The Bellefonte/State College KOA Holiday, owned and operated by Barbara Saulsbury and Rick Dillon, has been named the Kampgrounds of America, Inc. (KOA) Campground of the Year for 2023. Located at the base of the Appalachian Mountains in Pennsylvania, Bellefonte/State College KOA Holiday is one of the largest in the KOA system. It has operated as a campground since 1971. Saulsbury and Dillon took ownership of the campground in the mid-1980s. Now the campground is poised to pass to the third generation of family ownership under son and daughter-in-law Casey and Autumn Dillon.
“The plan is for me to take the campground over in January,” said Casey Dillon. “I went out in the world and became an area manager for a fortune 500 retail company. And I didn’t want to do it anymore. My parents were looking for their exit strategy and I jumped to be back where I love.”
Casey Dillon plans to continue the campground’s progressive additions and expansions to their 144 sites. In the past year alone, a bike park, upgraded broadband internet, new playground and premium patio and pool furniture have been added to the campground.
One of their most ambitious and innovative projects, a solar field, was added in 2019. After attending a workshop at a nearby college on solar energy and some research on government grants, Casey Dillon shares that the family was all in.
“We started producing solar electricity in 2019,” Casey Dillon said. “We have 569 panels that make about 100% of the electricity we use at the campground year-round. It saves us roughly $35,000 in electricity costs per year.”
Continuing a focus on innovation and emerging guests, the family plans to add 21 new sites to the campground, including Pull-Thrus with KOA Patio, Back-In Sites and multi-use sites. Infrastructure upgrades will allow for EV chargers on the campground in the near future.
Casey Dillon also plans to take advantage of the hilly Appalachian terrain with RV Sites, Deluxe Cabins and more built high above the campground’s existing sites.
“We will put in some Deluxe Back-in Sites with KOA Patios and build a viewing tower at the end of the sites where you can sit and look out over the valley,” shared Casey Dillon. “Right where the sun sets, you can see the mountains on the other side. The sky in the evening is always really beautiful, like purple. It’s a breathtaking view you can’t see anywhere else, and I think it will be impactful for the future of our campground.”
Not one to speak boastfully of the campground’s success, Casey Dillon credits his wife, Autumn Dillon, for her focus on the guest experience. Formerly a substitute teacher, she is involved in all aspects of the business.
Said Casey Dillon, “Autumn is motivated and excited about what we are doing here and being more involved with KOA. She is the core of the family experience and what we build for the future. We are building something here for the next generation.”
Recognized for Kampgrounds of America, Inc.’s Founder’s and President’s Awards for three years in a row, the Dillons offer world-class hospitality at the Bellefonte/State College KOA Holiday that is reflected in their customer satisfaction and business growth.
“The Dillons and their beautiful campground are shining examples of what our company has been dedicated to providing over 60 years of business,” said Toby O’Rourke, president and CEO of Kampgrounds of America, Inc. “Across three generations, their innovative and entrepreneurial spirit at Bellefonte/State College KOA Holiday they have and continue to provide the facilities and service to exceed guest expectations and deliver the experience the KOA brand is world-renowned for.”
For more information about the Bellefonte/State College KOA Holiday, please visit the campground’s website at koa.com/campgrounds/bellefonte/.
About the Author: Kampgrounds of America
Kampgrounds of America is the largest system of open-to-the-public campgrounds in the world, with over 500 locations across the United States and Canada. Founded in Billings, MT in 1962, KOA’s family of campground brands – KOA Journey, KOA Holiday and KOA Resort – today serve more than a million camping families each year. KOA is dedicated to “connecting people to the outdoors and each other” by providing people with a variety of camping experiences and the information they need to make the most of their camping trip. Read more of their camping and travel resources by visiting KOA.com/blog.