The initial and ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are as varied as the persons and institutions it has touched.
Friends, family and jobs lost. Social lives on hold. Schools closed and medical systems under stress have all become hallmarks of a year in turmoil.
In the meantime gay campgrounds are gearing up for another banner year in 2021. Reservations for popular camps usually sell out in minutes after opening for booking and 2020 had been no exception. The Woods Campgrounds in Lehighton, Pennsylvania had spent the winter prior to the pandemic nearly doubling its social areas and adding dozens of new camping sites that easily accommodated its larger than ever crowds. Weekend reservations for 2021 at The Woods sold out immediately upon opening in March.
Last summer's camping season followed on the heels of business shutdowns, crowd limits and travel restrictions across the country. Gay parks went into their peak seasons with more questions than answers from regulators. At one point a law enforcement officer dispatched to Sawmill Camping Resort in Dade City on an unrelated matter commented that the swimming pool was the only public pool open in Pasco County.
Gay campgrounds quickly adapted to the new state regulations enforced mostly by health departments though sometimes by law enforcement.
Limiting access to indoor entertainment and moving shows outside often under huge tents became the norm. Dance halls, bars and cafés sat empty but the party went on. Pool access became limited with lounges moved six feet apart. RV sites filled up, cabins rapidly sold out and tents popped up everywhere.
Most gay campgrounds had vastly increased new membership sales in 2020 as LGBT people fled closed bars, gyms, shows and restaurants for the great outdoors.
Camping found itself in the unique position of being the single gay social activity remaining open and active throughout the initial convulsions and ongoing fear of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many gay campgrounds quickly became havens as other more urban social opportunities closed or limited access.
Jones Pond Campground and RV Park in Angelica, New York, enforced strict distancing and sanitizing rules as defined by the State of NY Health Department. On arrival guests could sign up for limited shifts and slots to enter the pool area. Different periods were enforced with different color wrist bands controlled and monitored by an attendant at the gate. In addition, Jones Pond moved all entertainment outside until late in the season as state regulations eased somewhat. Even then access to the indoor social areas was strictly limited and monitored and guests inside were required to be masked. Customers were not only amenable they were grateful for the safety efforts. With the planning and organization most everyone had all the access they wanted. There were no reported cases of COVID-19 associated with Jones Pond over a five-month summer season.
Sawmill Campground in Dade City removed many pool loungers, limited the total number of guests allowed in the pool area and the number of those guests allowed in the pool itself. Indoor social spaces were closed to guests though Sawmill took advantage of the closure to completely remodel Woody's, its nightclub. Sawmill has had no indoor accommodation reservation availability for months.
As this COVID-19 pandemic peaks, as vaccines get into arms and as times begin their stop and go return to some sort of new normal gay campgrounds too will adjust. Twenty-twenty was a good year and 2021 is looking like an even better year for the gay camping industry following an ongoing trajectory of growth in perhaps the single growing gay institution.