Campground Spotlight: America's Best in Branson
A Branson, Mo., campground has been the recipient of the Good Sam Club membership’s Welcome Mat Award — voted by the club’s membership as the nation’s most hospitable park for nine years running — has been living up to its reputation following the state’s recent natural disasters.
Jim and Sue Alkire, owners of America’s Best Campground, have taken in campers staying at the city park campground after the Table Rock Dam floodgates were opened twice in May. “We have ‘rescued’ many of these campers and they have stayed with us,” said Sue.
America’s Best has also been active in helping out with those affected by the season’s other major natural disaster — the horrific Joplin, Mo., tornado. “It is amazing to me the outpouring of people who are already experiencing tough times, but are still ready and willing to help their neighbors,” said Sue Alkire, whose park has proudly accepted the honor of the Good Sam Welcome Mat Award each year since 2003.
“It’s been amazing,” she noted. “The first time we won I thought it was a joke. We feel really good about it. It is not based on anything other than your customers saying you are doing a good job.”
The Alkires have owned the park since 1999 that Cindy Nitch and former husband George Smith built in 1994. Six months into realizing their dream of campground ownership, George was diagnosed with cancer and passed away 18 months later. Cindy later met Hans Nitch, who had lost his wife to cancer.
“They hit it off and got married here in the park,” Sue said. “They decided to sell the park and RV full time because they both thought, ‘well we don’t know how long any of us have.’”
The Alkires at first hadn’t a clue about owning a campground, but when America’s Best went up for sale they decided to check it out. A corporation and a couple from Germany were also interested in the park. “Cindy wanted it to go to a good home,” Sue said. “She worked with us so we could buy it. She was proud to hand over the keys to us. We keep in touch with her and Hans, who come to the park each year.”
The Alkires didn’t realize just how much America’s Best Campground would live up to its name. “We are located on the north edge of the city limits,” Sue said. “Our location is good because you are going against the flow of most of the traffic. When we first looked at this place we thought it was a good location, but had no idea just how good it was.”
America’s Best has 160 sites total, 136 pull-throughs. Most of those are 50 amps, although some are 30 and one offers 100-amp service. There are nine cabins – six are camper cabins and three have bathrooms and a kitchen or kitchenette.
Park amenities include a swimming pool, spa, playground, free Wi-Fi throughout, a car and RV wash, a game room with coin-operated games, three sets of bathhouses and a laundry facility. All buildings are air-conditioned.
“We were the first park here in Branson to have Wi-Fi,” Sue said. “Our goal was to be able to get it anywhere in the park including your rig.”
America’s Best Campground, a pet-friendly park with pet walk areas, holds two special events each year — a Thanksgiving potluck and a Fourth of July RV decorating contest.
"We fill the park at Thanksgiving time," Sue said. "We do smoked turkeys, gravy, mashed potatoes and dressing and the campers bring everything else. We do a lot of advertising and any tickets we have left we give away. People sign up for a drawing for free show tickets, and they get their choice when I call their name. Of course they have to say something they are thankful for before they can receive their prize. It's like a big family reunion and it's a lot of people watching and waiting."
“During the 4th of July RV we try to get the Blues Brothers to come and judge for the most decorated RV,” Sue said. “The bribing gets to be as much fun as the contest. People have found out the Blues Brothers can be bribed. We’ve got people who decorate their pets and everything.”
America’s Best hosts a number of rallies at its park each year.
“We can do everything from just doing the camping for them to setting up charter buses, meals and a full itinerary,” said Alkire. “We’ve been teased over the years that we baby our groups but we like that. If there is someone who has never had a rally before, we’re easy. We do all the work and they look good.”
Part of what makes America’s Best worthy of its name are its GREEN business practices. “Good business means being environmentally friendly,” said Alkire. “We have a recycling area. We don’t make it a big “green” anything, but just a common sense thing and we try to do the right thing.”
The future for the Alkires’ park means watching and waiting.
“We are sitting back, observing the political climate right now,” Sue said. “I know we could utilize more cabins, but at this point I am not comfortable with doing that. If fuel keeps going up, that could affect our business.”
Despite nature’s recent surprises and rising fuel prices, the Alkires are hopeful for a solid 2011 season. The reservations keep coming from campers who want to experience America’s Best.
The Facts: America’s Best Campground
Contacts: 499 Buena Vista Road, Branson, MO 65616, (800) 671-4399, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.abc-branson.com
Features: 160 total sites, 136 pull-thru, full hook-ups, the majority with 50-amp service, although some have 30 amp; six camper cabins, three with bathrooms and kitchen or kitchenette; swimming pool; spa; playground; free Wi-Fi; satellite TV with 35 channels; car and RV wash; game room; bathhouses and laundry facility; pet friendly; all buildings are air-conditioned