MILFORD, Ohio — Many campgrounds offer special recognition to active duty members of the Armed Forces and veterans on Memorial Day and Fourth of July.
But Jellystone Parks take it step further and salute the efforts of not only active duty and veteran members of the military, but current and former police officers, firefighters and emergency responders — and they do it with special activities throughout the camping season.
“Jellystone Parks are big on honoring our heroes in our families and in our communities. So we don’t limit ourselves to Memorial Day or Fourth of July or even Veterans Day. We do have special weekends for veterans and other community heroes throughout the year,” said Kelly Jones, vice president of operations for Milford, Ohio-based Leisure Systems Inc., which franchises 84 Jellystone Parks across the U.S. and Canada.
Most Jellystone Parks start each day of activities with a flag salute with Yogi Bear, which provides opportunities for park operators to recognize active duty and retired family members who have served our country.
Many Jellystone Parks also offer discounts to active duty military and first responders as well as retired veterans. Leisure Systems gives its franchisees wide discretion in developing special programs and discounts to honor veterans for their service.
For example, Chip Smith, a Marine Corps and Massachusetts Department of Corrections veteran who co-owns and operates the Jellystone Park in Monticello, Iowa, provides veterans with discounts of 10 to 15 percent as well as 100 percent discounts to veterans who have lost limbs.
“We need to acknowledge their sacrifice and be able to give something back to them,” he said. “It’s important that we show them our support.”
Veterans who visit the Jellystone Park in Monticello feel particularly welcome. The entrance to the park not only includes a 60-foot flag pole for the U.S. flag, but five additional 10-foot poles with flags honoring the U.S. Marine Corps, the U.S. Army, the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard.
Smith noted that most veterans do not come to his park looking for discounts, but he said they are pleasantly surprised when they find out that discounts are available for them. “They are most appreciative,” Smith said. “They are always thankful for what we do for them.”
While Jellystone Parks are famous for their organized family activities and themed weekends with Yogi Bear, Boo Boo and Cindy Bear, many parks also host “Hero Weekends” with special activities and promotions to honor military veterans and first responders, including police and fire department personnel. Here’s a sampling of what Jellystone Parks across North America are planning this year:
— Amboy, Ill., Sept. 7-9: This will be a Superheroes Weekend. The Amboy Fire Department will provide rescue demonstrations as well as kids versus firefighters challenges. There will also be medical helicopter and fire truck displays. www.jellystoneamboy.com
— Bloomington, Ind., July 2-9 and Sept. 7-9: This park will celebrate the week of July 4th with a patriotic parade to honor veterans with prizes for the best decorated wagon, golf cart, bike or stroller. There will also be fun family oriented contests and a hot dog eating contest. The weekend of Sept. 7-9 will be a Patriots Weekend that honors military and emergency first responders and their families with a “Tribute in Light” event as the park releases lanterns into the night as a thank you to military, police, firefighters and EMTs. One free night of camping will be given with a two-night minimum to members of the military, police, firefighters and EMTs. www.lakemonroejellystone.com
— Elberta, Ala., Sept. 14-16: This will be a Superhero Weekend. Current and former members of law enforcement, firefighters and Armed Forces receive a 25 percent discount. www.jellystonegulfcoast.com
— Madison, Me., June 22-24: This will be a Great American Heroes Weekend that honors police, firefighters, emergency and Armed Forces personnel. Special activities are planned to honor America’s heroes. Campsites and rentals will be discounted 15 percent for any active or retired hero with valid identification. www.yonderhill.com
— Mexico, N.Y., July 27-29: A Military Appreciation Weekend will take place in May in which campers, mostly kids, make cards, letters and pictures for veterans who are being treated at the VA hospital nearby. The cards, letters and pictures are sent to them with a letter from the park thanking them for their service. The park also shows a military appreciation video. In July, the park organizes a Superhero Weekend that includes visits by local superheroes and their vehicles, including the local fire department and emergency medical services. A station is also set up by the county search and rescue team to show how searches for lost people or boats on the lake are conducted. The Sheriff’s Department will set up a station for parents to register their children in the “Safe Child” program, and the State Police K-9 division will set up a station with one of their police dogs to provide search and attack demonstrations. The event also includes a visit by a critical care airlift flight helicopter, which lands in the park’s recreation field and lets the campers get inside the chopper to learn about critical airlift care. Discounts are provided to military and first responders. www.jellystonecny.com
— Mill Run, Penn., Oct. 19-21: This park organizes Heroes Weekends in April and October that honor military, police, firefighters and EMTs. Activities include a tug of war, races and other competitive events. Heroes with identification can rent a campsite for $20 or get 50 percent off the summer rate on a cabin on these weekends. www.jellystonemillrun.com
— Scottsburg, Ind., Sept. 7-9: This park honors military, firefighters, police and emergency responders, who will receive a 20 percent discount for a two-night stay. www.jellystoneraintree.com
Special Weekends for Veterans at Jellystone Parks in Canada
— Borden-Carleton, Prince Edward Island, June 7-10: This will be a Superhero Weekend. Children are encouraged to dress up as their favorite hero, fictional or real. There will also be crafts and games. Military, police, RCMPs and firefighters pay Friday and get Saturday free. www.jellystonepei.com
Veterans can find listings of Jellystone Park activities and special events as well as information about special veterans’ discounts by checking https://www.campjellystone.com/plan-your-trip/military-discount/.
Leisure Systems Inc., which franchises Jellystone Parks, is also offering special pricing for veterans who would like to join the Jellystone Park system as park owners.
SOURCE: Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts press release