Hearty South Dakotans Line Up in the Cold for Park's Campsites

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January 10, 2012 by   - () Leave a Comment

Wylie Park Campground, Aberdeen, S.D.

Click here to watch a video, courtesy of the Aberdeen News, about the following story.

To get ready for a family gathering on Memorial Day weekend in Aberdeen, S.D., Gail Fisk made a big sacrifice.

People could begin reserving campsites at Wylie Park Campground at 7 a.m.Monday (Jan. 9). To make sure that she could reserve the house at Wylie, Fisk arrived at 5 p.m. Sunday.

“I told my relatives this is the first time I'll do it and the last time,” she said.

Fisk’s early arrival time put her first in line in the annual Aberdeen tradition of camping out to go camping out. People arrive early at the Aberdeen Recreation and Cultural Center (ARCC) to get the locations and dates they want to go camping this summer.

Anyone arriving at the ARCC at 5:30 a.m. Monday saw 14 empty chairs in a row outside the building. The early arrivals set up chairs to save their spots. They actually spent the night in their vehicles in the parking lot.

“Well, actually I drove off and went to the bathroom a few times,” Fisk said.

She was joined by her 16-year-old daughter, Abby, at 9 p.m. “It's like Black Friday all over again,” Abby said, referring to the long line.

Those waiting outside were allowed in the building at 5 a.m. At about 6 a.m., 32 people were seated in the hall outside the Eagles Nest, waiting for the reservations to start at 7.

At least two of the people waiting — Bob Haak of Aberdeen and Stan Beckler of Bath — also waited overnight outside the Brown County Courthouse in June to get reserved grandstand seats for the Brown County Fair.

Dave Lynn arrived at the ARCC Sunday at 9:30 p.m., which made him 10th in line. He’s been camping at Wylie since the cost was $8 a night. Now, it's $29 for a recreational vehicle.

He was planning to buy his favorite camping spot — No. 34 — for five weekends: Father's Day, the Fourth of July, Aug. 3 and 4, the Storybook Land Festival and Labor Day.

Terry Boyle of Mansfield, who was first in line a year ago, was second this year. He arrived at the ARCC at 5:45 p.m. Sunday. He was seeking spots for Fourth of July week, the Brown County Fair and Memorial Day weekend.

The maximum number of spots one person could reserve was five. To get a total of seven spots for the Fourth of July weekend, Boyle brought along his brother-in-law, Louie Jung, who was No. 3 in line.

The number of people waiting in line is growing each year. Donna Gohn, who showed up at 5 a.m. Monday, was 24th in line. A year ago, Gohn was 14th in line when she arrived at 5:15 or 5:30 a.m.

Some of the people waiting in line, though, say the system needs to be improved. The Aberdeen Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department staff began taking reservations over the phone Monday at 7 a.m.

Haak was not able to get the cabin he asked for last year, when he was second in line. His watch said it was 7:02 a.m.

He said that people who wait in line should have a little priority over those calling because they make the effort to show up early.

Boyle suggested that the phone lines shouldn't open until 7:30 a.m.

The Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department believes it's fair to start taking reservations, whether over the phone or in person, at the same time. “Because not everybody can travel to Aberdeen to be in line,” said director Doug Johnson.

The department doesn't begin taking phone reservations before 7 a.m., Johnson said. “Both people in line and the phones start at the same time,” he said.

He also said the department doesn't give preference to anyone. “We don't take early reservations from individuals,” he said.

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