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Kampground of America (KOA) honored its first franchise operation this past Friday (June 25) as the Cody, Wyo. KOA marked its 40th anniversary, the Billings Gazette of Montana reported.
Jim Rogers, CEO and president of KOA, was on hand for the festivities, which not only paid tribute to the Cody campground but also the KOA business philosophy and culture.
“We want a KOA campground to be where you check in, walk around, and before you know it, a cold drink is in your hand, and you’re sharing meals with strangers around a campfire,” said KOA Communications Director Michael Gast. “It works for the clients and it works for us.”
Cody’s anniversary kicked off similar commemorative events throughout the country, as seven of the original 11 KOAs are still in business.
The KOA concept was born at the Seattle World’s Fair, when founder Dave Drum talked to crowds of people passing up the hotels to sleep alongside the highway or in gas station parking lots. A “concept campground” was built in Billings in 1962, and the Cody KOA staked a claim to the “first franchise” title in 1964.
Billings remains KOA’s headquarters, but now the company has 470 franchise operations in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Japan.
Much has changed since the early days when Cody KOA charged $2 a night for tent campers and the occasional RV. Now, trailers make up the bulk of the customers.
The Gazette reported that more than 45,000 people visited the campground last year, paying peak-season prices of $29.95 for a tent site to $135 a night for the all-amenities cottage. Deluxe sites were added last year, featuring cable, television and phone hookups, and next year, wireless Internet will be installed.