Jellystone Park of grayling Michigan celebrates its 50th Anniversay

The Grayling campground is the third oldest location in the Jellystone Park franchise network.

The Jellystone Park Camp-Resort of Grayling Michigan celebrates its 50th anniversary this month and next with a series of gold theme weekend activities.

“We are the third oldest Jellystone Park in North America,” said Lori Cameron, who has owned and operated the Grayling campground for the past 16 years.

The park was originally developed by James E. Ford of Farmington and Dr. George Rovin of Livonia, who were featured in a groundbreaking photo that was published Aug. 11, 1970 in The Holland Evening Sentinel in Holland. Initial campground amenities included a swimming pool, a wading pool, a shuffleboard court and a mini golf course.

Today, as one might expect, the campground has been transformed into a 21st century Jellystone Park location with three playgrounds, a jumping pillow, water wars games, pedal cart rentals, volleyball and basketball courts, a gaga ball pit, an 18 hole miniature golf course and an outdoor cartoon theater. The park has completely remodeled its swimming pool and deck area this year and added a patio outside the Ranger Station with a window for takeout food orders.

Jellystone Park locations are famous for their family activities and Yogi Bear costumed characters. The Grayling park’s theme weekends range from family athletic competitions featuring a myriad of sporting events to Hawaiian themed weekends with luau parties and backyard carnival weekends with games and prizes.

The park also has Halloween-theme weekends with costume and campsite decorating contests and trick-or-treating.

Special theme weekend activities to celebrate the park’s anniversary include a pirate’s golden treasure hunt this Saturday, July 11, a Western gold rush theme weekend Aug. 21-23, and a gold medal theme weekend with sports competitions Aug. 28-30.

“We have quite a few activities and attractions to keep families entertained,” Cameron said, noting that two, three and even four generations of the same family camp at the Jellystone Park at Grayling every summer.

Longtime campers include four generations of Jim Rathbun’s family, who have been camping at the park for the past 22 years. His family started camping with a popup trailer and eventually purchased a large trailer, which they now leave at the campground on a seasonal campsite.

“We know the staff so well they’re like a second family to me. We feel like we’re going home every time we go there,” said Rathbun, a 77-year-old Mt. Pleasant resident who camps with his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

“It’s very family oriented,” said Rathbun, who retired 20 years ago after a 30-year career with General Motors and now keeps busy as a congregational pastor and marriage counselor.

“They keep the kids busy with a lot of activities. We have celebrated birthdays with Yogi. The kids just loved it. They couldn’t wait to see Yogi and Boo Boo.”

Younger campers with family traditions at Jellystone Park at Grayling include Stacy Parks, who started cabin camping there three years ago with her four-year-old son and six-year-old daughter.

“We go with my family and another family with young kids who just got an RV,” she said. “We love the family atmosphere. We can bring the kids and everybody at the Ranger Station is so good with the kids. And there’s Yogi Bear! The kids just love it!”

Even some of the campground staffers grew up camping at the Grayling park. “My family has been camping here since I was five!” said Adam J. Michels, the park’s 35-year-old activity director, adding that he has been helping with campground activities since he was a young boy.

For more information about the Jellystone Park in Grayling, including information about cabins, trailers, and campsites and activity schedules, please visit