Northeast Parks Rally at NCA Confab
Traditions come and go – and so do trade shows – but some things never change. And that’s the case with representatives of the 10 states that make up the Stafford, Conn.-based Northeast Campground Association (NCA) who gather each spring at the Sturbridge Host Hotel & Conference Center in Sturbridge, Mass., for NCA’s annual Camping & Trade Show.
These people generally know how to have a good time, and this year was no exception, as independent park operators representing almost 100 parks from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland converged March 21-23 on Sturbridge for the 49th annual NCA Conference for seminars, yoga, a charity auction and a trade show consisting of some 80 exhibitors.
Things, in a nutshell, went well, according to Cyndy Zbierski, executive assistant to Executive Director David Tetrault, from the Friday night charity auction that yielded some $12,000 to some pretty serious-minded business seminars. “It was a lot of fun – a good three days,” reports Zbierski, adding that she and the NCA staff had strived to inject a business atmosphere in addition to the conference’s traditional offerings.
True to the title theme of the conference, “Invigorate 2013 – Inform, Influence & Inspire,” the seminars kicked off with a cerebral social media session led by Corissa St. Laurent, director of development in New England for Constant Contact, that went over particularly well. “Everyone who was in there definitely wants us to make sure she’s in the program again next year,” said Zbierski, adding that another popular session covered data security and awareness as it relates to identity protection.
A first-day board meeting on Thursday, March 21, resulted in the election of the following new officers: President Judy LaPorta, Little Oaks Campground, New Jersey; 1st Vice President Michelle Ackerman, Sodom Mountain Campground, Massachusetts; 2nd Vice President Mary Lunderville, Moose River Campground, Vermont; and Treasurer Michael Irons, Ole Mink Farm Recreation Resort, Maryland, who also serves as immediate past president.
Appointed state representatives for 2013 were Connecticut’s Brian Korten of Water’s Edge Family Campground, Maine’s Pat Kosalka of Sagadahoc Bay Campground, New Hampshire’s Gregg Goldberg of Sandy Beach RV Resort, New York’s Gregg Nicholls of Lake Bluff Campground, Pennsylvania’s Bruce Heasley of Holiday Pines Campground and Rhode Island’s John Tillinghast of Bowdish Lake Camping Area.
A Friday presentation by Jim Rogers, chairman and CEO of Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) based in Billings, Mont., was a real highlight of the conference, according to Zbierski. A talented speaker, Rogers, who recently appeared on CBS’s hit series “Undercover Boss,” led a session titled “Invigorate Your Campground’s Value” in which he backed up his remarks with data and statistics, specifically keying in on the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic area.
“And he was able to share numbers with us that absolutely astounded the audience so they know who their customer is and where they might want to spend their marketing dollars,” said Zbierski.
At Friday’s NCA Awards Luncheon, the Curtis Fuller Service Award was presented to David L. Berg, past president of NCA, the Maine Campground Owners Association (MECOA) and the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC). He’s also co-owner with his wife Jayne of Red Apple Campground in Kennebunkport, Maine.
The takeaway for the 49th Annual Northeast Conference on Camping & Trade Show, according to Zbierski? “We went into this really making sure they (attending park operators) were thinking of themselves as business owners,” she told Woodall’s Campground Management. “We, of course, talked about things that happened in campgrounds, but we really wanted them to focus on the fact that they were a business owner and that was a lot of where the seminar topics came from.
“Those subjects would have been appropriate for truly any small business owner, whether you owned a campground or not,” she added. “And that was something key to this year’s program.”
As for vendors in the exhibit hall, she said, “I have some long-time exhibitors who came up to me and said they had their best show ever last weekend plus some first-timers who were amazed at how they were taking orders for their product or service.”
Next year’s conference is slated for March 20-22 in Sturbridge on the Northeast Conference’s 50th anniversary.