Camping Down in Minn., Labor Day Caps Season
Thousands of Minnesotans are getting one last crack at camping this Labor Day weekend. But the weather has delivered a down year for sites across the state.
"This is the last chance, had to get out here," said Porsha Zimmerman, who went camping this weekend at Afton State Park. Zimmerman was ready to hit the trails and pitch her tent.
"We got the candles, we got the incense, we got the bug spray," Zimmerman said.
And Mother Nature was ready for her.
"It's a beautiful environment out here. It's a beautiful day - not too hot, sun's out, nice time to enjoy it," Zimmerman said.
This is Zimmerman's fourth camping foray this year - into the same woods. And she said if it wasn't for the season's subpar weather, she would have camped out more than that.
"We actually got hailed on the first time we came out here," Zimmerman said.
It's been a tough year for campers, with wet weather washing out the beginning of the season, and heat hampering the very end of it.
A recent survey conducted by Explore Minnesota Tourism revealed that 15 percent of campgrounds had higher occupancy rates this year than last year.
But on Saturday afternoon, there were zero weather-related issues.
"It's beautiful weather. It's perfect camping weather," said Cindy Mowan, another camper at Afton State Park.
Its a Labor Day tradition for Mowan, several friends and her family to pitch tents at the park. But the emphasis is less on camping and more on cuisine as a Dutch oven cook-off heats things up.
"We have a traveling plaque that travels around with us and we engrave the name of the winner," Mowan said.
We got a taste of the fierce competition when we tried to get some inside information on Sean Okan's recipes.
"I can't say anything with everyone else around, really," the teen said.
Labor Day often signals that the sun is setting on camping season. But don't tell these folks that.
"We've been up to Gooseberry Falls where it's been twenty-something degrees when we woke up in the morning," Mowan said.
While it's been a tough year for Minnesota camping businesses, other tourism industries had stronger showings. That same survey showed almost half of tourism-related businesses in the state had higher revenues this summer.