It might require a little more advance planning these days for grandkids to spend time with their grandparents, especially when miles separate generations, yet traveling together can be the bond that ties. On any given summer weekend in Wisconsin Dells, you’ll see grandparents doting on their grandkids, whether that’s taking them on a little shopping spree downtown, playing some mini-golf to see who will be crowned king of the course, or splashing around at a waterpark. Dial it down a notch with a stay at a camp resort and the conversation, hugs and smiles seem to come as easy as pie.
Camping has always been popular in Wisconsin Dells - there are more than 3,200 campsites of every imaginable type to choose from - and it gained even more followers during the recession because of its good value proposition, especially for extended families traveling together. But it’s something about the family togetherness aspect of camping that’s the real draw regardless of how the economy is behaving.
At KOA - Wisconsin Dells campground, the multi-generational thing is as comfortable as a cozy camper or cooking over the campfire. The day we visited, owner Jill Brennan took us right up to the adjoining campsites of the Perrin family from Illinois. Grandparents Sue and Kurt Perrin greeted Jill like she was one of the clan and the kids addressed her as Auntie Jill. She’s earned that genuine familiarity when you consider she’s hosted the Perrins every summer and fall going on a dozen years now. But what was particularly charming was seeing the cousins scampering around and swooping in to stand right next to grandma when it came time for a tour of the camper or to sample some treats placed out on the picnic table.
The grandkids bunked together in a tent with ample space for air mattresses, games and snacks. It was their little piece of paradise. Within view was the outdoor pool and playground area. The cousins also talked about how much they liked the movies and candy bar bingo at the campground. Sisters giggled and got on grandly while the boys in the bunch dug into homemade muffins.
“I like being together here with my family, otherwise everyone is too busy,” said Sue Perrin. “We have our fun routines too. Everyone takes turns making dinner one night and it’s a chance to showcase their specialty and Grandpa always buys the ice cream for the grandkids from his stash of coins.”
The most senior of the group though was Maurice Munch, Sue’s father. He’s 87 now and has been camping since the age of one. The youngest was Rocco Frank, the son of Kurt’s godchild. Rocco is six and he’s a regular too.
While the Perrins, their two daughters and their children, and Sue’s dad all live in the same community, so many families don’t have that luxury of proximity. Which makes getting close over a campfire the kind of attachment that’s really cherished.