Editor’s Note: June is designated as National Great Outdoors Month, and in our area we have plenty of available activities and beautiful places to celebrate! Each week this month we will feature some of the special opportunities locally to enjoy our great outdoors.
When it comes to summertime things to see and do in Gothenburg it is likely you will see Karan Smith at the helm of at least two of them. Karan and her husband Jim are celebrating their 26th season as camp hosts at Lafayette Campground in 2021. When not there she can be found at the Sod House Museum, where she has been tirelessly helping her grandson, JC Smith, revamp the museum and get it open for tourist season.
Meeting people and hearing their stories is what Karan said she enjoys most, and she gets many opportunities to do that at both locations. “We had someone stay at the campground just this past weekend who had visited the Sod House and the Pony Express Station when they were children, and now they came back to bring their children. They were so excited the Sod House was open,” Karan shared.
Lafayette Campground is off to a busy start to the camping season. In fact, Karan said she has received more reservations so far this year than they have ever had. The campground includes 34 campsites, each with electricity and water. All sites were filled on Memorial Day weekend, and Karan said she is already full for July 4th and Livin’ Out Loud on Aug. 21. “And people are calling for Labor Day already,” she added.
The campground is part of the Lake Helen city park, owned by the city, and the Smiths serve as hosts. “We just love it up here, and we enjoy the campers,” she said.
Karan was born and raised in Gothenburg, and Jim moved here from Colorado with his family as a young boy. They are extremely proud of their town and especially all it has to offer visitors. They answered an ad in the paper 26 years ago which led to them moving from the country to town and taking over the campground. That also provides the perfect venue for Karan to promote the community she loves.
Karan said a lot of improvements have been made to the campground in the years she has been there, and she credits Shane Gruber, City Services Director, for facilitating most of those improvements. The campground is a perfect location for families; it is very well shaded and features a nice playground and horseshoe pits. There is a beautiful covered bridge that leads from the campground to the walking trails in the park and Lake Helen. Cost for a campsite at Lafayette is $25 per night, and tent sites without electricity are $10 per night.
“I always keep some spots open for people who come in off the interstate,” said Karan. “I want travelers to come in. So when I say I’m full it is because I have filled those up. Like on the 4th of July - I’m full, but that’s because I have had travelers call and I filled those spaces up. I like having guests come into town.”
Karan said she believes Lafayette Campground and the Sod House Museum are both hidden gems. But word is getting out as both are already welcoming lots of visitors. “We hear so many compliments on our community from the travelers,” Karan shared. Travelers just looking for a good place to enjoy some family summer fun.