Jan. 24—PERU — The new owners of Honey Bear Hollow Campground are rebranding the business and turning it into an adult only, LGBTQ+-friendly campground.
Dennis Day and Jesse Caldwell bought the 40-acre campground and disc golf course last May and themselves being frequent campers at LGBTQ+-friendly campgrounds and seeing how successful they can be, decided to start their own.
So the two sold off real estate holdings in Cincinnati and started their new business venture.
They settled on Honey Bear Hollow because of its price, its location — right off of U.S. 31, a couple hours away from other major Midwestern cities — and the fact it is the only LGBTQ+-friendly campground in the state north of Indianapolis.
"Ourselves being part of the LGBTQ community, we feel that it's an underserved community," Caldwell said. "There are two LGBT campgrounds that I know of south of Indianapolis and none in the northern part of the state. So why shouldn't there be? Why don't we be the first?"
The new name for the campground is Misthaven Resort. The campground's opening date is scheduled for April 1, just in time for the April 8 total solar eclipse that is expected to be (with Mother Nature's participation) the largest tourism event in Indiana's history.
The property's historic and beloved disc golf course built in 1978 — the first in the state and one of the first in the country — and nestled within more than 20 acres of thick, hilly woodlands will remain but will also be adults only. The clubhouse and gear shop that sells discs and gear will remain open.
Despite the campground being marketed as a place for the LGBTQ+ community, all are welcome.
Other upgrades, such as a modern inventory system and online reservations, have been put in place. Reservations for the 2024 season are open.
Day and Caldwell say they plan on making several upgrades to the campground in the future, including installing property-wide Wi-Fi, a new pool, cabins, upgrading campsites that have long been neglected and adding more campsites and more 50 amp campsites.
Notably, the pool will be clothing optional and, for discretion and legal reasons, will have a privacy fence built around it. Nudity in other parts of the campground will not be allowed. Day and Caldwell say they will have strict no tolerance policies for visitors who are unruly or who make other visitors uncomfortable.
The announcement of the rebranding, made to the Honey Bear Hollow Campground's Facebook page, made waves on social media.
The post, as of Wednesday, has over 1,300 reactions, nearly 900 shares and had 27 comments before the ability of commenting was turned off.
The vast majority of those commenting and sharing the Facebook post expressed their anger toward change, with some lamenting the loss of the all-ages campground and disc golf course, others expressing their belief the rebranding is a bad business move, while others were more hateful.
Despite the largely negative reaction online, Day and Caldwell say they've received plenty of positive feedback and calls from those looking to make reservations.
The two also pushed back against the idea that the rebranding will kill the business, pointing to the fact the campground was never more than one-third full last year, in large part because it was competing with more than a dozen other nearby campgrounds. The change, they argue, will bring a largely affluent group to Peru and Miami County who will visit and spend money at other local businesses.
"This is a free country, and they have their right to express themselves so we can't fault them for expressing themselves, but we're doing the same thing," Day said about those angry with the change. "We don't hate them. On the contrary, we're told to love all humans, to love everyone. That's our message. So all the vitriol, mudslinging, that's in the past. We're not going to focus on that. We're looking forward, and the sunshine is coming our way."
"With a town (Peru) that is known for the circus, we should fit right in," Caldwell added.
Tyler Juranovich can be reached at 765-454-8577, by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at @tylerjuranovich.