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The New Bern KOA Holiday received the Campground of the Year Award today. From left: Manager Bonnie Day, KOA CEO Pat Hittmeier, Manager Pat Holtzclaw, and KOA Vice President of Franchise Services Darin Uselman.

KOA honors Campground of the Year, Rising Stars

FORT WORTH, Texas — Kampgrounds of America today presented its coveted Campground of the Year Award as well as its Rising Star Award during a lunch celebration as part of its annual convention, which takes place in Fort Worth through Thursday.

New Bern KOA Holiday in New Bern, N.C., was honored as the Campground of the Year, and it is a unique story for the KOA system.

The decision to select the campground f0r the honor was made in September, one week before Hurricane Florence nearly wiped out the facility with winds topping 105 mph, said KOA President Toby O’Rourke.

Owner Joel Thomaselli and his manager, Pat Holtzclaw, had been picked for the award based on their consistent effort to modernize the campground and represent the KOA brand in a superb manner, she added.

“This campground is consistently at the forefront of modernization. They are early adopters of KOA programs and they pursue innovations every year,” said O’Rourke. “They have a terrific track record and have been on the short list to receive this award for several years.”

In fact, Thomaselli was honored as a KOA Rising Star a few years ago. The campground earned an overall guest satisfaction rating of 82 percent last year, and a perfect score on KOA’s annual inspection this year. Revenue at the campground has doubled since 2014.

Prior to the hurricane, the campground added a new wi-fi system, gazebos and patios to some campsites, and remodeled a few of the park’s deluxe cabins.

“The story of New Bern KOA will now be a story of rebirth,” said O’Rourke. “The principles at the foundation of this reward will certainly hold true as the park rebuilds.”

KOA CEO Pat Hittmeier, left, presented the Rising Star Award to Cheryl and Don , with the Thompson/Grand River Valley KOA Holiday in Thomspon, Ohio. KOA Vice President of Franchise Services Darin Uselman is on the right.

Rising Star Award

KOA bestows its Rising Star Award to campground owners who have less than five years of tenure within the KOA system. The recipient must demonstrate a love for the KOA lifestyle, institute smart business practices, and desire to improve the facility to ensure better guest satisfaction, said Darin Uselman, vice president of franchise services.

The award has been presented annually for 17 years, and 15 of the past winners remain involved in the KOA system.

This year’s award was presented to Don and Cheryl Arnold, with the Thompson/Grand River Valley KOA Holiday in Thompson, Ohio. The facility joined the KOA network in 2015.

In just three summers, the Arnolds have turned a campground in need of a lot of work into campground offering one of best guest experiences in system, said Uselman.

The Arnolds are former racetrack business owners who noticed the happiest guests were often campers. When they investigated opening a campground of their own, they noticed that members of the state association who were often the most professional were those flying the KOA flag, he added.

Since acquiring the facility, the Arnolds have worked to improve the pool, upgrade the wi-fi network, add 50-amp service, create bigger RV sites, add cabins, improve the store and upgrade the restrooms. They have also added tipi accommodations as well as modernized tent sites. They are in the process of remodeling the beach to add boat docks and other recreation opportunities to take pressure off the park’s pool.

The Arnolds personally contact each person submitting a negative review to find out what the campground could do better, which resulted in an overall guest satisfaction score of 91 percent. As a result, revenue improved by 60 percent this year.

Honoring a corporate-owned location

During the awards presentation, O’Rourke also honored Samantha and Mark Chipperfield, managers of the Townsend/Great Smokies KOA Holiday in Townsend, Tenn. They received the Corporate-Owned Properties Manager of the Year Award.

As a corporate owned store, they are ineligible to be considered for the Campground of the Year Award, she explained. However, they embody all the requirements for consideration of the award. That includes:

  • Modernization of facilities and services
  • Adoption of KOA programs
  • Providing great guest service
  • Going extra mile to provide new and innovative facilities
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About Greg Gerber

Greg Gerber is a freelance writer and podcaster who has been writing about the RV industry since 2000. He is the former editor of RV Daily Report.

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