By Rick Hemphill
The wooden table is covered in a red checked gingham cloth and the children are playing nearby while the lunch basket is targeted as it rests in the center of the table. With nary a sound and the deft movements of a dancer the omnivore stealthily moves toward the target. Suddenly there is a flash of movement and with a rustle of leaves the bear disappears along with lunch. The family can only complain to the cheerful ranger who knows that the lunch has added a few pounds toward the hibernation of Yogi Bear.
These days a visit to Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park near Williamsport, Maryland offers much more than a chance to lose your pic-a-nic basket with over 80 campsites from primitive to full service, cabins and cottages and enough daily activities to make certain your children sleep soundly each night.
“We offer a pretty exciting vacation for a family, says Greta Bossenbroek, General Manager. “It is more than a campground.” “There are 85 park campsites.” “We are a water park and we have all the amenities to keep kids busy with the water slides, laser tag, zip lines, mini-golf, ga-ga ball courts, the new splash pad and activities all day long.” “Plus we have Yogi, Cindy and Boo Boo who are giving hugs all day and this year we partnered with heritage hill farms to bring in ponies on Thursday nights.”
Not everything is geared for the younger set. “There is something to do for everyone and at this location there is so much to do off park.” “Here you have the history of Antietam. The national parks have several free days and we want our people to know that so they can get to Antietam Battlefield National Park.” “We partnered with Antietam tubing so people can go tubing down the creek and we will have adult bingo.”
“It is more like a Disney world destination and people are becoming more aware that it is more than a camp ground,” Greta explains. “We have a number of beautiful rentals so you don’t have to rough it.” “We have glamorous camping or glamping if someone doesn’t want to rough it or you can enjoy the other accommodations that we have.” “There are cabins from the rustic camping to the full service with bathrooms, and kitchens.” “The rustic cabin doesn’t’ have a bathroom or a kitchen it is just for living.” “For campers we have the full service campsites and the primitive sites.”
Reservations are a must during the busy season or holiday weekend. “Most of our guests come from within a 170 mile range although we have had a lot of international people lately,” Greta continues.
“They come from all over.” “If they are trying to come during July or August we book up very quickly. “We are open in March through November although June 12th through August 22nd is prime time.”
“During Prime Time they might have to book a year in advance.” “It is pretty easy to get in during the shoulder season before prime time starts on June 12th or after it ends August 22nd.” “All holiday weekends, Easter, Mothers Day, or July 4th we are booked out in the fall as well.”
“We do a haunted trail in October and it made me jump a few times last year.” “During the shoulder season a primitive campsite can cost from $40.00 a night up to a full service site for $300.00” Activities are scheduled and there are themes as well. “Every weekend in the shoulder season and every week during the season has a theme,” Greta says. “We have luau week with a pig roast, Christmas in July, and we have wet and wild were we bring in a marine biologist.” “We like to put a lot of focus on this and during the Halloween weekends we do a really nice job of that haunted trail.” “It was pretty scary.”
“We have a good bit of wildlife here,” Greta says. “But you don’t always see it during the busy times of the park.” “I was surprised at how many birds there are around here.” “Cardinals and the Blue jays are all over but wild turkeys and a Red tailed Hawk lives here in the park.”
“I saw a woodpecker last week and the wood chunks were flying as he worked.” “We have 93 acres with over a mile of hiking trails and there is nature here for sure.” “If you don’t want to hike we have 328 brand new electric rental golf carts that should be really nice for the season.”
There are 12 Rangers on duty to assist the guest and a majority lives in the park so they are very familiar with the facilities and can get a head start on keeping the 93 acres in shape. “I grew up camping,” says Chris TerVeen, Director of Operations. “Many of our employees have been here a long time and it is a family.” “Our people truly enjoy coming to work.” “It’s such a blessing to come to work every single morning and deal with happy people on vacation.” “I love to see the development of our staff as they grow and become future management here at the park.”
“There is something for everybody,” Chris continues. “It is a great way to get introduced to camping and if you don’t own a tent or trailer then our rustic cabins can be pretty awesome.” “And people who just sold their trailer or want amenities and want to get out our premium cabins are great.” “People love that community experience and if they have been here before there are a lot of changes with our newly remodeled registration area and new camp store.” “They can get re-introduced to what Yogi Bear is all about.”
You don’t have to overnight to enjoy the activities. “We do have day passes if someone wants to come for the day and check us out,” Greta interjects. “They can come on a day pass or rent a pavilion for an event or they can buy a tent and try it out.” “We have ample facilities with four different bathhouses for the campers.” “On a busy day we have had 1000 people in the park with over 700 hundred kids.” We have scout groups and a fraternity likes to schedule an annual visit but families are the number 1 visitors.”
All the information you need is on the website http://www.jellystonemaryland.com or you can join the 26,000 likes on face book or call 301-223-7117. Yogi, Boo Boo and Cindy are waiting to see you.