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Workshops presented educational topics that help PCOA members run their parks. Pictured is Christine Taylor’s seminar on insurance issues. (Photo: PCOA)

The 2021 Pennsylvania Campground Owners Association (PCOA) Convention was held at the Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel in State College, PA Dec. 5-8, with the theme, “Ready for Anything,” according to a press release from the PCOA.

Jed Wood, left, outgoing PCOA president, presents the first Beverly Gruber Industry Spirit Award to Jacob Hagofsky. (Photo: PCOA)

The annual event, which is the highlight of the year for the association, was packed with informational workshops, inspirational speakers and opportunities to network for the 65 campgrounds in attendance. Members celebrated successes, shared ideas and recharged for the next camping season.

PCOA had a very busy year and showcased several new member benefits and programs at the convention.  A new and exciting benefit was through a partnership with The Towne Law Firm.   The association has arranged a Legal Services Plan to provide certain defined legal services at reduced rates including a free one-half (½) hour consultation annually.  The firm is very versed in campground-specific law.

This year the PCOA teamed up with the PA Restaurant & Lodging Association (PRLA). PCOA membership now includes an associate membership in PRLA. Included with this new partnership is access to several hospitalization benefits. Jason Vaughan stated, “Hospitalization has certainly been something that we have talked about and worked for over many years. Teaming up with PRLA and their national association will allow several different good options for our members from United Healthcare. Additionally, there is a TeleDoc option that is $9 per month for employees and gives virtual access, helping make hospitalization more accessible to many.”

The association reported a successful out-of-state directory distribution and TV campaign. The TV campaign totaled over one million impressions and over 630,0000 completed video views. The rate was among the highest in the state and the association was pleased to report that camping interest and directory interest is extremely high.

It was also reported at the convention that PCOA was the first state association to complete a Destination Optimization Campaign for Google my Business. Fundamentals and maximizing exposure were the key elements of the campaign. Every member campground’s website was evaluated by Miles Media for their Google profile.

Vaughan stated, “We are pleased to be able to assume this undertaking and are looking forward to the benefits to both our members and to our state as a whole by increasing our Google profiles.”

One of the highlights of the convention was our Happy Trails Recognition Dinner. After 37 years leading, guiding, and working together, Beverly Gruber retired from the association in 2020. Executive Director Jason Vaughan stated, “We were happy to be able to get together in person to honor Bev’s contributions, friendship and support over the years. Although she managed many associations during her career, PCOA was with her the longest and the primary association that she represented. Our members and our members’ families became part of her extended family.”

Gruber keeps in touch with the association regularly and is always rooting on the association and the industry.  She also remains active with PRVCA, The PCOA Educational Foundation, the Pennsylvania Farm Show and the Great Allentown Fair.

Guest speakers were David Basler, from the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, on Tuesday and Representative Doyle Heffley from the 122nd Legislative District on Wednesday. Basler updated the association on ARVC and the benefits of a strong national association while stressing the importance of unity in the outdoor hospitality industry. He explained the member pages of the GoCampingAmerica website and how it can be updated and talked about the benefits of Twenty Groups.

Karah Wertz of Choice Camping Court was the winner of the Dick Franks Memorial Scholarship to the National School of RV Parks and Campground Management. (Photo: PCOA)

Rep. Heffley, a strong proponent of tourism, spoke on legislative issues in the state and working together to promote Pennsylvania. He reviewed some of the bills that could affect campgrounds, including the bridge tolling issue that’s currently on hold. He encouraged everyone to contact their state legislators to let them know their concerns.

14 Workshops

The educational workshops presented were:

  • Google My Business – Fundamentals and Maximizing Exposure (Destination Optimization) by Kim Palmer
  • 7 Effective Ways to Capture the Elusive Millennial Creature by Rachel Godbout
  • Recruitment and Hiring by Don Benett
  • Leave the Calls to Nature, Not Your Attorney by Christine Taylor
  • New Parks/New Owners by Kathleen Walsh
  • Motivation and Incentives by Jed Wood
  • Brick and Mortar Security and Safeguards by Patrick Hardy
  • The Importance of Visuals by Nicole Poisson
  • Simple Tips to Boost Your Revenue by Blake Burris
  • Stop the Bleed by Derick Shambach and Monty Anders
  • Cyber Security and Safeguards by Patrick Hardy
  • Understanding RV Issues by John Metz
  • Customer Retention by Michael Moore
  • Meeting the Needs of 21st Century Travelers by Angela Harness

A special thank you to Matt May, Presque Isle Passage RV Park and Cabin Rentals, Fairview, Pa. for coordinating the AV for the seminars.

12 Round Tables

Round table topics that were offered and their moderators were:

  • Crafts – Bring an item to share – Melinda Koehler
  • Golf Carts – Handling the issues – Ryan McFarland
    Best ideas – What was the best idea you implemented this season? – Jonathan Ammary
  • Marketing – Where are you getting the most bang for your buck? – Jed Wood
    Dealing with Undesirable Guests and the Reviews they Post After the Damage they Create – Jacob Hagofsky
  • Dealing with Aliens – Microbes that attach to your RVs, cars & boats – James Kesterke
  • Service Animals – Karl Schmidt
  • Diversity – Debby Yeager
  • Television Solutions for Parks and Guests – Matt May
  • Ready for the Next Generation? – Tyler Grim
  • Making Your Game Room Profitable – Laura Holmes
  • Infrastructure Improvements – Randy Quinby

A special thank you to Ryan McFarland, Buttonwood Campground, Mifflintown, Pa., for coordinating the round tables.

At the trade show, Dale Morse from W.S. Emerson, makes a sale to Michael and Jamie Boyer, of Holiday Pines Campground. (Photo: PCOA)

Trade Show – Sixty-three exhibitors were present. There was a great variety: cabin builders, shirt vendors, advertising, entertainers, food distributors, software providers, mattress and furniture sales, security, online reservation systems, water treatment solutions, and souvenirs. They reported excellent sales.

Auction -The Pennsylvania auction raises funds for educational endeavors, including the National School of RV Park and Campground Management. Thanks to the generosity of the vendors and campground owners, a total of $15,775 was raised. A big thank you to Matt May for all the work he put into coordinating this event.

Scholarship Winners Announced – During the Annual Meeting on Tuesday, the winners of the 2021 Scholarships were announced. Karah Wertz of Choice Camping Court in Manns Choice, Pa., was awarded a full scholarship to the National School of RV Park and Campground Management in Myrtle Beach, S.C.. Brooke Belgin, of Campers Paradise Campground & Cabins, Sigel, Pa., was awarded up to $1,000 for a college or university course and Melinda Koehler, of Driftstone Campground, Mount Bethel, Pa., was awarded up to $500 for continuing education.

Convention Attendance – There was a great turnout of over 130 attendees from 64 registered campgrounds, which included three from out of state.

SPONSORS

PCOA extends a big thank you to the following generous sponsors of our convention:

  • PLATINUM  ($1,250 and up)
  • Anderson’s Brochure Distribution Service
  • campersAPP
  • Campspot
  • Leavitt Recreation & Hospitality Insurance
  • Severson & Associates
  • Wilcor International

GOLD ($500 – $1,000)

  • Scirocco Group Insurance
  • Silver-top Manufacturing
  • Utility Supply Group

SILVER ($350 – $500)

  • AGS-A Division of Texas Advertising
  • George Ely Associates
  • It’s All About Satellites
  • BRONZE ($250)
  • JVES
  • Smart Industry Products
  • The Towne Law Firm
  • Triangle Communications

WINNERS TICKET TO WIN INCENTIVE PROGRAM

CAMPGROUND DRAWINGS

  • One Free Registration for the 2022 PCOA Convention – Meadow Lake Campground
  • Free Featured Listing on the PCOA Website (value: $144) – Williamsport South/Nittany Mountain KOA
  • Free 1/2 Piggyback Program for 2022 (value:  $585) – Holiday Pines Campground
  • $500 To Be Used at Any Trade Show Vendor – Campers Paradise Campground
  • Passport Drawing – $200 To Be Used at Any Trade Show Vendor – Meadow Lake Campground

VENDOR DRAWINGS

  • Free booth at the 2022 Trade Show – Triangle Communications
  • Quarter-page ad in one issue of the PCOA News – Marshall & Sterling Insurance
  • $200 cash award – Campsite 360

COMMUNICATION AWARDS

  • Best Brochure: Rose Point Park Cabins & Camping
  • Unique Promotional Piece: Bear Run Campground
  • Best Camping Photo: Holiday Pines Campground
  • Most Creative Activity: Farma Family Campground for Bouncy Ball Bingo
  • Best Website: Campers Paradise
  • Tourism Employee of the Year: Ciarra Petroski from Keen Lake Camping & Cottages
  • Community Involvement: Campers Paradise for Camp for a Cause, which benefits Tri-County Animal Shelter
  • Best Social Media Marketing Post: Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park at Kozy Rest
  • Beverly Gruber Industry Spirit Award: First time award winner, Jacob Hagofsky

The Venue

The convention was held at the Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel in State College, PA. The management was wonderful to work with and the customer service of the staff was exceptional. PCOA members were very happy to return to this first-rate venue and will be returning next year. The 2022 conference dates will be Dec. 4-7.

Annual Meeting & Election

The PCOA annual meeting was held on Monday night. The following officers were elected to the Board for a two-year term:

  • President – Ryan McFarland, Buttonwood Campground
  • Vice President – Matt May, Presque Isle Passage RV Park & Cabin Rentals
  • Secretary – Tyler Grim, Canyon Country Campground
  • Treasurer – James Kesterke, Otter Lake Camp-Resort
  • Regional VP – Regions I & II – Charlie Vakiener, Rose Point Park Cabins & Camping
  • Regional VP – Regions III & IV – Bruce Serio, Mountain Creek Campground
  • Regional VP – Regions V & VI – Stephanie Schmidt, Elizabethtown/Hershey KOA

The following director will fill a spot that was vacated:

  • Regional Director – Region VI – Christine Letch, Shady Grove Campground

Recognized as a retiring board member after many years of dedicated service to the Association was

  • Debby Yeager, Rose Point Park Cabins & Camping, director at large.