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Blount County, Tenn., natives Malcolm and Barbara Johnson started camping in 1974, when their son Greg was 6 months old, the Daily Times reported.

“Over the years, every campground we went to, we would sit around and talk about how we would make it better,” Malcolm recalls.

The Johnsons made that dream a reality when they opened Big Meadow Family Campground in Townsend on May 22, 1995.

With 20 years in business, Big Meadow has become one of the most highly rated campgrounds in the nation. It was named 2013 Small Park of the Year by the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds as well as Tennessee Campground of the Year in 2005 and 2013.

Big Meadow also has been rated in the top 300 of 16,000 campgrounds listed by the Good Sam RV Travel Guide for the past six years and was recognized by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam with a resolution in 2014.

“We worked hard for these awards,” Malcolm says.

“At the time we opened, we were the seventh commercial park within a three-mile radius, and we feel very fortunate to have survived many ups and downs through the years,” Barbara said.

Indeed, the Johnsons jokingly refer to their life prior to Big Meadow as “B.C.,” for “before campground.” Both graduates of Porter High School, Malcolm worked in retail banking for 28 years while Barbara worked in corporate accounting.

They gave up everything, including their dream home, to build Big Meadow on 14 acres of formerly undeveloped land just two miles from Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

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