. I can hardly wait to see everyone next year.”