OKOBOJI, Iowa (KCAU) — Small towns like Okoboji are preparing for one of their first big weekends in nearly a year, and the economic impact that will come with it.
As things start heading back to normal, business owners and city officials are doing what they can to prep for the big crowds this memorial weekend.
“We’re expecting kind of our first big weekend is what we consider this Memorial [Day] weekend, when we get a lot of families to come out and kind of enjoy the park for the first time. Unfortunately, the weather doesn’t look the best for us but we’re still expecting a big crowd coming in and we’ll make the best of it,” said Marshall Doeden.
Doeden said Arnolds Park is expecting to sell close to 200 memberships. Those memberships average at $100 each.
“Last weekend, we kind of got to see a big jump of that already. Typically, we didn’t see as big of a weekend last weekend that we did, but if it’s anything close to last weekend, we’re expecting a really big weekend,” Doeden said.
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Hotels are sold out and and reservations at nearly every restaurant are booked.
Matthew Bichel said his restaurant, The Boardwalk, has already started staffing up to handle the holiday rush
“I feel like we’re going to be a lot more successful this summer due to the restrictions being lifted, a lot of people want to get out and have some fun. Obviously, this is fun central. Hopefully, it will be a big summer for all the businesses, locally,” Bichel said.
“These businesses would not be able to exist, whether it’s a bar or restaurant, this beautiful amusement park we have here, without the summer tourist season, these 16 weeks, this could not exist. So there’s the aspect for the businesses that, yes, it’s huge,” said Mayor pro tem Matt Richter.
Richter said its a perfect way to gain back what has been lost through the pandemic.
“This area does have a hotel motel tax and with that, that goes to support our Dickenson County trails, the Pierson Lakes Art Center, the amusement park, all those amenities that are here, that hotel motel tax pays for it, so there’s more than one way of the economic impact for this weekend,” Richter said.
Although things are booking fast, Richter said he advises people to come out and enjoy the lake and that he couldn’t be happier to see the community start to enjoy their amenities again.