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Labor Day camping, Van Riper style

September 3, 2010
By ANDY NELSON-ZALESKI Journal Staff Writer

CHAMPION - The Labor Day weekend is upon us and for some that means family get togethers and barbeques and for others it means the end of summer vacation and the start back to work or school. And what better way to celebrate the long holiday weekend than to go camping.

"For our family, Labor Day camping is kind of a last hurrah for the summer," said camper Jeanne Cox of Marquette. For the Cox family, Labor Day camping provides them just that. For more than 25 family members - brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, and cousins - the holiday weekend has been turned into an annual family gathering.

"Camping over the years has become more of a family tradition for us," said Bill Cox of Marquette.

Article Photos

Members of the Cox family sit around the campfire while camping in the modern campgrounds at Van Riper State Park Wednesday. The family of more than 25 members get together every Labor Day weekend and camp. (Journal photo by Andy Nelson-Zaleski)

If your family is interested in starting a family camping tradition for the Labor Day weekend, here are a handful of simple things to keep in mind when planning. State and private campgrounds fill up quickly. Some have a set number of campsites they keep open for last-minute campers. Campsite authorities always recommend making site reservations in advance.

Doug Barry, who is park supervisor at Van Riper State Park, said that the reservation campsites are 100 percent full for the long weekend.

"We do have about 20 percent of the modern campground open to first come, first serve and there are plenty of rustic campsite available for last minute campers," said Barry.

Fact Box

"For our family, Labor Day camping is kind of a last hurrah for the summer."

- Jeanne Cox, camper, Van Riper State Park

Some campgrounds allow campers to check availability and site choice on an a website. Along with reservations, these sites can also help with searching for the proper campsite that meets the needs of the weekend.

Some campgrounds have pavilions for hosting family gatherings or reunions. Others offer more remote or rustic, scenic sites for families or a couple who are look for a quite getaway. If you are looking to go hiking, biking, swimming, or fishing while camping, there are a wide variety of campgrounds that offer these options and more.

At Van Riper State Park, there are many weekend activities for children and families such as their event and interpreter programing.

Barry also mentioned that Van Riper has free WiFi Internet access in the park.

Once the campground has been chosen, meals should be planned and shopping for essentials like insect spray, sun screen, paper plates, utensils, and whatever else is going to be needed for a fun holiday.

Organizing camping gear like tents, sleeping bags and air mattresses to insure everything is in good working order always makes sense.

Traffic is another thing to stay aware of. With the long holiday weekend, a great many people will be on the road, all trying to reach their destination. So keep in mind there maybe delays.

Andy Nelson-Zaleski can be reached at 906-228-2500 ext. 256. His e-mail address is



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