Ranger Smith, Yogi and the park's jumping pad are all new features at the Monticello Jellystone.

Ranger Smith, Yogi and the park’s jumping pad are all new features at the Monticello Jellystone.

Chip Smith and his wife, Kim, have owned and operated Walnut Acres Campground in Monticello, Iowa, for nine years, during which time they have built the park into a favorite destination for families seeking a clean park with organized family activities.

But this year the Smiths are taking their 270-site park to the next level by becoming the first campground in Iowa to join the Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resort franchise network, according to an announcement from the park and from Leisure Systems Inc. (LSI), the Milford, Ohio-based franchisor of Jellystone.

“We really wanted to strengthen our brand recognition as far as being a family-friendly park,” Chip Smith said. The park will open as the Monticello Jellystone Park on April 15. “The whole atmosphere behind Yogi Bear is family fun, and that’s what we provide. Parents know their kids are going to be entertained and that it’s a fun, safe environment.”

Branding is a powerful marketing tool, according to LSI, and the Smiths said they have come to realize that no matter how good of a job they do in providing fun family activities and amenities, Walnut Acres’ growth potential may always be limited unless they join a nationally known network like Jellystone.

“We’re not a hard park to find,” Chip Smith said. “But more people are looking for Jellystone than Walnut Acres.”

Smith said he saw evidence of the power of the Jellystone Park brand as soon as Walnut Acres was added to CampJellystone.com, the travel planning website for the Jellystone Park chain.

“We’ve already had more than two dozen reservations just by becoming a Jellystone Park,” Smith said, adding that he’s also now drawing campers from much farther away. “We just received a reservation from a family in Des Moines, which is three hours away. In the past, most of our campers have come from within a 45-minute radius of the park.”

Of course, beyond the Smiths’ attention to detail is the magic of a Jellystone Park itself, which provides numerous organized activities and themed weekends, according to LSI. 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 June weekends include campsite decorating contests, campsite caroling, and cookie and ornament making activities.

The increasingly popular Halloween-themed weekends include costume and campsite decorating contests and trick-or-treating activities.

The Smiths have always offered organized family activities, but their activity schedule is being significantly expanded now that their park is part of the Jellystone network.

The Smiths are also adding new amenities, including a jumping pillow and shuffleboard courts and a Game Show Mania game.

The park, which is located next to the Maquoketa River, also features a heated swimming pool and a fishing lake with pedal-boat rentals as well as a river-tubing trail, a large sand beach, a playground and horseshoe pits. It also has two cabins and one camper rental.

The Jellystone Park in Monticello is open from April 15 through the end of October. For more information, visit www.monticellojellystone.com.