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Labor Day Tops a Great Peak Camping Season

As the unofficial end of summer kicks off on Friday with the Labor Day holiday weekend, the Coloma/St. Joseph KOA Holiday sums up the year thus far by saying they are blessed to be a blessing.

The husband and wife dynamic duo, Mark and Karla Lemoine, who are owners and managing partners, opened their campground this year in mid-March, a month earlier than usual. They did so to be a good, corporate-citizen. They sought to provide overnight assistance to all the Canadians, snow birds, and a handful of the one million Americans who live full time in their recreational vehicle (RV) and who left warmer areas in the southern United States to travel back home to Michigan or elsewhere following the National Emergency declaration on March 13. The Lemoine’s efforts continued through the end of May as they were limited to serve only critical infrastructure workers and “otherwise needy individuals” under Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s “Stay Home” executive orders.

“The spring season was emotionally and financially terrifying for our small, family-owned business,” said Mark. “Although our park infrastructure was ready to serve guests, public health concerns and government restrictions caused us to experience less than half of our usual spring business, but we refused to live in fear.”

Tapping his prior career in government affairs, Lemoine assessed the Governor’s orders and the federal directives for essential business, which led them to operate their campground to the fullest extent of the law. Mark advocated for their guests and demonstrated the industry best-practices that were put into place to promote health and wellness. He respectfully highlighted the inconsistencies and contradictions that were found in the Governor’s executive orders and the MI Safe Start-Up Plan which allowed outdoors businesses to operate under Phase 3, but caused significant confusion among private campgrounds, many of which remained closed like the government-run state parks. Lemoine also advocated for all businesses, as Chair of the Board of directors for the Southwest Michigan Regional Chamber of Commerce.

On June 1, their worries were lessened when Governor Whitmer followed the actions of other governors who were lifting their respective “Stay Home” orders across the country.

Karla stated, “From that point forward we have been meeting a great deal of pent up demand from veteran campers, and those who chose to explore camping for the first time.” She added, “The outdoor hospitality industry experienced a boom this summer due to the fact that Americans found greater safety traveling to a campground in their own vehicle, staying in their own tent or RV, achieving social distancing in our outdoor settings, and realizing that camping is a more affordable option compared to other forms of recreation.”

The Coloma/St. Joseph KOA Holiday campground employed 17 staff this season who are also dedicated to deliver the exceptional service for which they have become known. The Lemoines also continued to make ongoing improvements to their park this year including adding a new liner to their outdoor heated pool, creating a Family Fun Zone offering more outdoor games, and carving a nature trail through their wooded property giving guests even more activities to do right on site.

While they saw a decline in their international guests, the Lemoines were pleased to welcome those whom they call, “our neighbors” — guests who traveled to them from more local areas throughout Berrien County and the Michiana region.

“As a small, family-owned seasonal business, eighty percent of our annual revenue comes in between Memorial Day and Labor Day, but our bills come due every month just like everyone else,” Mark said. “We were blessed to be a blessing to our guests this summer, by providing them with memorable time with their family and friends. As entrepreneurs, we are also glad to have engaged in our community and contribute to the local, state, and national economic recovery by being open for business.”

Karla reminds everyone, “There is still time to enjoy some great fall camping! There’s nothing like crisp air, and cool nights to go camping, visit local orchards, vineyards, or take part in our two Harvest Halloween weekends, which run through October 12.” She laughs while adding, “Then after preparing the park for winter, we fully intend to get some well-deserved R&R ourselves this off-season.”

Fifth Level Hospitality, Inc., is locally-owned and operated by Mark and Karla Lemoine, and is doing business as the Coloma/St. Joseph KOA Holiday. Located in Hagar Township, this southwest Michigan campground destination is the closest KOA campground to Lake Michigan and offers guests 130 sites for tenting, RVs, twelve cabins and three luxury “glamping” tents. Amenities include an in-ground heated pool, jumping pillow, Gaga ball, Carpet ball, mini-golf, fun bike rentals, nature trail and more. Find them online at www.stjosephkoa.com or “Like” them on FaceBook.