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‘Our own little town’

Happy Time Resort offers a home away from home

 

When Happy Time Resort opened 10 years ago northeast of Lake Mills, owners Samantha and Rodney Hagen were looking for a way to be with their children more.

At the time they had three children, and had previously owned a business in Lake Mills that required them to be away from home more than they wanted.

Samantha Hagen said Diamond Jo Casino had recently been constructed, and they thought a campground would complement that well.

They started building in 2008 on 20 of their 60 acres of land and transformed what once was a cornfield and hog house into a family-oriented RV campground with a 5-acre pond, sand beach, playground, bar and hook-up sites.

She said her children were a little skeptical at first of sharing their backyard with strangers, but those feelings quickly changed.

“They’ve made lifelong friends,” she said.

The campground started with 35 sites, and they hoped to reach 50 sites in five years. It has grown faster than they anticipated to where it now has 125 sites, with a majority of those being for seasonal campers and about a dozen being for weekend campers with electric, water and sewer hookups provided for all sites.

The campground typically is open from mid-April through mid-October, depending on the weather, and a majority of campers come from within a 60-mile radius, though there are a handful who come from farther away in the Minneapolis and Des Moines areas, she said. Ages of campers vary from young families with children to retired couples.

Though the campground is a 24/7 business, she said it has been nice for her and her husband to not have to travel to and from work and to be able to have their children work with them.

When campers arrive at the campground, they are greeted with an expansive view of the Happy Time pond, which is surrounded by artificial palm trees, giving the feeling of being near the beach. Samantha Hagen said the family vacations in the Caribbean, so they wanted to make their beach Caribbean-like.

The stocked pond is good for panfish such as perch and crappies, and people also can utilize paddle boats, a water trampoline and kayaks out on the water. A food truck offers food for people out near the beach, and the two-room hog house that was converted to a bar offers ice cream treats and mixed drinks.

In addition to the water activities, the resort offers volleyball tournaments, potlucks, Saturday night children’s movies, live music a couple times a month, massages once a month and a backyard revival with artists from Nashville, Tennessee.

She said the campground recently hosted a cancer benefit for one of the seasonal campers and raised more than $40,000.

“It’s a big family out here,” Rodney Hagen said.

Happy Time also features two play sets, hosts children’s activities and in early June was constructing a full-court basketball court that can be converted into a pickle ball court.

Church services are held each Sunday from Memorial Day Weekend to Labor Day Weekend.

“We’re like our own little town,” Samantha Hagen said.

The couple said everyone watches out for each other, and they have heard numerous comments from parents about how safe they have felt with their children there.

Albert Lean Jackie Miller, who has camped at Happy Time for the last 10 years with her husband, Scott, said the campground is like no other campground she has been to, and she enjoys the live music, the weekly church services and the friendships she has made during their time there.

“We just love it out here,” Miller said. “We pretty much live out here.”

She credited the Hagens and their children for making that a reality.

Albert Lean Sue Skogheim echoed those comments.

“We just love it,” Skogheim said. “Sam and Rodney and their whole family are just awesome. They’ll do anything for you.”

She said she and her husband have camped at Happy Time for at least six years and have seen it grow in the years they have been there.

She enjoys the beach and pond at the site and said her grandchildren enjoy it, too, when they come to visit during the summer.

She joked she and her husband, Dave, would live there around the clock during the summer if they didn’t have to work.

Another Albert Lean, Jody Christianson, said her family just got a camper last year, but her parents have been at Happy Time for the last five years and they spent a lot of time with them.

“It’s a great place for family fun,” Christianson said, noting the Hagens are always updating the grounds and making sure children and adults have fun activities.

She said she likes the painting parties, the movie theater for the children and the beach to relax on, and the campground has the best fireworks show for the Fourth of July.

“We have also met lots of great people, and everyone is helpful and friendly,” she said.

Maintenance, including mowing, is provided by campground staff.

To book sites, people can call 641-592-CAMP or email happytime@wctatel.net. Samantha Hagen said weekend sites fill up at least a year in advance.

The resort is at 526 470th St. in Lake Mills.