Campers pour into Winona Memorial weekend - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Campers pour into Winona Memorial weekend

WINONA, Minn. (KTTC) -- As millions head to campgrounds across the country, hundreds descended upon Winona's Prairie Island Campground on Friday ahead of the Memorial Day weekend rush hour.

The campground's manager, Russ Hoesley, said the weekend of Memorial Day is their busiest weekend of the year.

"I think everybody's just ready for summer to finally get here and here it is," said Hoesley.

Recent heavy rainfalls threatened campsites, but Hoesley said most sites dried out this week in time for the holiday. More than 700 campers are expected to fill the campground's 200 campsites.

Samantha Hjelmeland of Stockton met with her family for the first of many weekend's they'll be spending at the grounds this summer.

"We seem to spend a lot more time with each other when we're down here than when we're at home, because when we're at home we all seem to do our own different things," said Hjelmeland.

Gene Donaldson is a regular at Prairie Island and decorated his golf cart with various items. He spends much of his time cruising the site with his canine co-pilot, "Nightmare".

"It's just stuff I picked up at garage sales, decided I was going to put it on the cart, spice things up a little," said Donaldson.

For others, the sprawling 26-acres along the Mississippi makes for the perfect setting to make new friends. Gwen Jacobs, Chris Brandt and Heidi Mcelmury of Winona, said they "campfire hop" most nights.

"We'll walk up to a campsite and say, 'hey, who are you?'" said Mcelmury. "It's a great way to meet people".

According to Hoesley, campers from as far away as Sweden and Japan visit the Prairie Island. He said the Mississippi River and close proximity to Wisconsin, Iowa and major highways is a draw for many tourists.

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