Camping Out

Saugatuck Resort Is A Summer Hotspot For LGBTs

By Carol Tanis

Co-owner Sally Howard calls the popular Campit getaway "a Saugatuck summer home without the Saugatuck prices."

Located in Fennville, just south of Saugatuck, the outdoor resort offers a variety of accommodations: tent, trailer and RV sites, along with small "sleeper" cabins, a bed and breakfast and vintage trailers. At the top of the heap is the "Premium Resort" cabin, which features a fireplace, refrigerator, dishwasher, TV with surround sound, screened-in side porch and knotty pine paneling and carpeting throughout.

"It's a special place," Howard says, "and very romantic."

Howard, who has owned the resort for 13 years with Michael O'Connor, continues: "We're creating a place where people can come together and have a good time. With that in mind we have many theme-weekends. We have parties, dances and dinners, with many centered around a specific theme. We try to give people a reason to make a reservation here and meet people who have similar interests."

The long list of theme-weekends includes: Leather, Cowboy & Country Dance, Mardi Gras, Christmas, Luau, Wild Wild West, Vacation Week, Haunted. There are also five Title Contest Weekends: Mr. Bear, Mr. Cub, Mr. Leather, Mr. Cowboy and Miss Campit.

Campit has five different tent camping areas catered to different crowds, including those who prefer nature's peacefulness and those who enjoy socializing.

The resort generally draws visitors from about 150-mile radius. Many come from the Chicago and Detroit areas and regulars also travel from Ohio, Wisconsin and northern Indiana. Some visitors rent a lot for their trailer or RV for the entire summer and visit on the weekends or stay for months if they are fortunate enough to have the summer off or are retired. Most of them add their own touch to their lots with beautiful landscaping and a deck.

Campit has more than 150 campsites spread over 33 acres. Amenities include a heated swimming pool featuring a large deck area, sand volleyball court, laundry room, weight room, clubhouse, two ponds, wooded nature trails, recreation hall, game room, wireless, community fire pit and a camp store. Along with the usual campground items - like firewood, ice, beer - the store sells ice cream, mixers and microwavable foods and an array of gay pride merchandise.

A tour of the showers and bathrooms off the pool area reveals a spotless squeaky-clean feel. "We clean the bathrooms four times a day. We want people to feel well-cared for when they stay at Campit," says Howard.

New this summer season are "Super" sleeper cabins which now include the addition of a toilet and shower. These small log cabins are designed for campers simply needing a place to comfortably sleep at night after a day of vacation activities. "Like the other sleeper cabins, these cabins include a queen-size bed, air conditioning, heater and small refrigerator, but some campers said they wanted more and didn't like using the bathhouse," says Howard. Also, the country store is newly renovated for the 2013 season and a horse shoe and corn hole bean bag toss area are now available for additional outdoor recreation options.

And what if it rains or turns cold? Never fear, this outdoor resort has that covered with its clubhouse. This large building is big enough to accommodate Campit's dances, dinners and other programs. And, of course, there's always the pool when the weather's nice out.

Now, about that name. Howard and O'Connor tried to change Campit's name five years ago and brainstormed with some longtime campers to come up with a different one. But they weren't buying it, she says. "They said, 'Name it whatever you want, but to us it will always be Campit.' So we kept the name. It's like home to people."

So the name stays because it has so much meaning for campers who come to the resort year after year. But how did it get its name? Howard says the story goes that the land was owned by a woman who turned it into a campground when she couldn't get her kids to pick the tomatoes she grew on the property. She didn't have money to buy gravel for roads, so she got the cherry pits that were being thrown away from a nearby cherry processing plant and used those on the roads. So the roads were actually lined with cherry pits and it became known as "Camp Pit." Later it became Campit. Says Howard: "My business partner Michael remembers coming here in the late '70s when the roads were gravel but you would occasionally step on a cherry pit."

Campit is a membership resort. Basic membership is $10 for the entire 2013 season and is required for anyone staying at the resort for one night or longer. Other membership plans are also available offering various discounts and benefits. Camper walk-ins are welcome, but reservations are strongly suggested. You must be 18 to stay at Campit, nudity is not allowed, and quiet time begins at 11 p.m.

Campit is open seven days a week through Sept. 25 and on weekends only from Sept. 26 through Oct. 16. For the first time the Westwood section will stay open during the winter season. For more information about Campit, visit http://www.campitresort.com or call 269-543-4327.

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